First home buyers Samir and Amy* had to put dollars before dreams when it came to buying a house in the Illawarra.
Like an increasing number of people in the market, rising prices pushed them out of their preferred suburbs and towards those where their dollar went further.
Amy said she and her husband had been living in Fairfield for seven years but decided to move back to Wollongong, where she spent her teenage years.
The decision was driven by the desire to be closer to her parents and a better lifestyle.
‘‘Everything is relatively cheaper than Sydney,’’ Amy said, ‘‘but a lot of the homes that we were looking at around where my parents were living in Mangerton – Wollongong and that area – still are quite expensive compared to further south like Dapto or Albion Park.’’
After spending some time looking for a home in suburbs like Mangerton, Coniston and Figtree, Amy said they started looking further south and eventually bought a home at Berkeley.
Projects marketing manager with MMJ, Maurice Bertapelle, said first home buyers would find the hunt for a house easier if they didn’t limit themselves to their ideal suburb.
‘‘We’re finding that people are a lot more flexible, whereas before they were very set about where they wanted to go,’’ Mr Bertapelle said.
‘‘Now they look at where they can actually afford and they’re opening up their minds to different suburbs.
‘‘People now are looking further afield than where they had their first preference. It’s a good thing to have preferences, but line them up in terms of a first, second, third preference and then search within those particular areas.’’
Mr Bertapelle said prices for houses in the northern suburbs and around the Wollongong CBD were too high for some buyers, who instead had turned their gaze south.
‘‘Your more affordable suburbs are like Berkeley, which has really seen a good jump, and Warilla,’’ he said.
‘‘We found we did a development recently there [Warilla] and people just loved it because it was near the water as well.’’
People were still buying homes in the CBD area - but these buyers were opting for units rather than houses. Also, those after the first-home buyers grant (which only exists for newly-constructed homes) tend to buy in places like Horsley, Mr Bertapelle said.
As well as being flexible in their suburb choice, Mr Bertapelle suggested buyers should also get pre-approved for a loan so they know their price range.
‘‘It’s also a good thing for people to register with agencies because when new projects come up and they are in good value for money, they typically will sell quite quickly,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re finding that a lot of people are going ‘oh, I didn’t know you had that’. People still have this belief that there’s a lot of property around but the good properties sell quite quickly.’’
* surname withheld for privacy reasons