House prices

Unit prices fall in many suburbs amid housing boom

Although house prices have risen at their fastest pace in 32 years, apartments in Australia’s most crowded cities are not as popular with buyers.

In some areas, unit prices have fallen over the past year and still have not recovered from their COVID-19 collapse – Sydney and Melbourne being the most affected capitals.

These cities, in particular, have relied heavily on the ability for international students and foreign workers to cross Australia’s borders freely, to rent apartments that their investor owners do not want to live in on their own.

This is how Ian Kingsford-Smith and his partner Berni Joseph were able to buy their first home together in Sydney two weeks ago.

“If we had bought this property six to twelve months ago, the price would have been 5 to 10 percent higher,” Kingsford-Smith told ABC News.

Like many Australians, they had been renting for many years and could not find any property they liked in their price range near Parramatta, in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Much to their surprise, the pandemic offered the couple the opportunity to purchase a newly built apartment (at a slightly distressed price), in an area with lots of empty units.


Over the past year, the median price of a Parramatta unit has fallen 3% (to $ 574,963), according to figures provided by CoreLogic.

That’s a huge drop when you consider that Australia’s median unit price has risen (+ 2.3%) to $ 547,543 over the past 12 months – while the median home price has jumped (+ 7.4%) to $ 643,203.

All this is pale in comparison with regional housing prices, which have skyrocketed (+ 11.7 pc), as more flexible working arrangements during the pandemic triggered an exodus to the countryside (and small towns).

But when you dig deeper into those numbers, some areas of Australian capital cities are way behind schedule.

Biggest falls in areas popular with migrants

Comparing the apartment markets, Sydney and Melbourne recorded the most anemic gains of the past year – 0.2% and 0.9% respectively.

Small capitals fared much better, notably Brisbane (+ 1.9 pc), Perth (+ 4 pc), Adelaide (+ 5.1 pc), Canberra (+ 5.8 pc), Darwin (+ 9 , 8 pc) and Hobart (+ 11.2 pc).

However, some suburbs still haven’t bounced back from the pandemic and have become much cheaper, especially in the country’s two largest cities.

The following data was provided by CoreLogic, which defines “unit” as any property appearing on a stratum title. So this does not only include apartments, but also villas and townhouses (which are usually more expensive).

Here are the Sydney and Melbourne suburbs that saw a sharp drop in unit prices, in the 12 months leading up to March 31 (with at least 80 sales during that time):



Median value

Annual fall

St Leonard

$ 1.028 million



$ 1.034 million



$ 733K


Lane Cove

$ 834K



701,000 USD


Macquarie Park

$ 756,000


Lane Cove North

$ 775,000



$ 777K



$ 1.02 million


Wolli Creek

$ 734K




Median value

Annual fall

Moonee Ponds

$ 566K


Ascot Vale

$ 570,000



$ 769K



$ 577K


Glen iris

$ 731K



801,000 USD



$ 598K



$ 634K



$ 767K



$ 1.029 million


The Sydney and Melbourne suburbs have seen the biggest unit price drops because they are “our most international cities,” said Eliza Owen, head of Australian research at CoreLogic.

“Before the pandemic, Sydney and Melbourne accounted for 63% of overseas arrivals in capital cities.

“The closure of international borders has therefore created a greater demand shock there.”

Eliza Owen says the Sydney and Melbourne units perform less well than other capitals.(



Ms Owen said there were a few other reasons, in general, why some apartment suburbs fell more difficult than others.

“The biggest trend is proximity to the CBD, as overseas arrivals are more likely to settle in major international centers.”

‘Don’t buy apartments’

Even in an underperforming apartment suburb, some units manage to turn the tide (and sell for a very high price).

“I had a three bedroom apartment that cost $ 300,000 over the reserve [and] it was a penthouse with a view, ”said Hazel McNamara, a real estate agent for Raine & Horne, based in Sydney’s northern suburb of Lane Cove.

“The standard one and two bedroom apartments have stagnated. The apartments with a second bathroom and a second car seat haven’t really fallen out – they’re sort of OK.”

Meanwhile, buyer agent Catherine Cashmore says the main problem with apartments, especially in her hometown (Melbourne), is simply oversupply.

There are “too many apartments” and “not enough people renting them” – which has led to lower rents and lower investor interest, she said.

In recent years, newly built apartments have had bad publicity – involving flammable siding and poorly constructed skyscrapers like Opal Tower and Mascot Tower (in Sydney).

While some real estate experts have warned people against buying apartments built over the past two decades, Ms. Cashmore’s advice is more extreme.

A lady wearing a red top, holding a cell phone.
Buying agent Catherine Cashmore says “don’t buy apartments”.(



“Apartments are not a good investment if you are looking for capital growth. Newer ones, in particular, see their prices come down – before you see any appreciation.”

His advice to buyers who cannot afford a home is to “rent and invest elsewhere”, also known as “acquired rent”.

Essentially, she recommends renting a house and buying a house “a little further away” – in areas that are attractive to families with children (even if it’s an area you don’t want to live in).

Falls in almost every capital city

Despite Sydney and Melbourne’s oversupply problems (with its greater reliance on international students and overseas workers to fill these vacancies), almost all major cities have at least a few problematic apartment markets. .

The only exceptions were the capitals of Tasmania and the Northern Territory, according to CoreLogic figures.

Darwin and Hobart

According to these figures, Darwin’s worst performing unit market was the Leanyer’s suburb. Its median price jumped (+4.5 pc) to $ 260,021 last year.

Likewise for Hobart, there is no suburb where apartment prices have fallen. Battery Point was the laggard and its median price jumped (+ 5.6 pc) to $ 703,180.


Meanwhile, the apartment suburbs of Queensland’s capital (with at least 80 sales in the past year) have seen big declines:


Median value

Annual fall

South Brisbane

$ 470,000


Brisbane City

$ 503,000


Fortitude Valley

$ 393K


Spring hill

$ 386,000


west end

$ 523K


New farm

$ 618K



$ 369K



$ 375,000


Kangaroo Point

$ 535,000



$ 442,000



In Canberra’s unit market, there were only three suburbs where median prices have fallen in the past 12 months:


Median value

Annual fall


$ 651K


Denman Prospect

$ 622K



$ 360,000



Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, was also a strong market. Only these two suburbs (with at least 80 sales) saw the prices of their apartments fall:


Median value

Annual fall


$ 416K



$ 359K



As for Perth, the capital of Western Australia, only three suburbs (with at least 80 sales) have recorded a decline in unit prices over the past year:


Median value

Annual fall

South Perth

$ 511K


Mount Lawley

$ 384,000


West Perth

$ 450,000


While these small capitals are not as reliant on international renters – compared to Sydney and Melbourne – an oversupply of units (and a preference for single-family homes since the start of the pandemic) are factors at play.

“Many outlying suburbs have a predominance of single-family homes over units,” said CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless.

“With a shift in preference towards lower density housing options, many of these areas will experience less demand for apartments.

“In addition, investors have been relatively thin on the ground.

“With a larger component of the demand for unitary style housing coming from the investor sector, its likely demand will decline in these areas of the Middle Ring and outlying areas.”

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