John McGrath – The emergence of the co-primary residences for commuters
Many Australians left the big cities during the pandemic because being able to work from home enabled them to relocate to a lifestyle region (and downsize their mortgage at the same time). And this is where they stayed for the first couple of years of COVID.
Today, many companies are asking their staff to come back to their CBD offices, presenting a conundrum for people now happily ensconced in their regional homes and communities.
The result is we’re starting to see a cohort of regional home owners come back to the city but instead of relocating permanently, they’re purchasing a smaller property – typically an apartment in or close to the CBD – and retaining their larger regional home as well.
The interesting part is that both properties are being seen as main residences, rather than one being ‘the holiday home’. People are splitting their time between the two equally, and enthusiastically taking on a new commuter-style routine. They’re enjoying a dual-lifestyle incorporating the city buzz some days, and the peace and quiet of the regions other days.
This trend is documented in a recent report by independent global property consultancy, Knight Frank. The ‘Rightsizing’ report said the pandemic had “accelerated the concept of the coprimary home” with a “continually increasing appetite” being seen amongst buyers.
It says: “As business activity picks up in the city centres, a rightsizer pad in the city is likely to become a preferred option for those who have become more accustomed to spending increasingly more time in their coastal or country homes.”
In their Global Buyer Survey conducted in mid-2021, Knight Frank asked people what features they considered most important for their next home. Two-thirds of Australian respondents nominated having a home office, with 46% planning to commute to their corporate office up to three days a week after restrictions were lifted, as they now have been.
Of course, most average Australian home owners can’t afford a second home, so the co-primary trend is mainly being seen in the middle to upper premium apartment market.
The only challenge for buyers is finding the right apartment in their capital city to buy. The number of spacious, luxury-style premium apartments is relatively limited in the major cities compared to ordinary apartments.
Over the past 10 years, developers have been building more luxury apartments in response to growing demand from our rising downsizer demographic, but not enough are online yet.
And now, global supply chain bottlenecks are causing delays and bumping up the costs of completing the types of apartments both downsizers, and now co-primary buyers, are seeking.
This is intensifying demand for the smaller pool of apartments close to completion, as well as lifting interest in large established apartments that have been renovated to a premium contemporary standard.
I’ve lived in Sydney for decades and before the pandemic, any time a Sydneysider referred to “the commute”, that was universally understood to mean the long travel time between suburban homes on the affordable outskirts to the CBD. Spending an hour travelling along congested roads and/or on public transport to get to work was not uncommon.
The co-primary trend has brought about a new commute – leaving the city as soon in the week as you can, taking a relaxing drive in the comfort of your own car down one of many new expressways connecting CBDs to major regional centres, to return to your coast or country residence for some peaceful downtime in a more relaxed setting.