Forget bronzed up Bondi or celebrity haven Byron Bay – the county’s top growth suburb for house prices over the past decade was a Sydney enclave most famous for its eclectic restaurant scene and middle-eastern vibe.
The suburb of Lakemba, 13km southwest of the CBD, recorded average annual price increases of 8.4 per cent over the past 10 years and the median house price more than doubled, going from $394,000 in 2010 to $881,000 in 2020.
This rate of increase was more than twice the average for a capital city area, putting the suburb almost in a league of its own even in Sydney’s runaway housing market, CoreLogic and Property Investment Professionals of Australia data showed.
“Homeowners in the area will be in a good position,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless said. “They will be wealthier and have a lot of equity in their homes.”
Local agents said the growth was from cashed up families, many fresh off unit sales in the inner west, snapping up houses on larger blocks.
The resulting competition for housing drained the supply of sales and buyers were forced to bid up prices to secure the properties they wanted.
McGrath-Bankstown principal George Kapos said Lakemba’s multicultural residents added another level of housing demand to the area.
“People who haven’t been to the suburb often don’t understand the local community. It’s more diverse than people realise and the commercial centre is thriving,” he said.
The area attracted a large Greek and Italian community after WWII and by the 1970s was one of the most popular areas for newly arrived migrants from Lebanon.
In recent times, the suburb has become popular with arrivals from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who together account for 21 per cent of residents, according to ABS data.
LJ Hooker-Belmore agent Muhammad Sarmini said the high concentration of Muslim tenants was a draw for property investors.
This was partly due to a section of the Muslim community who, for religious reasons, preferred buying properties outright rather than with mortgages, leaving them in the tenant pool for longer, Mr Sarmini said.
“Even with all the growth in prices, rental returns in the area are excellent,” he said. “You can buy properties that will be positively geared straight away so investors are very active here.”
With housing demand up and supply down in Lakemba, buyers have increasingly sought out properties in nearby suburbs Greenacre, Wiley Park and Punchbowl, helping long-time homeowners in these areas also get big sales.
Greenacre resident Khaled Yassine recently listed a set of duplexes with Mr Sarmini only for both to get snapped up at the first open for inspection. Each was expected to sell for about $1 million but sold for $1.19 million.
“I was shocked,” Mr Yassine said. “It was the first week we were selling, the first offer.”
Janine Barry grew up in Punchbowl during the 1960s and 1970s in a house her grandmother bought for a few hundred pounds nearly 70 years ago and said her family loved the region.
“It’s because of the blocks, they’re much bigger,” she said, adding her property for sale at 30 Lancaster Ave was one of the biggest at 1334sqm.
“Growing up, it was the space and multiculturalism that was great about the area,” Ms Barry said. “There were all kinds of families, we spent a lot of time with all our neighbours.”