What do Australian families look for in today’s property market?
While the traditional Aussie dream of a freestanding house with a pool may still be popular, changing lifestyles and housing affordability has broadened the concept of a family home. For real estate agents keen to engage families on the property market, here are five things the modern family wants in a property – some more unexpected than others.
A sea or tree change
Real estate agents in smaller cities, rejoice: it’s not just retirees who are swapping the busyness of city life for quieter pastures. With property prices continuing to sky-rocket in Australia’s capital cities, more families are choosing to move out of the city and purchase property in coastal towns, rural areas and regional centres.
Affordable housing aside, buying property for a sea change (or if you’re inland, a tree change) can hold great appeal for families. Location is everything – according to a report by Suncorp Bank, half of the top ten family-friendly cities in Australia are in regional centres, attracting buyers who prefer a small town’s sense of community, the slower pace of life, good infrastructure and access to the NBN.
If you thought apartment living was just for singles and DINKS, think again. In contrast to those fleeing the city for a sea change, a number of parents are choosing to raise their children in inner-city and suburban apartments, prioritising the buzz of the city (or in some cases, proximity to top performing schools) over space. This is evident in capital cities like Melbourne, where a recent council study found couples with children will account for 9% of households in the City of Melbourne by 2031.
So what are the key selling points for a family-friendly apartment? Access to schools and childcare is a must-have. Nearby shops, local parklands to compensate for the lack of backyard space and conveniently located public transport are also important features. Many new units are even being developed with families in mind, featuring clever storage solutions, generous floor plans and large balconies or courtyards for added space.
School zone first, postcode second
Living within the catchment of a top-performing primary or high school is a top priority for many parents – in some cases, more important than the property itself. A recent survey found just over 30% of home-hunters believe school information matters when making a decision on a property. Real estate experts now estimate that being in the catchment of a preferred school can add around 5% increased value to a family home, with overseas investors also keen to purchase Australian property in the vicinity of good schools.
To access details about private, selective and government schools within any catchment area (including NAPLAN results), visit the The Good Schools Guide.
Separate spaces for intergenerational living
Although vast spaces and open-plan living isn’t going out of style any time soon, don’t under-estimate the pulling power of separate spaces within a family home. Having private areas is a functional necessity for many families, whether it’s for teenagers doing homework, young children playing, adults-only areas or a home office.
Many households also include grandparents or an elderly relative: a trend set to increase with our ageing population and the number of unpaid carers now over 2.8 million in Australia. The rise of intergenerational households means more buyers will be looking for properties with separate living spaces and multiple bathrooms. Granny flats are also experiencing a boom: NSW state government statistics found close to 100 granny flats were being completed each week in Sydney alone, amounting to a threefold growth in five years.
Small (but significant) conveniences
Finally, don’t forget about the seemingly small, yet valuable features that make a home attractive for families. Functionality is important for parents, with elements such as multiple toilets, a garage that leads into the property and plenty of storage a bonus for many buyers. A large hot water tank, a flat backyard and hard wearing surfaces can also be attractive features to potential buyers with children. Potential for renovation is also something to watch out for, especially for first home buyers or young families who may be thinking well into the future.
 realestate.com.au Residential Consumer Omnibus, March 2015
 Deloitte Access Economics (2015) The Economic Value of Informal Care in Australia 2015.