At last, Docklands is starting to blossom say local real estate agents

Following our suburb overview of Docklands, we continue our series on the suburb with the local real estate agents perspective.

At last, say the real estate agents, the emerging Docklands has rejuvenated itself and started to blossom, to achieve its potential.

No more a soulless ghost town, it is now an attractive – and well located – haven where high-rise residential towers and rows of townhouses front busy streetscapes and wide promenades. They have enviable views and amenity.

The waterfront with its marinas and luxury craft add their own atmosphere. Things are buzzing.

There’s a general consensus that, as building works settle down – and new residents settle in – Docklands will consolidate and provide the kind of lifestyle its residents bought in for in the first place.

Places Victoria’s expectations are that, by 2025, Docklands will be home to 20,000 residents and 60,000 workers, with an area almost double the size of the Melbourne central business district.

And there’s no better gauge of this than recent property transactions.  Long-term agent Glen Lucas, of Lucas Real Estate, with offices at Yarra’s Edge and NewQuay, said business was "pretty good".

"The market has stabilised over the past three months after a tough 18 months. There is lots of interest now and we are selling more property – and the best thing is that 75% of buyers are owner-occupiers.

"It’s a good news storey: people do want to live here despite some negative perceptions in the past. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Docklands based on negative media reports, such as about the broken Observation wheel. Everyone seemed to want to have a crack.

"Well, I lived at Docklands for six years and I found it a great place in which to live."

Some of the offerings are spectacular, such as the penthouse at 90 Lorimer Street which Lucas sold on New Year’s Eve for $3.5 million – again to an owner-occupier. "We were all pretty excited about that," admitted the agent. "And, from what I hear, the renovations are absolutely spectacular."

Lucas said average Docklands sales were around the $750,000 mark with average rents around $550 a week. His firm manages 1100 rentals.

Glenn Donnelly, of City Residential Real Estate in Lorimer Street, echoed the owner-occupier theme. "Of our past 10 sales eight were to owner-occupiers. Properties here have started to generate a lot more interest and this year we are charging along in both sales and rentals."

Donnelly has lived at Docklands for the past six years and worked there for 12. "It is a fabulous area: you can walk everywhere - I don’t tend to drive a lot – and there are restaurants and bike paths and, of course, activities on the water.

"I have seen enormous changes: no one wanted to live here in the early days because there were no amenities; there were a lot of negatives. Now it’s totally different. Rents and sales are up and there’s been enormous growth, yet we are still five years away from our peak.

"What we really need is a school, though, and I know one’s being planned. That would make the suburb complete."

Donnelly said sales averaged $680,000-$700,000 for two-bedroom townhouses with two bathrooms, two car spaces and views, with similar properties renting for around $580 a week. "The rent market is strong and nothing stays vacant for long."

City Residential Real Estate manages 370 rentals.

John Sdregas, of JMRE North Melbourne, but with a Docklands focus, says he foresaw the growth potential for real estate 10 years ago as residents of congested inner suburbs east and north of Melbourne moved further west to get more ‘bang for their buck’.

They found they could buy whole houses in well-placed Yarraville or Seddon for what they were expected to pay for small, two bedroom apartments in, say, Richmond, Fitzroy or North Melbourne. This pointed to a realignment of the centre of Melbourne with Docklands as its focal point.

"I’ve only ever seen steady growth here – about 7% in the past two years. And, also, demand for rentals is strong at about $500 a week for the average two bedroom, one bathroom, one car park townhouse. The average sale price for those properties would be $500,000-$550,000."

Ddregas said an early imbalance in supply and demand causing to a glut of apartments - and the seemingly never-ending construction works - had led to popular perceptions of Docklands in its formative years as being deserted.  This has changed: he now believes that with all the big companies establishing themselves, and others moving in, the notional centre of Melbourne is moving west and assuring the suburb’s future.

Lachal Property Group’s Paul Lachal, who specialises in project management and advising investors and developers on marketing and sales, often at Docklands, said nowhere in Australia had there been such development in such a short timeframe, with 10 large buildings erected – including the NAB and ANZ banking headquarters.

"This is the fastest growth area in the country," Lachal said. "A lot of people used to say it is desolate but, if they had seen what was here 10 years ago and what is here now, and if they see the major new buildings that have sprung up, they would be amazed."

He said these ‘house-hold names’ were anchor points adding stability and traction to Docklands and attracting others to follow their lead. They are the solid foundations on which residential builders can build a new suburb.

Lachal said the fact Docklands was not laid out on the Hoddle Grid – as is the Melbourne CBD – could be blamed for making it harder to get around. It’s just a learning process, he said.

An example of the current Docklands offerings is this apartment at 1122/60 Siddeley Street, listed for $490,000 through City Residential Real Estate.

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