Shopping centres a hit with homebuyers

Westfield Warringah Mall. Picture: AMP Capital.

Australian consumer sentiment dipped slightly last month, perhaps driven by the uncertainty of the US elections. However, if you conducted the survey today on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, I’m confident we would see a big spike. 

In exciting local news, the expanded Warringah Mall is now open. Opening weekend festivities were complete with Jennifer Hawkins, a revamped Myer and children’s entertainment. No longer will I have to travel all the way to Chatswood to go shopping. A small convenience, yes, but anything that makes Christmas shopping less stressful is a win in my book. With my economist hat on, I’m excited about what this revamped shopping centre will do for houses prices in the surrounding suburbs.

Commercial Insights: Subscribe to receive the latest news and updates

Shopping surge: Retailers brace for last-minute Christmas frenzy

As it turns out, property seekers love shopping centres. In a recent analysis of engagement on realestate.com.au, suburbs close to retail have higher engagement than those located close to schools, public transport, the beach or the CBD.

The better the shopping centre, the more popular the suburb. It would appear that we no longer look to areas with easy access to public transport, cafes and restaurants, parks and schools as our preferred places to live. Proximity to shopping centres trumps all other amenities when house hunting.

The top three suburbs for Chinese property seekers in particular reflect their desire to be close to large centres

This is now being reflected in the suburbs with the most $1 million-plus sales this year — of the top 10, nine are located close to regional shopping centres. And it would seem that the promise of an upgraded centre is driving further price growth.

Suburbs close to the Castle Towers shopping centre in Sydney featured most prominently, comprising four of the top 10. A major expansion of Castle Towers has just been approved and is set to make it the second-biggest shopping centre in Australia.

Suburbs with shopping centres, like Doncaster, are proving popular. Picture: Westfield Corporation.

Suburbs with shopping centres, like Doncaster, are proving popular. Picture: Westfield Corporation.

Shopping centres also feature prominently in the preferred suburbs for property seekers from overseas. The top three suburbs for Chinese property seekers in particular reflect their desire to be close to large centres, with Glen Waverley, Doncaster and Box Hill in Victoria being the most searched suburbs in Australia by this group.

If shopping centre expansion leads to price growth, where should we now be looking to buy? Clearly not happy with Castle Towers claiming itself as the second largest shopping centre, the GPT Group is currently planning an expansion which would make Highpoint, in Melbourne’s west, the second largest. Complete with a university, hotel and apartments, it would come in just behind Chadstone in the city’s southeast, the biggest in Australia. Perhaps next year’s list of top suburbs for $1 million-plus home sales will include Victorian suburbs like Maribyrnong and Ascot Vale. Or even Maidstone and Footscray.

There’s no doubt the expansion of Warringah Mall has improved my shopping commute, but perhaps it will also lead to a bit of a kick in price growth for my house as well.

Time in the car aside, the updated shopping centre hasn’t necessarily solved all of my Christmas shopping dilemmas. Specifically, what to buy children that have way too many toys already?

Nerida Conisbee is REA Group chief economist.

This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.