It's funny how a town, city or region can become labelled. I've heard that Canberra is reserved and government orientated, the Gold Coast is Australia's crime capital, Geelong is the poor cousin of Melbourne and the Hunter Region is coal mining country with Newcastle once known as Steel City.
Obviously, these labels can linger over many years even after change occurs. The reference to Steel City relates to the BHP steelworks that closed over 15 years ago in Newcastle and this city is a great example of how a city can reinvent itself after a major change in economic forces takes place.
I found a dual occupancy site in a suburb that I didn't know much about but it was close to where one of my project managers lived. I asked him what the area was like. Whilst I won't repeat his entire response, it did include a reference to two heads! The name of this suburb also did nothing for its image.
Our thoughts or information we gather create perceptions. These perceptions that may not always be accurate and that are usually not fully reflective of the areas. A perception is the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
I've heard the saying "perception is reality". As property investors, our research process needs to look past perceptions and drill down into facts. Perceptions can change over time.
Study the economic indicators of the towns and cities you are investing in. Look at labour force, household and business factors.
Labour force includes employment, unemployment, sectoral shifts - this will tell you if the area is going through change, if the area is following the national trend or if a sector is rising or falling. Look for diversity within the industries that are employing locally.
Knowing the unemployment rate and trend is important and compare it with the state and national figures.
Find out what industries are the biggest employers, look at the actual figures then compare it you with the perceptions. For instance many assume mining would be one of the highest employers in the Hunter Region of NSW but it is ranked seventh. Source: ABS Monthly Labour Force Survey
The number one employment segment is actually Health Care and Social Assistance.
This brings me to an interesting article I read about people being the drivers of our future economic growth. The article talks about "Human Capital...the store of knowledge, skills, talents, experience, wisdom and intellectual attributes that we all contain in our heads."
"Sectors that rely heavily on human capital, as a means of production, are the emerging sources of jobs and growth in domestic product. Health Care & Social Assistance, Education & Training, Professional, Scientific & Technical services, Finance & Insurance Services, and Information Media and Telecommunications, now account for 1 in 3 jobs."*
Looking at the list above, I crossed checked it with the highest ranked employers in the Hunter Region and two sectors; Health Care & Social Assistance and Education and Training were in the top five. This was heartening.
With mining ranked seventh on I'm not letting perception get in the way of our property developments, I'm looking more to the new and expanding hospitals and retirement villages that have been recently been announced. Those nurses and doctors, staff and patients families are all going to need to live somewhere.