The latest happenings in the Melbourne property market. For our Essays and The Secret Agent Report, see our Research page.

Category Archives For: Local Interests

Bulletin – Planning Changes

From Julian Faelli, Head of Design – Create By Secret Agent

New planning reforms were announced by the state planning minister Matthew Guy on the 1st of July this year. They are significant changes that will affect where and how development is managed in the city. It’s going to take awhile for a clear picture to emerge on how the changes will affect investment, but in the meantime here is a quick wrap-up.

Three new residential zones have been created, Neighbourhood Residential, General Residential and Growth Residential. They aim to make it clear in the planning framework where higher density development such as townhouses and units can be located. The new Neighbourhood residential zone will bring the biggest changes, with only dual occupancy development being permitted (not encouraged). This change will likely bring to a end the 4-5 unit/townhouse developments we have seen in growth suburbs such as Preston and Reservoir.

The scheme will effectively curtail the growth in established areas, restricting any development to mixed use and growth residential zones – located on busier roads near public transport. It’s a bid to protect ‘neighbourhood character’ in predominately single dwelling subdivisions.

The medium density townhouse/unit has proven to be popular in the market as a affordable entry point for accommodation close to the city – without being a apartment. If the neighbourhood residential zones are applied broadly and townhouse development slows we expect to see further competition in this segment of the market for finished product.

There have also been one new commercial zone introduced and a revamp of the mixed use zone announced as part of the reforms. The commercial zoning frees up the use of commercially zoned land allowing for smaller supermarkets and the like where only big box retail may have been permitted previously. The mixed use zoning is encouraging higher density residential growth. Expect to see it in parts of Brunswick, Footscray and similar ex-industrial locations.

The new residential and commercial zones have already been incorporated into the planning scheme, councils have until July next year to decide how to distribute the zoning across their municipalities.

We will be covering the planning changes in further depth in the October edition of the Secret Agent report.

Density Diagram - DPCD

Density diagram from the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD)

See diagram in full here:

Secret Agent and The 7:30 Report

Secret Agent founder Paul Osborne speaks with ABC’s 7:30 Report regarding Melbourne’s accelerating property values. Other high performing cities, Sydney and Perth, are also discussed. There is speculation that Australia may be headed towards a ‘bubble’ situation, much like the US just prior to the GFC. Click here or below to view the full video on ABC’s 7:30 website. Alternatively you can read the full transcript below.

There are rising concerns a bubble may be beginning in Australian house prices putting pressure on the Reserve Bank over interest rates and raising questions about where prices could end up.

The 730 Report

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: If you own a house all the talk currently of record property prices and auction clearance rates is great. If you’re trying to buy not so much. The very strong growth in house prices this year has sparked speculation about whether Australian property is heading for a bubble. It’s possible prices could grow even faster if interest rates fall below their current 53 year low of 2.5 per cent. Today the Reserve Bank left the official cash rate where it was but how long will that last? Here’s Greg Hoy. GREG HOY, REPORTER: Hot property, with interest rates sitting at historic lows the housing market in Australia’s capital cities is roaring back to life. It’s homes in Perth and Sydney in particular that are really under the hammer and already breaking records. KIM JONES, DI JONES REAL ESTATE SYDNEY: We’ve just had our record month in 20 years in a month that’s not normally particularly good. GREG HOY: Selling agents like Sydney’s Kim Jones have enjoyed clearance rates above 80 per cent and rising. KIM JONES: The apartments here, most of them have been sold. There’s only two left and they’re selling between $3 million and $17 million. In the last few years apartment like this, they struggled and it wasn’t so much about the price, it was more about the amount of buyers around that were confident. GREG HOY: Certainly Sydney vendors like Leslie Moor are finding it easy to cash in. LESLIE MOOR: It is back to the good old days and I think that if you look at the number of auction signs that are up and sold signs that are up, that Sydneysiders are really enjoying once again selling and buying property. TIM LAWLESS, RP DATA RESEARCH DIRECTOR: We’ve seen growth rates in Sydney over the past 12 months at about seven per cent. So compared to the capital city average which is 5.3 per cent, Sydney is over performing and we are seeing that rate of growth accelerate. GREG HOY: Sales in the other smaller capitals are lagging but Melbourne isn’t far behind Sydney with 75 per cent of homes on the block cleared at record prices. PAUL OSBORNE, BUYERS ADVOCATE “SECRET AGENT”: Sold pushing the benchmarks. In this area which has traditionally been a first homebuyer market, a couple of years ago this would have been trading around the $700,000 mark. With the low interest environment we’re seeing some prices, or some results overshoot what we would consider to be fair value. GREG HOY: Ask around the auctions and you will find the surging prices are being fueled by investors flooding into the market, seeking greater returns than bank deposits or the volatile share market. PAUL OSBORNE: A lot of self managed super funds have crept into the market in a big way in the last couple of months. So self managed super funds have come in. We’re also seeing a lot of foreign investment as well. So as the dollar has slowly come down, we’ve seen a lot of money come in from China. GREG HOY: This is what makes it very difficult for first homebuyers to compete. Like Melbourne’s Rob Seddon and his family. ROB SEDDON, FIRST HOME BUYER: The good quality property that we have found has gone way over the guide price. So we’ve been looking at 5, 10, maybe even 15 per cent over what the top end of the guide price was which has pushed it over our range. GREG HOY: Or Chris and Tegan Horsley-Wyatt. CHRIS HORSLEY-WYATT, FIRST HOME BUYER: It’s been tough recently and the ones out there are going for more than what we’re able to spend. GREG HOY: There’s increasing concern that rising house prices are forcing first homebuyers to borrow more and more from banks. What percentage of what you hope to pay will be borrowed? CHRIS HORSLEY-WYATT: So it’s about 90 per cent will be borrowed. GREG HOY: And do you worry about what might happen if interest rates then take off again? CHRIS HORSLEY-WYATT: Yes. GREG HOY: Rising house prices are just what the Reserve Bank ordered. Housing is by far Australia’s largest investment asset, worth more than $5 trillion. Dwarfing both the stock market and fixed interest investments combined. Ideally, rising house values boost consumer confidence and spend ing, unless, of course, the housing market gets overexcited, which is precisely what many fear is beginning to happen now. MARTIN NORTH, BANKING ANALYST: I think we’re in a bubble at the moment and my own view is that it’s more sinister than a bubble because it’s essentially a long term systemic problem in the housing sector. PAUL OSBORNE: It is possible within the next six months we could see still continual acceleration in the marketplace but I think if that does happen it won’t be a good thing and that would end in a correction of some sort. GREG HOY: The worst case scenario is the prospect of a collapse of the house price bubble as seen in the US prior to the global financial crisis. The Reserve Bank has recently “pooh poohed” the prospect of an Australian bubble as have others. MALCOLM EDEY, ASSISTANT GOVERNOR, RESERVE BANK: We shouldn’t be rushing to reach for the bubble terminology every time the rate of increase in house prices is higher than average. You’re just going to be unrealistically alarmist by making that call. GREG HOY: But while the RBA denies there’s a bubble building it has warned buyers not to expect the great gains in property prices seen previously and it has warned banks to maintain strict lending standards or risk stricter regulations. TIM LAWLESS: If we do see the levels of growth continue that we’re seeing in the marketplace at the moment or even accelerate, I think that’s where we’re starting to see a lot more danger that will start to see leverage on household and household debt levels starting to rise and that will be quite alarming, particularly for the Reserve Bank whose key objective, of course, is financial stability. GREG HOY: The difficult decision for buyers, however, is when to venture in to the market with some analysts warning, as interest rates inevitably rise, inflated property values will inevitably fall, though not everyone agrees. KIM JONES: I don’t believe the property market is going to burst, not at all. There is not enough property for the demand for people here in Sydney. And it’s proven, like we’ve got expats returning home, there is not enough properties. So there’s no burst of bubble.

Urban Forest Visual – City of Melbourne

On our research travels, Secret Agent came across the newly released ‘Urban Forest Visual’. The City of Melbourne have mapped out all of the street trees in selected inner city suburbs. Shape indicates species, while colour gives an idea of the age of the tree.

Urban Forest Visual - City Of Melbourne

The Urban Forest Visual allows the user to find out more about the trees in their area, and could potentially have an effect on the worth of a streets properties. Eventually a streets trees may need to be removed and replanted, and the sought after effect of vegetation we have just analysed in our latest resesarch, may be absent for a decade while regrowing. For those looking to purchase for the long term, this is very helpful information.

See for the full map, and more information about the initiative.

Melbourne – We Need To Talk.

Julian Faelli discusses Melbourne’s planning future with Australian Property Investor Magazine.
The grand importance of today’s planning decisions affect the city inhabitants of today,  as well as those decades into the future. Julian provides some smart suggestions on future improvements, and feedback to Melbourne’s planning framework.
Click on the images below to enlarge.

July API - Melbourne, We Need to Talk P1

July API - Melbourne, We Need to Talk P2

Create By Secret Agent welcomes Julian Faelli


Introducing Create – Welcome Julian

Create is an entire new section of Secret Agent.  Spearheaded by Julian Faelli, the idea of Create is to transform property into spaces that adapt to the modern age.

Create can be utilised by existing clients of our buying services,  or even as a stand alone service.

Julian has a strong background in architecture,  as well as industrial design and project management.

Please excuse us while we update our website to include more details about Create services, and feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your requirements or ideas.

We look forward to helping our clients with beautiful design,  unlocking value,  project management and above all;  helping create the ideal space for you – to enable you to live life how you want to.

A Saturated Market – Melbourne CBD

The Melbourne CBD property market seems to be saturated. While the amount of stock in most inner city suburbs has dropped this year in comparison to last year, the CBD has increased.

While stock levels through the CBD continue to increase, the amount of sales has not – leaving a spill over of property that is not sold and just sitting on the market. For example in the month of December 2012 841 properties were on the market with only 50 sales taking place – this number very similar to the number of properties sold in December 2011.

Some property in the CBD has been sitting on the market for over a year. The reason for this comes down to the amount of property located in the CBD and then the quality of that property.

The CBD is full of high density living (apartments) and very few buildings that possess top notch quality. There are some buildings of great quality, like the Melburnian, however these are few and far between.

Melbourne CBD

Photo by Nova Photography

If we compare this with the suburb of Fitzroy, where 25 properties were on the market in December 2012 and 10 sold throughout the month. Given there is a much smaller number of homes in the suburb this is to be expected, however the ratio of homes on the market that sell are far higher.

With stock levels declining in many inner city suburbs, it will be interesting to see whether stock levels in the Melbourne CBD follow trend or continue to flood as they have in previous years, with the new construction looming and many developments now settling it’s doubtful we’ll see a shortage in the near future.

Secret Agent welcomes Emma Paterson. Emma assists with acquisition, market research and the buying process.

Public & Private Housing

Melbourne’s most well known public housing sites are ear marked for some big changes – the conversion of the current high rise towers in Fitzroy & Richmond into an equal mix of public & private housing. These sites occupy some of the best locations throughout the inner city.


The government has already experimented with this tactic before at the old Carlton public housing towers – know known as ‘Viva’. The plan was likely influenced by overseas examples of mixed tenure and in line with what many consider as good practice. The mixing of the public & private housing together appears to act as some form of resolution to socio-economic divide of higher income earners and their low income peers.

Property currently located opposite, around the corner or close to public housing generally struggles to obtain real premium price. This new approach to public housing could see this soften a little with residents and potential residents having less concern with the new inhabitants of the building & the new structures blending in more aesthetically with their surrounds.

However, property prices will inevitably always suffer within the development. Unfortunately even the private allocated apartments are often seen as a cheap housing option and will likely stay that way for resale. Unfortunately there is a stigma with property located close to public housing and many of these ‘private’ apartments could share a wall with a ‘public’ apartment causing poor capital growth throughout the developments.



Sometimes capitalism and smart initiatives like public housing, intertwined with private – don’t completely align.

Secret Agent welcomes Emma Paterson. Emma assists with acquisition, market research and the buying process.

East Melbourne Wrap

East Melbourne

From Secret Agent Buyers Advocate, Jacinta Ryan.

East Melbourne properties continue to sell despite the supposed softening of the real estate market. 12 Darling St was put up for auction on the weekend with the usual large turnout of locals who always take the opportunity to catch up with the neighbours and keep an eye on property values in  the area. However two parties had their cheque books in their back pockets and were keen to spend some money in what is possibly Melbourne’s most community minded and socially active suburb on the edge of the city.

The property itself is interesting in that the home is a single level property and a reasonably new build – two unusual features for East Melbourne. Facing west onto Darling Square, it has an easterly back yard and a delightful Paul Bangay garden. Off street garage parking is a great bonus with added parking at the front of the property as there are only houses on one side of the street and centre parking also.

Bidding started after some encouragement from the auctioneer and moved quickly through the $2.5 million barrier. Stopping at $2.78 and still not on the market the last bidder was offered the option to negotiate and the sold sticker was soon across the board for an undisclosed figure.

123 Gipps St after a number of months on the market is also sporting a sold sticker and 156 George St sold for a huge price of $2.025 million. The last recorded sale in that building was about 3 years ago for $1.53 million. 156 George St is part of the old Benjamin Mansion that has been divided into 4 large residences. No slowing of the market here where quality and period meet.

Still on the market is 114 Vale St – a beautifully restored property with uninterrupted views of the city.  Whilst not in everyone’s price range, a magnificent property that leaves nothing to be done.

140 Gipps St is holding its value well in the apartment market with one originally purchased off the plan re-selling in the past few weeks.  The big brother development, 150 Clarendon St has a few for sale in there with these apartments suiting the most fastidious buyers.  A 24 hour concierge brings New York to East Melbourne.

Speaking of New York, the Tribeca development is a great entry point into East Melbourne and has its usual one or two on the market.  There are five separate developments all with their own flavour, on the one site affectionately known as the “old brewery “ and they are at an affordable level for the first home buyers needing to be close to the city and not requiring a huge space to live in.  Wellington Gardens at the eastern end of Flinders St has had some success in the past few weeks along with the much publicised One East Melbourne.

Nothing stays too long on the market in East Melbourne and there is something for all buyers at all budget points.

Housing Commission Effects on Pricing

Secret Agent were curious whether the social stigma of the housing commissions and the allure of lifestyle strips would have an effect on the prices of property. Our theory was that properties located close to the housing commissions would sell for a lower price than those further away, while properties located closer to the lifestyle centers would sell for a premium compared to those located further away. We’ve set the research on the biggest housing commission block for a given suburb. We’ve set the lifestyle centre as a point that has the closest proximity to cafes, restaurants and shops. In this sample research, Secret Agent focused on the suburb of Richmond, with the Richmond Housing Commissions and lifestyle strip of Bridge Road (Richmond Town Hall – 333 Bridge Road, Richmond was used as a central point.)

Data Used:

  • Houses sold located within a 500m radius of Richmond Housing Commissions and Lifestyle Strip (333 Bridge Road)
  • Period of data analysed was a 5 year period (1st January 2008 – 12th September 2012)
  • A total of 1116 sales were analysed, of which 176 were useable. (They fitted into either 500m of the lifestyle target or 500m of the housing commission).

With regards to the housing commissions, properties further away from the housing commission generally sold for more than those close to it. There also appears to be a link between lifestyle centers and higher property prices for the area. Secret Agent will be extending the research conducted to cover more suburbs in the near future.

Richmond – Distance from Housing Commission analysis
Price in $
0 – 100m 101 – 200m 201 – 300m 301 – 400m >400m
Within 200m of Housing Commissions
More than 200m of Housing Commissions

Housing Commission Summary

  • Property sales within 100m of the housing commission showed the lowest Median price of $715,500
  • Comparing all houses sold within 200m of the housing commission and beyond 200m of the housing commission – homes beyond 200m of housing commission sold for 10.4% more than those within the 200m circle when comparing the average sales price.
  • The highest average sales prices were recorded beyond 400m of housing commission with $935,601 being recorded.
Richmond – Distance from Lifestyle Strip analysis
Price in $
0 – 100m 101 – 200m 201 – 300m 301 – 400m 401-500m >500m
Within 200m of Lifestyle Strip
More than 200m of Lifestyle Strip

Lifestyle Strip Analysis Summary

  • Homes sold within 200m of our lifestyle centre recorded a Median value of $935,650 while homes in excess of the 200m distance recorded an average Median of $775,000. This was an incredible 20.73% difference (higher) for homes close to lifestyle centers.
  • The average sales price was also far greater for homes sold within 200m.
  • A number of high sales were recorded between the 400 – 500m circle ($4,300,000) which helped skew some data. It’s important to note that block sizes may increase the further you move out from lifestyle centre – however this wasn’t enough to trump closeness to lifestyle.