Melbourne home buyers are increasingly striving to get bang for their buck by making "cross-city" moves to new areas.
At the weekend, auctions in the northern suburbs attracted high numbers of out-of-area family-home buyers. Many of the would-be purchasers displayed a readiness to pull up stumps in suburbs such as Port Melbourne and Middle Park and buy a larger land holding in a very different area.
Two auctions of period homes in Moonee Ponds, seven kilometres north-west of CBD, drew young couples from outside the area on Saturday. Market observers say the middle northern suburb of Reservoir is also pulling big numbers of value-hunting owner-occupier buyers away from their present near-CBD locations.
But the market saw bullish prices paid for blue chip properties, too. In Parkville, four bidders pushed an architect's residence an astonishing $1.8 million above its reserve to a $5.6 million sale price. Meanwhile, a competitively quoted four-bedroom period home on a main road in Kew sold strongly after it was chased by five bidders.
Jellis Craig Kensington-based director John Morello said an unrenovated Queen Anne-style home at 7 Byron Street, Moonee Ponds, was contested by five bidders.
"All the buyers were youngish couples from the other side of town who see Moonee Ponds as very good value for money," he said.
The house easily sailed past its quoted range of $1.65 million to $1.75 million. On the market at $1.78 million, it sold for $2.05 million.
The buyer is trading up from a smaller dwelling in the inner south. Several of the underbidders also came from that part of town.
The four-bedroom Moonee Ponds home is located in a tightly held area called Poets' Corner, which Mr Morello said was one of the suburb's few heritage-protected pockets.
"The council has put in very strict overlays and that was probably the big drawcard," he said. "The property had been with the same family since the 1960s and it was only the second time it had been sold in 103 years."
Four mainly out-of-area buyers as well went after a single-fronted house at 24 Eglington Street, Moonee Ponds. It sold for $1,256,000 after being declared "selling" by Jellis Craig at $1.16 million.
The Domain Group reported a strong clearance rate of 74.5 per cent on Saturday from 747 reported auctions. A total of 1055 auctions were scheduled to be held.
Saturday's clearance rate was slightly below the 76 per cent recorded on the previous weekend but below the 83.7 per cent reported over the same weekend last year.
Advantage Property Consulting head Frank Valentic said many buyers of houses on 600-square-metre blocks in Reservoir were relocating from houses on smaller blocks in Brunswick and Northcote: "They are pushing out further just so they can get more bang for their buck, because in Reservoir most of the blocks are around 600 square metres. You are getting a fair bit of dirt and it is still only 30 minutes to the city by train."
Developers have Reservoir in their sights, too. On Saturday, two developers contested an old house on 758 square metres at 13 Willoughby Street, with the Nelson Alexander listing selling for $1,011,000.
Mr Valentic said the property could be redeveloped as four or five new townhouses, adding that a comparable property in Box Hill, which is a similar distance to Reservoir from the CBD but east of the city, would cost about $1.6 million.
A five-bedroom period house in one of Box Hill's most popular pockets reached above this price point at the weekend.
First National Lindellas's Dennis Dellas said the 605-square-metre property at 39 Court Street, Box Hill, attracted four bidders and sold for $1,941,000. The reserve was $1.85 million.
The stand-out result of the weekend was the $5.6 million paid for 108 Park Drive, Parkville.
The freestanding renovated Victorian home was quoted by Nelson Alexander at $3.6 million to $3.85 million. But the open-plan style and funky design flourishes added by the vendors, architect Roger Wood and wife Shelley Lasica, helped to propel the listing $1.8 million above expectations.
The company also sold 25 Aintree Road, Glen Iris, for $3,120,000, with seven bidders competing.
Jellis Craig director Alastair Craig said five bidders vied for a four-bedroom Edwardian house on a truncated block of 564 square metres at 230 Cotham Road, Kew.
Part of the property's backyard was earlier sold off to make way for a multi-unit development. As a result, it only has garden space at the front.
Mr Craig put the house on the market at $2.3 million and sold it for $2.425 million.
"All five buyers were either young couples or young families trying to be close to schooling," he said. "It was a strong result: we had appraised the property at between $2 million and $2.2 million."
Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said next weekend would provide a major test for the auction market with around 1700 homes likely to go under the hammer - an all-time record for a Melbourne Saturday offering.
Prestige properties and larger family homes will be especially under the spotlight a week from now. "The proportion of inner-east properties being offered to buyers next weekend will be much higher and, of course, that is a higher-priced area," Dr Wilson said.
Melbourne's outer suburbs continue to set a cracking pace for auction clearance rates. On Saturday, the north-east was the top regional performer with an 83.3 per cent clearance rate. It was followed by the west at 82.7 per cent, the inner south at 76.5 per cent, the outer east at 74 per cent, the north at 70.3 per cent, the south-east at 70 per cent and the inner city at 69.8 per cent.
Once again, the inner east was at the bottom of the auction tables with a clearance rate of 68.8 per cent.