As the Illawarra property market has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, some suburbs have seen their average sales price break the $1 million barrier.
One such place is the northern suburb of Woonona.
According to CoreLogic, the median house sales price there was $882,000 in March 2020. A year later, the figure was $1 million.
Brooke Hawke is business development manager/stylist at Port Kembla-based Complete Property Staging and Complete Colours and Interiors.
Mrs Hawke said she had styled three homes in Woonona during the past two months that had all quickly sold off-market.
She said she was often surprised by how swiftly homes were selling within the suburb, as well as the prices they were fetching.
"There's a huge difference in demand there, and a lot of sales happening," she said.
"If you drive around Woonona, you'll see there's lots of homes for sale, but they get snapped up straight away because everybody is looking."
Mrs Hawke and husband Daniel relocated from Albion Park to Woonona more than 14 years ago, where they built a house.
"We really wanted to be down by the beach, and we both come from suburbs where there wasn't a beach," she said.
"We liked the lifestyle, the bike tracks, we thought it would be family-friendly, and we liked the close proximity to Wollongong for work."
Mrs Hawke, now 40, said while there were plenty of retirees within the estate they moved into 14-plus years ago, in recent times she had seen more families moving into Woonona.
"When we first moved here, there was a lot of single-storey homes and I felt it was an older demographic," she said.
"There always has been families around here, but it's a more family-friendly vibe. Or at least I notice that more now, having my own kids since we moved here.
"It's just such a beautiful... Still a small town vibe with a beach-y outlook."
She said as Sydney buyers continued to look at the Illawarra's northern suburbs, there was a knock-on effect occurring.
"It's not only this area, but prices go up around here, which pushes the next suburb('s prices) up, then the next suburb after that.
"Buyers from that Sydney market are moving down here. They can work from here and maybe only go to the office one or two days a week.
"We're seeing a lot of buyers from Sydney and it's a lot cheaper for them to move down here. Woonona is getting very unaffordable for local people who are starting out and trying to buy a home."
Jason Tarasenko, 25, recently rented in Woonona for about a year.
"It's a nice place - you have great views, the beaches are really nice, and people are really friendly," he said.
He said Woonona was somewhere he would like to buy a home one day.
"I'd like to go back at some point," he said.
"It seemed like a really family-friendly area - parks, playgrounds, and there's a mixture of young families and older families."
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According to CoreLogic, the predominant age group in Woonona is 40-49 years.
Currently the median sales price of houses in the area is $1,140,000.
Trever Molenaar from Molenaar + McNeice said Woonona was appealing to families, and experienced plenty of turnover.
"Because you've got a lot of apartments, townhouses and big houses as well, there's a lot of movement that happens in that suburb," he said. "It's very family-centric."
Mr Molenaar said while Woonona could be an option for those priced out of other nearby suburbs, "it's a hard one to get into".
"The prices are really skyrocketing. Everyone used to go Thirroul/Austinmer, and then everyone's kind of going Woonona and Bulli now. It's got that sort of feel to it now.
"The whole urban sprawl is moving south. People are now looking in postcodes of 2518 and 2519, because Woonona and Bulli are getting quite expensive too."
Sarah Ward from Stone Real Estate Illawarra said Woonona was appealing to Sydney buyers who wanted a coastal lifestyle.
"It's got the best of both worlds, in terms of access to the beach, the mountains, the bushwalks," she said.
"But they still have that ability to commute to Sydney for work if they need to."
Mrs Ward said while it had become a million-dollar suburb recently, "it's still kind of affordable, compared to... if you go into Bulli and Thirroul, it just jumps up to this whole next level.
"It still feels affordable to that Sydney market, while still offering essentially the same things (as those other suburbs)," she said.
Vanessa Denison-Pender from McGrath Thirroul said much of the interest in Woonona was coming from older couples downsizing, and young families trying to get into the market that perhaps couldn't afford to buy in the likes of Thirroul or Bulli.
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Recent sales in Woonona include 1/8-14 Rixons Pass Road for $717,000; 32 Doris Avenue for $1,340,000; and 11 Robertson Road for $2,520,000.
Among Mr Molenaar's current listings is 18 Blackwood Place, Woonona.
Set on 1133 square metres, the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home is due to be auctioned at a future date.
He said it was a large home located on the outskirts of the Edgewood Estate.
It has a price guide in the high $1 million range.
"To be able to get into a such a big home in Woonona for under $2 million is good value," Mr Molenaar said.
Among Ms Denison-Pender's current listings is 2a Balmer Crescent, Woonona.
Set on 314 square metres, the house is due to be auctioned on October 9. It has a price guide of $1.65 million.
"It's been very popular with couples and young families, as well as downsizers and first home buyers," she said.
"It ticks all the boxes in terms of having a double-car garage, four generous bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms... It's presented in brand new condition."