Not everyone thinks of Australia’s understated capital Canberra–known for its hot summers and icy winters–as a place to buy luxury property. But the city has in recent years gained popularity as an alternative to the faster pace of nearby Sydney and Melbourne.
Being the capital of Australia and the seat of government, a large proportion of the city’s residents are government workers. But wealthy private industry figures gravitate toward a few higher-priced suburbs, of which Forrest is arguably the most exclusive.
Located just south of Parliament House in the center of Canberra, Forrest has frequently topped the list of Canberra’s most expensive suburbs—most recently by real estate advertising website realestate.com.au, which is majority-owned by News Corp, Mansion Global’s parent company—with a median-sold price of A$2.52 million (US$1.89 million).
Buyers are attracted to the suburb’s large estates, pretty oak-lined streets and elite private schools, brokers say. And while heritage rules, which ban older homes with historical significance from being demolished, may be troublesome for some, they have the advantage of giving local residents certainty that they won’t be impacted by insensitive developments.
“It’s such a beautiful piece of Canberra,” said Belle Property Kingston broker and Forrest resident Louise Harget. “It has incredibly large blocks, and I think the heritage precincts in particular people like because they aren’t going to have a huge house built nextdoor that looms over their block.”
Forrest is defined to the east by Sydney Avenue, to the west by Melbourne Avenue, to the south by Moresby Street and Furneaux Street, and to the north by State Circuit.
Detached homes in Forrest typically begin in price above A$2 million (US$1.5 million), and range up to A$6 million (US$4.5 million)
For those wanting to start with a blank canvas, large and undeveloped lots are coming to market as a result of a A$1 billion scheme where the Canberra government bought and demolished homes that were contaminated with asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s, then remediated the sites.
One such lot is under contract for A$2.2 million (US$1.7 million), Ms. Harget said, and she is the listing agent on another.
Another broker, Richard Luton, from Luton Properties, sold a home this year on Tennyson Crescent in Forrest for A$6 million (US$5.5 million), which he said is the suburb’s most expensive sale. The buyer plans to demolish the existing home and rebuild.
Buyers who would prefer something ready-made could look to the area’s numerous large estates.
One such home is located on Tasmania Circle, with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a tennis court, pool and views across iconic sites, such as the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin. It is immaculately decked out with timber floors, Smeg kitchen appliances and a temperature-controlled wine cellar. It is leased to a nearby embassy until February next year, and the asking price is A$4.995 million (US$3.8 million).
Homes in Forrest are often on large 1,800-square-meter (nearly 20,000-square-foot) blocks, Ms. Harget said, making them significantly more spacious than those in most other suburbs of the city. And while many of the suburb’s homes are protected, there have been a lot of demolitions in recent years that have seen older homes replaced with contemporary builds.
“It’s a mix of new, incredible, luxury homes and older-style cottages set in beautiful 80-year-old gardens,” Ms. Harget said.
The most prestigious streets include Barkly Crescent, Dominion Circuit, National Circuit and Empire Circuit, she said.
What Makes It Unique
Traffic and parking are rarely a problem in Canberra, Ms. Harget said. Those who like nature can get their fix in the nearby mountains, which include Kosciuszko National Park where you can ski in winter.
“It’s the best suburb in Canberra as far as income and prestige,” Mr. Luton said.
Forrest is dotted with large parks and is close to Lake Burley Griffin, which has a popular cycling trail.
Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images
Mr. Luton said a major drawcard for Forrest is the area’s private schools. Canberra Grammar has recently transitioned to a co-education school. Canberra Girls Grammar School and the Catholic schools St Clare’s College and St. Edmund’s are all nearby.
Ms. Harget recommends the restaurants Ottoman cuisine, in the nearby suburb of Barton, and restaurants Aubergine and Rubicon located in the close-by upscale Griffith suburb. All are often booked out in weeks when parliament is in session, she said.
Nearby Manuka Arcade is a popular fashion precinct full of boutiques. Some popular shops include Mania Shoes, which sells special-occasion shoes and headwear; Things of Desire, which sells Europe fashion labels; and Momento Dezigns, which stocks a wide range of fashion clothing and accessories from Australia and abroad.
The Royal Canberra Golf Club is five minutes’ drive away in Yarralumla.
Who Lives There
The suburb attracts a mix of residents, including those who work at the various embassies in Canberra, as well as private-industry figures who want a slower pace than larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
The area was named for Sir John Forrest, who is one of the fathers of the Australian constitution. While not in Forrest proper, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull lives nearby in The Lodge. Actress Mia Wasikowska and tennis player Nick Kyrgios also live in the greater Canberra area, according to reports.
Canberra, like the Eastern cities of Sydney and Melbourne which are around a 300 kilometer and 650 kilometer drive away respectively, has seen its housing market cool a little this year. But demand in the city’s inner-south suburbs, such as Forrest, Deakin and Yarralumla, remains strong, Ms. Harget said.
“We’re fortunate in Canberra that people have to live here for government positions,” Ms. Harget said.
“Our rental market is the strongest around the nation, and that helps the housing market.”
The Canberra market tends to be influenced by the bigger Sydney and Melbourne markets, she said.
Both these markets have been predicted to see little, if any, price growth this year, and possibly some small value declines. This suggests value growth is likely to be subdued in Canberra this year.
Home prices in Canberra rose by 4.9% in 2017 according to CoreLogic, and CoreLogic research analyst Cameron Kusher has predicted growth in 2018 will be “fairly similar.”
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