British expats might love Manly, while the Chinese have long had a soft spot for Chatswood but many of Sydney’s ethnic hot spots could soon change as relocating foreigners make homes in new areas of the city.
Nearly 90,000 people from around the world made a new home in NSW last year, about 16,000 fewer than in 2017, but real estate data revealed there were also big geographic changes in migration trends.
Online property search patterns showed many foreigners moving to the Harbour City were considering homes in suburbs not historically popular with their countrymen – along with some old favourites.
The changes came in the wake of a nearly 15 per cent average drop in Sydney home prices over 2017 and 2018, with values remaining well-below what they were two years ago despite a surprise 7 per cent rebound in prices over the past four months.
Housing experts said lower prices encouraged some new arrivals to reconsider the suburbs they intended to live in and where their money might go further.
Expats from many Asian countries, which have tended in the past to gravitate towards densely populated areas with good transport, are increasingly seeking out homes in beach areas.
Mosman and Manly are proving a hit with those considering a relocation from Singapore, while the same suburbs are also becoming more popular with Japanese, along with Neutral Bay, the research showed.
Foreigners from European countries, who in the past often sought homes in beach suburbs, are increasingly considering properties in well-connected, densely populated inner suburbs.
These areas include Balmain and Paddington, which got strong property interest from British property seekers, according to the study of foreign searches of Aussie real estate listings by the REA group.
The research used search volumes over the past year to determine where new expats were planning to move to, with soon-to-arrive families tending to peruse homes in the areas they wanted to live in.
These preferences tended to be different from those of foreign investors who were restricted to buying off-the-plan properties by current legislation.
And while the study pointed to a trend of expats widening their search to new areas, there were a range of already popular areas that continued to pull a large amount of coming arrivals.
The runaway favourite for British property seekers remained the Manly area, where close to 8000 UK-born residents currently live, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Manly was also the most searched suburb for those based in New Zealand, Germany and South Africa and the most frequently searched suburb by the global community at large.
“We’re getting inquiries from Geneva to Florida,” local agent Michael Clarke of Clarke and Humel Real Estate said.
“These days I have to keep a world clock so I know when it’s a good time to contact people. The buyers are from all over now.”
Bondi Beach was the top choice for Americans and Canadians, while Parramatta and Blacktown were the most popular choices for those based in India.
Chinese buyers continued to have a strong preference for Hurstville, where census data showed more than 10,000 China-born residents live, along with Chatswood, where more than 5000 reside.
But Chinese buyers were also beginning to branch out to further areas. The Castle Hill area has become increasingly popular with mainland Chinese since the Metro North West rail line was completed earlier this year. Roughly 2000 China-born residents lived in the suburb when the 2016 census was taken and the number is estimated to have risen.
More China-based buyers were also searching real estate sales in north shore suburbs Killara and Hornsby, where there are also already about 2000 Chinese nationals, respectively.
Local agents reported many of these Chinese buyers liked the locations nearby well-known private schools.
Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said new arrivals were usually drawn to areas where there were already a high number of their countrymen, but preferences often changed over time.
International political forces were also shifting global real estate tastes, she said.
The countries mostly frequently searching Aussie real estate deals were the USA, UK, New Zealand and Hong Kong, which have each had to grapple with unique challenges.
“There has been a 45 per cent increase in Aussie real estate searches from Hong Kong since the democracy protests started,” Ms Conisbee said.
She added that there was a similar trend with Brexit spurring increased buyer interest from the UK and Trump driving interest from those based in Democrat or “blue” states in the US.
Kiwi interest in Sydney real estate began to rise following wobbles in the New Zealand economy, Ms Conisbee said.
Other countries which have traditionally accounted for a large number of migrants, such as Italy and Greece, are coming to Aussie shores less frequently.
Both countries were outside the top 30 nationalities most frequently searching Aussie real estate deals, according to realestate.com.au.
South Africans Jason and Tracy Ashworth said getting a good sense of where to live in Sydney before they moved here was difficult because they knew little about the city.
One thing they did know was they wanted to stay in Sydney for good. “We really like it here,” Mr Ashworth said.
The couple were were put off by higher rents in areas like Bondi and realised they had to get “realistic” with prices and their priorities.
“We didn’t have cars so it had to be somewhere with good public transport,” Mr Ashworth said.
This initially led them to Chatswood where they rented a one-bedroom apartment shortly after arriving in the country in 2017 to start new jobs. They later moved to Killara, nearby a large South African community in neighbouring suburb St Ives, and then to Macquarie Park, where they recently nabbed a townhouse. “We wanted a bigger, cheaper place with a backyard and space for a dog.”