Buyers often start off the purchasing process with an ideal property in mind, however like most things in life, ideals often have to give way to practicalities.
This is especially the case in a fast moving market, with strong demand and rapidly rising prices.
After a number of failed attempts to secure their top priority properties, many buyers realise they need to consolidate their options and make some compromises.
Perhaps buyers have been aiming for a detached house, but have come to the conclusion that they need to broaden their scope to include a semi-detached home that’s one of a pair, or even an attached home in the form of an inner city terrace house.
Other buyers may switch their search from a house to a townhouse, which enables them to have their desired size of accommodation, albeit with a degree of common property.
Some may downsize their search from a townhouse to a mid-century villa in a block of four, that although smaller, provides some outdoor space and allows them to live in the same area.
Others might even go from considering a villa unit, to looking at an apartment, perhaps with a nice little courtyard or balcony as an option.
Another consideration is the size of the property itself. Are four bedrooms completely necessary, or would three with a study and separate living zone be adequate? Is the second bathroom a must have, or would one be enough, particularly if there are several toilets?
The size of the living space is often a factor that needs to be considered. Is a second or third living area vital, if the main living space is in fact large enough?
Some buyers may be initially focused on securing a modern property that’s been recently built, but then compromise for a more dated property, which is still very livable. Then down the track once they’ve built up some equity in the home, they’re in the position to renovate to suit their desires.
Others might be looking at a period home and have been focused on a Victorian or Edwardian house, but may need to consider a 1930s Californian bungalow, or perhaps going to a mid-century type property. Meanwhile, other buyers, intent on buying a brick property, might need to start considering a weatherboard home instead.
The location of a property is a major aspect upon which many buyers may need to compromise.
It might be the position within a suburb, whereupon it’s a little further away from the village or from public transport. Perhaps it’s on a slightly busier road than hoped for, or on a secondary residential street, as opposed to a primary central street within the suburb.
Or it could mean broadening the search out from the first choice suburb and into what is known as a bridesmaid suburb. While highly desirable suburbs are often referred to as the bride, surrounding areas, which might receive less attention are referred to as bridesmaid suburbs.
This could be due to factors such as the housing styles being considered slightly inferior, or public transport linkages being less favourable, such as having to rely on trams, not trains for travel. That might not be ideal, but perhaps it’s acceptable, depending on how regularly public transport is required.
The streetscape may also be a factor, with the bridesmaid suburb having a less green and leafy feel to it, as compared to the bride suburb.
Different levels of gentrification may also play a role. For example, in suburbs such as Thornbury and Preston – heading up High Street from Northcote, the retail strip has become increasingly gentrified over the last 10 to 15 years. So those that were prepared to push a little further out over that time are now starting to reap the benefits.
An interesting factor to consider is that most suburbs are likely to have been considered a bridesmaid suburb to another, somewhere along the line.
For example the inner northern suburb of Northcote is considered an extremely desirable area, and has a number of bridesmaid suburbs, including Thornbury, Fairfield and Preston.
However, Northcote itself is also considered by many buyers to be a bridesmaid suburb to North Fitzroy or to Clifton Hill.
In fact most suburbs are bridesmaids to another suburb. Only a small few stand at the altar solely as the bride. These are considered elite suburbs and include Toorak, East Melbourne, the Domain Garden Precinct of South Yarra and Albert Park.
When to consider a bridesmaid suburb
From a homebuyer’s perspective, it’s important to determine whether key features that made the bride suburb so desirable, can be replicated in the bridesmaid suburbs. These may not be able to be replicated identically, but still offer a satisfactory alternative. Take for instance public transport. Hawthorn as a suburb has great access to the train line which runs through it, as opposed to Kew which relies on tram lines. Is that an adequate alternative when considering Kew as a potential bridesmaid suburb to Hawthorn?
Proximity to parks can often be a major factor for homebuyers. That’s particularly the case for inner city suburbs where properties are smaller and inhabitants rely on public outdoor spaces.
For example, a buyer may initially hope to purchase in North Fitzroy near the iconic Edinburgh Gardens, but is it possible to move a little further out to Fairfield to be near the Yarra Parklands instead?
Bride suburbs often contain a fantastic local village that’s become a real destination within the area.
However, if that suburb’s out of reach, it may well be worth considering a neighbouring suburb that has a local baker, green grocer and newsagents; and meets the necessary requirements, while still providing a nice sense of community.
As mentioned earlier, many buyers are attracted to particular property styles. Period homes are especially popular with buyers looking within the inner city suburbs. However, if those suburbs are unattainable, then it’s worth considering the option in nearby suburbs a little further out.
That may mean moving the focus from securing a Victorian home to instead looking for an Edwardian, Californian Bungalow or Art Deco property – which can still offer in-demand features such as nice high ceilings, decorative cornicing and open fireplaces.
Family homeowners are often very conscious of school zones, especially in Melbourne’s middle ring suburbs. Parents looking to send their children to a specific school might not be able to secure a home in the same suburb, but perhaps its bridesmaid suburb lies within the same school zone.
Conversely, there may well be another school, in a suburb and different zone that will also provide the children with a quality education.
Another factor to consider is if homeowners are able to save money on a bridesmaid suburb, then they may well free up funds to send their children to a private school.
Opting for a bridesmaid suburb can also open up opportunities. For example, increased land size, an extra bedroom, or a second living zone.
From an investor’s point of view, personal preference should not be a major factor, but instead market expectations must be the main focus. Perhaps an investor originally looking for a terrace house in North Carlton, has broadened out the search to include the bridesmaid suburb of Thornbury. While securing a terrace house is unlikely, an Edwardian home on an extra 100 square metres of land is a good alternative. It might not be as close to Rathdowne Village, but it’s close to High Street, as well as the train line and is certainly a good second option from an investment perspective. That means there’s strong multi-faceted demand from a buyer’s perspective, as well as a tenant’s perspective, leading to robust long term capital growth.
Take home message
When looking past the bride suburb, it’s important to ensure the original purchase outcome isn’t thrown off when considering a bridesmaid suburb.
For a home, that means assessing whether the lifestyle goals are still achievable, but perhaps with some slight compromises.
Meanwhile, from an investment perspective, it’s important that the capital growth targets, rental return and quality of tenants are still in line with the original goals.
If the same objectives can be achieved, then considering a bridesmaid suburb could well prove to be a valuable pivot, paving the way for lifestyle and investment dividends in the years to come.