Migrant settlement patterns: why investors should be interested

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Isolating areas where people actually want to live should be a crucial feature of any property investor’s selection criteria.

While there might be a cyclical nature to suburb trends, it is safe to say there will be ongoing demand in areas expected to have strong population growth.

This means property in such areas is primed for long-term growth.

And that’s why the study of demographics should always feature in an investor’s research.

In turn, that’s why the new ABS report on where migrants - who make up about 26% of Australia’s population - choose to live should be of interest to investors.

According to the report, which is based on information from the 2011 census, Australians born overseas are more likely to live in major urban areas.

Half of all migrants live in Sydney (1.4 million residents born overseas) or Melbourne (1.2 residents born overseas). Perth had the third largest migrant population in Australia (568,000 residents born overseas).

Guinevere Hunt, from the ABS, said that in all capital cities, except for Hobart and Darwin, more than half of the CBD residents were born overseas.

Migrants displayed a marked preference for suburbs in or near city centres, she said. "Suburbs near universities also have high proportions of migrants.”

In Sydney, migrants dominated the suburbs of Haymarket (88%), Sydney CBD (78%) and Ultimo (72%). Many migrants were international students: in 2011, around one in every three people living in Haymarket and Ultimo was an international student.

Some other Sydney suburbs with large migrant populations were Parramatta (70%), Harris Park (76%), Rhodes and Homebush West (both 73%), Westmead, Burwood and Cabramatta (all 68%) and Fairfield (66%).

In Melbourne, nearly two-thirds of the residents of Melbourne CBD (68%), Carlton (63%), and Southbank (61%) were migrants.

Much as in Sydney, the proximity of these suburbs to a range of education providers made them particularly popular with international students. In 2011, a quarter of the Melbourne CBD population and a third of the Carlton population were international students.

For investors, areas which are popular with students tend to have strong rental markets as they have a stable, but fluid, tenant pool.

But, with migration expected to dramatically increase the size of both Sydney and Melbourne’s populations in coming decades, investors would be well-advised to watch where migrants settle generally.

Investors Direct managing director Bill Zheng said population increases will make a lot of unpopular areas very popular.

“They are areas where the prices are low, but the rental yields are high. Such areas, which have high income migrant populations and high demand, have good growth potential.”

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