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Sydney’s home buyers are showing their green side as the appetite for environmentally-friendly apartments grows, experts say. And it’s not just owner-occupiers behind the trend.

Unlike most investors, who purely chase financial returns, Blue Mountains couple Owen and Kerrie Sargeant, have a rather different plan for how they’re spending their money.

“When I look at the type of buildings being constructed in many suburbs, it’s just high-rise after high-rise,” Mr Sargeant said.

“I’m not a total greenie, but I have grandchildren now and what we’re doing to the environment and to the community will impact on how they live in the future.” 

With this in mind, he spent close to $1.2 million on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with city views and parking in The Livingstone – the first stage of Mirvac’s Marrick & Co.

This development is the first in NSW to get One Planet Living certification – an eco-friendly initiative that includes principles of zero-waste, zero-carbon and sustainable building materials – and it’s one of the main selling points for the Sargeants.

This made the semi-retired couple look twice at the Marrickville development – seeing it as a good investment for the community and for their own financial future.

“If your tenant is happy, you’ll get good rent and they’ll look after the property,” he said.

“We all want to leave a legacy, and I feel through this it’s a way to do that.”

Of course for many buyers an apartment with sustainability features is an extra luxury but not the deciding factor when purchasing a property, Property Investment Professionals of Australia chairman Ben Kingsley said.

“It’s not the main factor that investors consider, it’s a good extra,” he said.

But even mainstream property investors, who typically focus solely on financial gain, are starting to see the benefits of buying properties with environmentally-friendly inclusions.

A recent survey of 1000 people by YouGov on behalf of developer AYMCI found 58 per cent of respondents viewed ‘energy-saving characteristics’ as an important feature when looking to buy.

Properties with features which cut down on electricity bills, such as solar and airflow maximising designs, would be much more attractive to renters, My Kingsley said.

“It’s an upside for landlords in a competitive market,” Mr Kingsley said.

And this could be the difference between what a landlord chooses to buy – particularly with so many apartments coming up for sale.

“If the properties are nearly the same price [and one has eco-features] … it can tip the scale in its favour.”

Features that provided tangible savings for the tenant could allow the landlord to charge more in rent, which also made them more attractive to property investors, he said.

Green Building Council of Australia spokesman Jonathan Cartledge said there was an increasing movement towards green residential buildings.

“We’re at the tipping point for consumers … there’s an increased awareness from home buyers that [sustainable homes] are cheaper to run and can withstand a changing climate,” Mr Cartledge said.

Statistics show there are 42,000 people living in apartment buildings with a Green Star rating – the GBCA’s sustainable certification.

And, when counting all dwellings and projects currently underway, there are 420,000 people moving into communities with this certification in the next few years.

Among them is the Parramatta Square development – a $2 billion project that is expected to achieve Green Star ratings for all the buildings within the project.

Specific councils have also been proactive in encouraging residents from older apartment developments to improve the sustainability of their apartments.

The City of Sydney’s smart green apartments grant has council work with 20 highrises a year to provide specific advice to cut carbon emissions and save money – the program started in November 2016.

“Local councils are uniquely positioned to drive more sustainable residential communities,” Mr Cartledge said.

Mirvac general manager of residential development NSW Toby Long said socially responsible investment was securing its position as having a role to play in real estate.

The sustainability strategies in place were something they have been taking across the Mirvac portfolio, looking at social capital areas including “health, happiness, culture and community”.


Jennifer Duke, Domain, 17 September 2017