I was chatting to a buyers’ agent recently about new trends in different buyer groups and he made an interesting prediction. When it comes to sniffing out the next big urban market, he reckons the key is to follow the hipsters.
You might find them lazing in an organic teahouse, bashing out their memoirs on a 60-year-old typewriter they found in an op shop. Or they might be attending some uber-cool but very off-the-grid art or music festival in a disused warehouse in the middle of the day. Failing that, they’ll be riding around on a repurposed pushbike with a basket but no gears.
Sure, some might have a tendency for self-importance and snootiness, like vegans or French people, but don’t disregard this bushy-bearded, fixie-riding subset as a potential target market, whether selling or renting. The buyers’ agent I spoke to insists they’re the “finders of future cool”.
The joke goes that hipsters like anything that’s pre-cool or on the verge of cool. When the thing they like becomes cool, they might move on to something else but by then the mainstream has a hold of the thing and eventually it’s huge. It’s like we’re all sitting around waiting to see what the early adopters get their clutches on next.
Think loafers without socks and rolled up chinos. Or fashion blogging slash street-style photography. And exaggerated moustaches on 20-something guys.
The choice of which suburb or neighbourhood to live in is no different. They’ll go wherever is cool, but not in an obvious way, settle in and invite their hipster friends over. Best of all, they’re young and creative, so there’s a nice and edgy vibe when they gather en masse, and they’re probably relatively cashed up.
When the rest of us cotton on that somewhere is becoming cool, chances are a chunk of us will flock there. It’s kind of like West End in Brisbane, Surry Hills in Sydney or Fitzroy in Melbourne. A growing sense of cool is a perfect driver of gentrification – new cafés, restaurants and bars, improvements of streetscapes and housing, and an influx of people can help lift a formerly dull and dreary suburb into the limelight.
And that’s good news for anyone who bought before demand for housing was quite so frenzied. I mean, can you imagine if you’d bought a little Surry Hills cottage a decade or so ago? I think you’d be about as happy as investors in Redfern in Sydney, Abbotsford in Melbourne or Woolloongabba in Brisbane will be in five or 10 years’ time.
How can you spot a potential hipster haven before it’s overrun with mainstream residents? To find out, I phoned some people I know in Melbourne. Here are their tips for telltale signs a hipster is near:
- A pop-up anything – homewares or curiosities store, young designers’ market, coffee shop, organic farmer’s stall. If one of these things suddenly appears, keep your eyes peeled for hipsters. They’ll probably be running it and therefore in favour of the location;
- Communal gardens. They’re all the rage in hip locations, it seems. Hipsters are social and like a sense of community, so they’ll congregate somewhere cool – like a patch of inner-city dirt where they can plant vegetables to their heart’s content;
- Cultural performances. If there’s a heap of non-mainstream art shows of any genre being hosted in an area, you might be on the right track;
- Bees or chickens, although probably not housed together. Hipsters are apparently into beehives and homemade honey, so you can find them decked out in beekeeper outfits on rooftops across Melbourne and Sydney’s uber-cool suburbs. Chickens, either privately kept or communal, are another popular food-producing animal to have around;
- Guerilla art. If you see a tree, statue or telephone poll wrapped in yarn, a Banksy-style graffiti piece or some sort of other public art piece, hipsters might be close by.
We revealed a list of Australia’s 40 next gentrification hotspots in the February issue of API. A common qualifier was ‘increasing cool’ and a few of the experts tip hipsters as a good barometer of an area’s trendy stakes.
So, happy hipster hunting!
Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australia Property Investor magazine www.apimagazine.com.au