Home buyers are digging deep to snap up property in West Wollongong, catapulting the suburb's median house price by almost 20 per cent.
The leap, recorded by Australian Property Monitors (APM), shows the suburb has experienced an impressive spike in interest.
Over the 12 months to June 30, West Wollongong's median house price jumped by 19.9 per cent to $480,000, according to APM.
The increase is almost double the national average of 10.9 per cent for the same period and well above the overall rise for Wollongong of 13.9 per cent - from $439,000 to $500,000.
Balgownie, Corrimal and Fairy Meadow were also among the Illawarra's best performers, with Dapto recording a hefty 162 house sales averaging $356,000.
APM senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson said the West Wollongong median price rise was "extraordinary" and comparable to the 20 to 30 per cent median increases seen across Sydney markets.
He said the rise could partially be attributed to the flow-on effect from big city prices driving buyers to more affordable markets further afield, such as Wollongong and Newcastle.
"A lot of it is, of course, those lower interest rates have improved affordability and I think we're also starting to get a look at Wollongong from Sydneysiders because of the affordability advantages," he said.
"We do have a rising level of commuting I think because of that affordability scenario and I think that will only increase demand in the Wollongong market."
Ray White agent Michael Moate said a number of the suburbs listed by the APM, including West Wollongong, were established areas going through a transition period where older-generation owners were moving out and being replaced by younger families. He said the suburb was an attractive and economical prospect and it was getting a lot of attention from prospective buyers.
"It's a great suburb, well established, good families, good people, close to everything and it's affordable," he said.
Dr Wilson predicted further growth in house prices ahead, particularly at the lower end of the market.
"Over the next year, I would expect to see Wollongong record around half the 13 to 14 per cent it recorded over the past year; that would still represent a very healthy result for home owners and represent a very healthy market," he said.
Shellharbour's median house price climbed 7.2 per cent, while Kiama saw an 11.9 per cent rise.
APM is owned by Fairfax Media, which also owns the Mercury.
Top performing suburbs for house sales
Suburb No. sold Median price Change*
- West Wollongong 63 $480,000 19.9%
- Balgownie 86 $537,500 14.9%
- Corrimal 101 $485,000 13.4%
- Kiama Downs 88 $546,500 12.4%
- Dapto 162 $356,500 11.4%
- Bellambi 50 $404,000 9.3%
- Fairy Meadow 76 $491,500 9.2%
*Year on year, 12 months to June 2014
Couple's fast work pays off
Just days after James and Natalie Hofman first inspected their Gundarun Street home, the couple had made a successful offer.
The West Wollongong property attracted around 70 viewers at its first open house in March and the Hofmans acted quickly, managing to win out over other interested parties.
"I went out there on the Monday afternoon and within a week it was me and two other couples looking at it - it was all done within a week," he said.
Having ruled out the northern suburbs due to affordability, the couple had hoped to find a property within easy reach of Wollongong and north of Cordeaux Heights.
For Mr Hofman the appeal of West Wollongong lay in its central location and family-friendly neighbourhoods.
He was also already familiar with the suburb as his parents had lived there for a time when he was younger.
"It's in the middle of everything - five minutes to Figtree, five minutes to town and where the house is it's right near the freeway to go to Sydney," he said.
"It's a nice area, it's nice and quiet with good parks and a few corner shops."
Now in the midst of renovations, Mr Hofman said the couple were planning to settle on Gundarun Street long term.
While he did not wish to reveal what he paid for the property, Mr Hofman said he was happy with the outlay.
"Going off other houses in that area, what we got it for was a great price," Mr Hofman said of the purchase.