The country cousin that scrubs up alright

Long regarded by its some of its more sophisticated southern counterparts as a cultureless backwater and haven for angry bogans, where white shoes are on trend and the locals are a bit slow, Brisbane seems to have soared to the top of property buyers’ ‘hot’ lists.

When the country’s gaze turned towards Brisbane in 1982 for the Commonwealth Games and again in 1988 for the World Expo, they were no doubt impressed by what they saw.

The city really turned it on with giant robotic wildlife-themed mascots, sprawling parklands chockablock with Australiana-themed cafes, chambray-clad hot young things flocking to up market nightspots…

And then, for the next 20-odd years, there probably wasn’t much point for anyone to glance north. If they had, they might’ve noticed Queensland’s capital in the midst of a physical, psychological and cultural transformation.

Where illegal underground casinos and massage parlours once stood rose trendy bars and restaurants, posh shops and boutique hotels. Not long ago, the city streets would’ve been near deserted on a weekend – or after four o’clock in the afternoon – whereas now they’re thriving with activity.

There’s a world-class gallery, a burgeoning creative scene, a full events calendar and some pretty impressive shopping. Locals have a sense of pride, of accomplishment, at how much their hometown has matured.

Still, those famously parochial Sydney and Melbourne folk have an occasional tendency to look down their noses at Brisbane as though it were an offensively loud party guest. And sure, it still has those old school tendencies. She’s a bit rough around the edges, you could say.

Interstate investors are less judgemental. It’s probably that quaint charm, coupled with cheap property prices, that’s responsible with luring them north in droves.

Data compiled by one insurer shows the Sunshine State is a hot favourite among interstate investors. About half of their landlord insurance customers with a property in another state own real estate in Queensland.

Perhaps it’s Brisbane’s status as the most affordable mainland capital that is demanding attention. Explosive population growth might also be a factor – it grew by 25.2 per cent in the last 10 years. Or maybe it’s the city’s tight rental market. In fact, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland says rental demand still exceeds supply in many areas. The vacancy rate in Brisbane is just 2.1 per cent.

A few months ago, a Sydney friend asked for my advice on suburbs in Brisbane to begin looking for an investment property. He was keen to put his money in bricks and mortar, but found property prices at home too prohibitive.

“Brisbane is more price-friendly than the other capital cities,” he told me. “Prices seemed to have flattened and there’s much better value for money than in Sydney.”

Too right. Do a quick real estate search and check out what $350,000 will get you in Brisbane’s inner suburbs compared to Sydney. Frightening, huh? My friend is just one of several interstate chums who want to buy something but consider their local markets too pricey.

They’re looking for different things – some units over houses, others suburbs rather than the city – but they all agree, Brisbane’s prospects are solid. Respected local property analyst Michael Matusik agrees, saying the market looks to have bottomed and commenced its recovery phase.

A warmer climate, more relaxed lifestyle and property that’s on the up. What more could you want?

Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine www.apimagazine.com.au