Tips on where to live in Perthby Jim Heath
Latest update: 13 Aug 2014
© 2007-2014 by Viacorp. All rights reserved.
"I want to live in Perth. Where should I look for a house? Which suburbs would be OK? Which suburbs should I avoid?"
My wife and I have been through this. We moved to Perth from the UK. We've now lived in five houses. Three have been near the city, and two in the eastern hills. We have learned about the place and I have written a bit about it. (My other articles about Perth are linked at the end of this.)
Q & A
What kind of Perth house?
If you've never lived anywhere in Australia, here are a few snips from a blog discussion where Aussies from many backgrounds talk about their houses and what matters to them about their location. Most of the comments come from Sydney, but apply to Perth as well.
"I think that your location speaks more to your priorities than anything else. We've recently moved to the suburbs from the inner-city into a 4br federation house on 800 sqm. The kids love the backyard and I love spending time in it with them."
"I don't want my kids growing up in a cramped house in an area where it is not safe for them to walk to school or go play in the park and I'm happy to sacrifice travelling time to give my family a safe environment and more space to live and play. Having a large block also means we can have things like a boat and spend weekends together exploring the beautiful waterways around Sydney."
"I question those with families who refuse to give up anything for their careers and I ask you what's more important - a short commute to work or the safety and happiness of your family?"
"I live in a smallish weatherboard 3 bedroom house with a great backyard in a middle-ring suburb of Sydney. Good shops, good public transport, etc. I'd like a bigger house, but I wouldn't move to Nowheresville at the end of some motorway to get one. Actually, I couldn't think of anything worse."
"Most 'McMansions' arent actually very big at all. They are average sized homes on small blocks of land with little garden. They are designed to give the illusion of being bigger than what they are. I agree with all the comments here about the new suburbs and how ugly and sparse they are. Some of those houses are closer together than houses in the inner west, and having the choice I would rather live in a cottage in the inner west than a McMansion in Kellyville or Quackers Hill. Google Sydney one day and scroll across the burbs. You get out to the outer west new home development areas and from the view above it looks like a desert. No trees whatsoever. Having a topiary in a tuscan pot in the front yard is NOT a garden! They are the 60's red brick suburbs of the future. Beside a small number of new well built architect designed homes I think the 70's houses (architect designed, cathedral ceilings, well built, large block of land with a generous garden) are the best bet."
"Modern large houses are fantastically designed compared to both the lefty luvvies favourite Federation style houses which lack light and are poorly laid out and Australia's 1940-1980's houses which were nothing to look at due to post war austerity and utilitarian facades."
"They cost less money due to mass production, but this is not a bad thing. In other aspects of our lives we are happy to share in a good mass produced design eg cars, soup cans, and computers for three random examples."
"There is an elitist movement that demands that each house be architecturally designed and, however unaffordable, "unique". This movement championed by Urban Affairs editors everywhere, particularly in Sydney, is deeply undemocratic and against the needs of working families and children."
I might add a few things myself. When we came to Perth, we were alarmed how little attention seemed devoted to heating the houses. We were used to double-glazing and central heating -- or at least evident ways of heating every room. Here the obsession was with cooling. It's true that Perth's summer is a season you don't trifle with. Yet annual climate data show that to be comfortable in Perth you need heating far more often than you need cooling.
If you have a choice between several houses, you might weigh the features that give a natural advantage in this climate. North-facing windows that catch the low-dipping winter sun and help with heating, but automatically miss the high-arcing summer sun. Shading or small windows on the east and west.
Unless you eventually decide to build a house, you won't have much choice about these features. But if you can find a house with some of these things that are right, they add winter cheer and summer relief -- not to say cutting your cost of living.
Gazing at a big map -- basic suburbology
Get a big, foldout road map of the Perth metro area. All on a single sheet. You'll need one. For suburb research, don't get a map that has many detailed sheets bound in a book. Those maps are vital for getting to some exact address, but no good when you're trying to understand how Perth's roads and suburbs all connect.
If you're not in Australia yet and can't buy a map, Google Maps will get you by. Just enter "Perth, Western Australia".
With the big map open, what do we see?
A city divided by a river. Really by two rivers that join and look like a Y with the prongs facing east. The northern one is the Swan River and the southern prong of the Y is the smaller Canning River. When Perth people say "north of the river" or "south of the river" they mean the Swan River.
Northern suburbs that aren't far from the river, between the city itself and down to the coast at Cottesloe, are regarded as choice. The house prices broadcast that. Particularly places close to the river, and -- oh, treasure -- houses with a panoramic river view. Lots of professional and business people live in this northern river strip.
Here's the first message: if you want a prestige address, or need one for business-image reasons, then Subiaco, Nedlands, Claremont, Dalkeith, Cottesloe, Mosman Park, Peppermint Grove and Cottesloe are on your list.
Not all houses in those suburbs (expensive as they may be) are gorgeous. There are some low-income people in all suburbs. Some are pensioners living in the family home (risen gigantically in market value), who can no longer afford to maintain it properly. You see some jolting sights, especially in Subiaco: small, ancient weatherboard homes, with rust-spotted metal roofs, which look like they are about to fall, next to a mansion that rose last year after the demolition of three old houses.
One more thing. Some of these celebrated suburbs are inconvenient if you have to travel to the city every day. Take Peppermint Grove. A suburb that has houses and grounds that are so grand they would have satisfied Scarlett O'Hara. But all owners there are burdened with the same rush-hour grind along the Stirling Highway. Decades ago, traffic was little trouble. So people in Peppermint Grove had an easy run up the 'big' Stirling Highway. No more. Gone with the wind.
Let's inspect the south side of the river. Consider Applecross. As pretty a Perth suburb as you'll find. Leafy streets, some with overarching trees, and many houses with river views and high prices (though not as high as many north-of-the-river houses). Looking at the map, it seems an easy trip to the city: a couple of kilometres along the Canning Highway and then you're on the Kwinana Freeway. But there's a snag: the only way in or out of Applecross is onto the Canning Highway. In the morning rush hour, the northbound lane is a wretched experience. And in the afternoon rush hour, it's the southbound lane. Not to mention that the Kwinana Freeway itself gets clogged and slow. But if you don't mind slow travel, fine. Or if you can choose your own time to come and go from Applecross, fine. Otherwise, the rush-hour traffic might put you off this lovely-looking suburb.
The suburbs from Applecross toward the ocean -- Attadale, Bicton, East Fremantle -- radiate successful living. But they are farther from the city. There's a longer struggle along the Canning Highway, with its low speed limits, red lights, and the rush-hour traffic that can strangle at certain choke points.
In the up-river direction from Applecross, consider South Perth. There are plenty of river views to be found -- blighted (I'd say) by jutting grey city buildings across the water. Yet cheerful at night when the buildings fade into city lights.
Apartment buildings crowd near the river and resemble tall spectators competing for the best views. Lots of young professionals live in these high buildings. It's also one of the rare suburbs where you can walk around in the early evening and see people outside. They escape their apartments to jog or stroll along the grassy park by the river. Meanwhile, the Mends Street restaurants and cafes are open any time people may want, including early Sunday morning.
Away from the river in South Perth are streets of no-view houses. New houses stand between old ones, but almost all the old ones are well-maintained. The place looks good.
South Perth connects closely to the city. From Apartment Land, a few turns and you're on the Kwinana Freeway and a short trip in. But not always quick. It can take 45 minutes in rush hour, because the exits from South Perth are narrow. Mill Point Road --leading to the freeway -- almost stops. The other route is north-east along the Canning Highway, then into the city over the Causeway (a bridge built on each side of Heirisson Island, which is used as a stepping stone). Fast enough normally, but not in rush hour. Which all means that lots of people leave their cars at home and just hop on the ferry that plies between South Perth and the city.
Clockwise from South Perth, the next suburb is Victoria Park. An old suburb, with a bracing goulash of new and old houses (a bit like Subiaco). It's not ferociously expensive, considering how close it is to the city. There are also many apartment blocks. City access is across the Causeway.
The Victoria Park atmosphere is fairly friendly. You do see people walking around and they'll often greet you. A beguiling collection of people -- young ones from the apartments, old ones living in long-loved but time-worn houses, older professionals in new houses who like the atmosphere or ease to the city (not to mention the affordable house prices).
Next we come to the secret suburbs of Lathlain and Rivervale. Mention these suburbs to most Perth people and they look as if they've heard the names but can't quite place them. But those two suburbs spread from the end of the new Graham Farmer Freeway, usually connecting them to the city centre in less than 10 minutes. People from Lathlain and Rivervale can also bypass the city, go through the Graham Farmer tunnel and continue north along the Mitchell Freeway or south along the Kwinana Freeway. It is also a quick trip to the airport for the flocks of Perth's fly-in, fly-out minesite workers.
Dilapidated houses are coming down and higher-density houses and townhouses are going up. So the architecture is becoming a medley of bland post-war austerity houses and new developments in predictable modern Perth styles. The residents are also a medley, but not always an angelic one, especially in Rivervale. (See the section below on avoiding repulsive neighbours and keep in mind that Rivervale is part of the Belmont Council).
Now find Burswood on the map. Then trace through to Ascot, along the south side of the river. Along that stretch, which includes part of Rivervale, are apartment blocks. Many are new, trendy, overlook the river, have their own pools, gyms, and games rooms. Young professionals have been magnetically attracted by all this. Their trip into the city is quick: typically 10 minutes by bus or car. There's a short distance along the 60kph Great Eastern Highway, then onto the swift Graham Farmer Freeway and a choice of exits into the city.
Belmont is similar to Rivervale but close to the airport in places. And Redcliffe is right next to the airport (noisy).
Suburbs that fan out directly to the north of the city -- up to about North Perth, Mount Lawley and Maylands -- have an assortment of old houses, apartments, new houses and townhouses. They are close to the city and that raises the house prices, though most don't have river views -- or often any view. If you're looking for a leafy, pretty place, wander around Mount Lawley (but don't hope to find a mountain). Many older houses there, well kept up.
Now we spiral into the city itself. To the east is, well, East Perth. High density, new townhouses packed together but very attractive and mostly three-storey. Also apartment buildings. All eye-catching and (in the most eastern part) standing along quiet streets. Have a walk along Macey Street, the part toward the river. You'll see new townhouses set off by lordly old trees. Jumping to the west, we find bustling West Perth, with a great proportion of genteel businesses (accountants, medical practices, engineering consultants are typical), blended with up-to-date apartments and a few ancient terrace houses. But it has to be admitted, non-stop car traffic on weekdays because of all the businesses. Finally, along the city front itself, and looking toward South Perth across the water, stand some luxury apartment buildings with spectacular views.
Before I finish with the river, let me say something about suburbs along the other river, the Canning. There is less of the Canning than the Swan River, but it is wide and attractive along the section just before it joins the Swan. Along that section, from positions along the banks where the river can be seen, there's the usual collection of big-window houses to enjoy the view. Places like Mt Pleasant, Rossmoyne and Shelley. But in the up-river direction from there, the Canning dwindles into a reedy wetland. Houses around those parts (like Riverton and Ferndale) could be anywhere. Normal looking, average suburbs. No open water to be seen.
I've mentioned that one freeway heads north from the city (the Mitchell) and one heads South (the Kwinana). They connect and you can whiz right past the city. Except whiz isn't always the right word. Traffic sometimes packs and creeps, especially near the city. Both freeways are pretty busy from 6AM to 9.30AM and from 3.30PM to 6.30PM on weekdays. The worst times (the peak hours) are: the Mitchell southbound from 5.45AM to 6.45AM and northbound from 4.30PM to 5.30PM, and the Kwinana northbound from 6AM to 7AM and southbound from 3PM to 4PM.
This north-south freeway is the usual way to get into the city and back if you live in one of the many northern suburbs or in certain southern suburbs. There are many, many suburbs to the north, where building on vacant land continues. You see treeless, sandy housing developments, some with outlandish names. (Forest Waters is one I haven't seen, but some developer may think of it.) People in northern suburbs can either wince and use the Mitchell Freeway or ride the quick electric railway that runs parallel to it.
To the south are numerous suburbs, but not as many on the ocean front as there are to the north. That's because industry saturates parts of the southern coast. For example, Kwinana companies like Alcoa and the sprawling BP Refinery.
If you're going to be working in Kwinana, then Rockingham beckons as a place to live. Yet some people don't like the built-yesterday feeling of Rockingham and are willing to commute to Fremantle for the atmosphere there.
And if you're going to be working in Fremantle itself, you'll most likely want to live near there. Both river and ocean views are available, if you care about that and your budget allows it.
North from Fremantle, from Cottesloe to Quinns Rocks, suburb after suburb face the ocean. People take on millstone-heavy mortgages in order to buy an ocean view. Others pay almost as much just to be near the ocean.
But some Perth citizens don't care about the ocean. "There's nothing to see but container ships! I'd rather see the river, with sail boats." You get the picture. An ocean crowd and a river crowd.
There's also a hills crowd. To the east can be seen a line of hills, dense with trees. Suburbs like Darlington, Glen Forrest, and Kalamunda. Houses typically stand on blocks of 2000 sqm or more. There's a country feel, blended with a certain elite posture of having risen above the 'flatlanders' below. People live in the hills to raise kids in a pleasant, park-like and safe place, or just to get away from city clamour. Exotic vegetation is found everywhere, including the Spreading Snottygobble (Persoonia elliptica). Magpies sing "quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle." Kookaburras laugh at the flatlanders.
One disadvantage is the long commute if you work in the city and choose to drive there. You can solve that by simply driving down the hill to Midland and taking the train. Fast and popular. I should also warn that you may feel edgy about bush fires in the summer -- if you live in a house that's a vulnerable type, or you don't take elementary precautions about fire breaks and such.
There are about 200 suburbs that I haven't mentioned. But it wouldn't help to list them all, talk about each one, and then leave the mess for you to work out. Instead, let me suggest a systematic way to choose a suburb. A method that includes all suburbs as candidates.
Before you do that, it's worth having a look at this quick overview based on census data.
Five steps in choosing a suburb:
1. Rent somewhere and maybe rent again
Unless you're still in a hotel, you already must be renting somewhere. So this Step 1 is obvious. Except for one thing: after you find a suburb where you want to buy, it can make sense to move again and rent in that suburb first. (For rental searches, this is a good one: Reiwa rental properties.) Renting is to make sure it will all work for you, particularly the next point...
This is a big one. If you get it wrong, it will jinx the most magnificent house. Because getting around will be a depressing hassle.
Working out your travel choices isn't too hard. Ponder how the people in your house will get to work or school or university. Then experiment. If you'll probably be travelling along the Great Eastern, then picking up the Graham Farmer, going through the tunnel, turning onto Loftus and into West Perth, try it during rush hour! Try it in the morning, try it in the evening. If you plan to live in Mundaring and you have a job in the heart of the city, and you like the idea of the train, then park at Midland Station and experience the trip.
The light rail system around Perth is fast, frequent, modern, and on-time (and sometimes packed). If you buy a house near a train station, that could solve a lot. ( Rail system PDF map.) But you need to try it and see. There are also buses that run everywhere.
For this travel planning, you'll need your road map of Perth Metro, a map of the rail system (if trains appeal), and the persistence of a forensic scientist. Keep at it until you're sure.
There are aids. If you want to conduct stay-at-home research into road traffic, the Main Roads Department has on-line cameras pointing at busy roads. Sit at your computer and watch others struggle in rush hour: traffic cams. Or use Google Maps: choose Get Directions, then click Traffic. You'll see the chosen route and all surrounding roads coloured-coded according to the current traffic load on them. Another guideline: Main Roads have also researched travel times in peak traffic between some key suburbs and the city.
Transperth (which run both the buses and trains) have a trip planner. Type in where you are, where you want to get to, and the system computes alternative ways to get there, including bus and train times. Even how far you have to walk to a bus stop or train station.
Once you're confident about the transport, any house near your big X on the map will at least be OK for getting routinely where you want to go.
Now use this list of suburbs sorted by median price to find which suburbs you can consider. You can print out the list, highlight the suburbs that seem possible, and turn to your map. But keep in mind that full-year median house prices may not match the current market prices. Even if they are close, you should include a generous range of prices around the median. The median is the middle price, and half the houses sold for more than that, half for less. For example, if you're thinking of paying about $500,000, then you might consider suburbs where the median is a fair bit higher and lower than $500,000. Say from $300,000 to $700,000 median price.
4. Rate the schools
You can start with this data-rich website run by the Federal Government: My School. Launched on 28 Jan 2010, despite heavy flack from the guns of school administrators and such. They didn't like the idea of information that could lead to league tables for schools. But the government did it anyway.
Finally, if you are game, and already in Perth, you could try this novel and perhaps realistic method: For good schools, forget the net, try the toilets.
Who will tell you that you're about to move in next to a horrible neighbour? No one. Your Real Estate Agent won't. You can't ask the owner of the house you are about to buy and expect the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You can't walk up and down the street, knocking on doors, and asking your future neighbours what the others are like.
But there are things that you can do. Stop at different times near the house that you're thinking of buying. And listen. Hear anything? Trumpet practice? Shouts? Power tools in the evening? If you pick enough times of day and days of the week, you can grow confident that noise won't be a problem.
True, you could end up with very quiet neighbours who are unfriendly. Indifferent or quietly unfriendly neighbours make a place less pleasant, but maybe aren't fatal to your enjoyment.
It's a lottery, the neighbours you get. Even in the best suburbs in Perth, you can be made miserable. (To remind yourself what regularly happens, read the book Status Anxiety, by Alain de Botton.)
If you are looking at one of Perth's 60,000+ strata-title developments, there are a couple of other things I can suggest. Wander around the estate on a weekend and try to strike up a friendly conversation with people you run into. "Oh, are you resident here? Would you mind if I asked you?..." They usually love to talk about the place, and get right into the drawbacks as well as the bright spots. And if you later get to the point where you are serious about buying a property, then you can ask to see some recent minutes of the strata management committee. They'll often grant that. You'll be able to peer right into the soul of the place and see what troubles they may be having. Maybe they are routine and trivial. But maybe not.
One other thing: in May 2013, the Department of Corrective Services (who manage the prison system) released some telling statistics. It was a breakdown of where the people who end up in prison lived before they were locked up. Some areas fester with potential lawbreakers, and others have almost none. (One suburb bred no criminals at all.)
You can use the list (reproduced below) to gauge how chummy you may want to get with the people in your street. For a safe suburb, consider Nedlands, Cottesloe, Subiaco, East Fremantle, Claremont and Peppermint Grove, if you can afford it. Otherwise head out to the hills and find a place in the Shire of Mundaring (with suburbs that include Darlington, Glen Forrest, Mahogany Creek, Mundaring, and others.) Or live up the coast in Joondalup.
But always remember that if you live in Peppermint Grove, for example, and have wonderful neighbours, it doesn't stop ill-natured individuals from dodgy suburbs trying to break into your house. The burglary statistics show that it's a daily risk in Peppermint Grove. So there are two different matters to balance: how pure-minded your neighbours are, and how attractive your suburb is to housebreakers.
There's another way to sniff out a suburb. If you're thinking of moving to Rockingham, or Claremont, or Kalamunda, how can you get a general impression of people who live there?
There's one way that probably won't work: walk up and down streets, and take in the people you see. That won't work because you probably won't see anyone! Or very few. From the street, you might think that most Perth suburbs are uninhabited. Spookily abandoned like the Marie Celeste. Morning, early evening, whenever you expect people to be around. Where is everybody? If you see hints of life, it will be a garage door opening, a car backing out, and a glimpse of the driver.
Some places are exceptions. South Perth is one, at least near the river front. Many walkers, joggers, cyclists. Or along Rokeby Road in Subiaco you can view streams of fashionable pedestrians or sit among them in about a dozen cafes. And I've already mentioned that Victoria Park exhibits some of its residents -- who will sometimes say hello. But you won't find much street life in Rockingham, Dalkeith, or Kalamunda. Or most suburbs.
Instead go to one of the supermarkets in any suburb that interests you. You'll find a random selection of residents. They are off-guard, dressed normally, and sometimes speaking to each other or into their mobiles. An easy way to pick up the buzz of a place.
There are IGA supermarkets everywhere, some large, some small. Saturday morning is a good time -- lots of people -- but almost any day will yield plenty of information. The supermarket differences between some suburbs are worlds apart, like the differences in airports in different countries.
Here are many people talking about their neighbours. Examples:
"We regularly have BBQs or days out with the neighbours and we even spend Christmas with one of the families (alternating between our house and theirs). When I was younger, we even went on holidays with several families from the street I live in. Perhaps it helped that many of the group had children of a similar age and they all got along. We are all still neighbours, but really more like long time friends. We watch each other's houses when someone goes on holidays and I would never hesitate to ask for help if I needed something - be it table salt, petrol for the mower or a helping hand to move something heavy."
"Having lived in various places in Sydney with difficult neighbours, it was interesting to read Anne's comments about Parramatta and her lovely multi-ethnic neighbours. When living in the inner suburbs of Sydney, we found the neighbour generally unfriendly except for a Greek/Egyptian couple next door. Is it a rule that the higher the mortgage and the cost of the house, the more self-centred the neighbours are?"
"I've been living where I am for 16 months and don't know any of my neighbours. I've met the two who live on the left side briefly - to ask if they could possibly quieten down their nightime romping!!! I say hello to people in the building, but no one seems to want to stop and have an actual conversation which is very sad. I remember as a child we had 'street partys' when all the residents in the street got together every few months for a BBQ. Those were the days."
"Our family held a bbq for all of the neighbours yesterday. We met 3 families who have moved here in the past year and discovered we had lived just a street away from one family in Sydney over a decade ago. Most of our children attended the same primary school but now are in different secondary schools within the local area. It was a terrific day for the children to catch up as one group again and it has reaffirmed our intentions to socialise as families more often."
A couple of comments.
In any suburb, buying a house that "asks for it" (poor visibility from the street) means you're more likely to get hit. And there's another popular way of attracting burglars: the police say that in about 30% of burgled houses the owners left doors and windows unlocked or invitingly wide open. Meanwhile, their neighbours may always lock up and take other level-headed precautions (leaving lights on if they're out for the evening) and live there for decades with no trouble.
As for assaults, the stats are packed with sorry events like family violence and drunken punch-ups outside pubs. These assault-inflators make the stats look more scary than necessary for citizens who never get near all that.
So your own risk in any suburb may be much lower than the statistical level.
There are suburbs where you don't want to live if aircraft noise stresses you out: Guildford, South Guildford, Middle Swan, Greenmount, Caversham, Viveash, Bellevue, Orange Grove, Maddington, Kenwick, Beckenham, East Cannington, Ferndale, Cannington, Cloverdale, Kewdale, Welshpool, and Queens Park.
There are also suburbs to be leery of because of flight-path changes in Nov 2008: Glen Forrest, Mundaring, Stoneville, Parkerville, Mt Helena, Chidlow, Bickley, Rolystone, Armadale, and Waterford. If you're attracted to any of those places, then warning: hang around a bit and listen. And do it on several different days, to allow for a flight-path that may only activate when the wind is in a certain direction. Otherwise you may hear nothing but birdsong and conclude it's always like that.
You can first check that aircraft were recently going over the suburb that you want to investigate. Use this website:
This shows what was happening about 45 minutes ago. Use the +/- scale in the upper-left corner of the map to zoom in a notch. That shows the suburbs more clearly. Then watch for a while as the aircraft land and take off. If there are no aircraft going over the suburb that interests you, then try again at different times during the day. The routes can change, depending on wind direction and maybe congestion. The numbers in small circles are the decibel readings at the noise-monitoring locations.
You can also replay some earlier days and times. And you should! There's no easier way to understand how the airport works. First untick the box that says "Show current flights" and tick the one that says "Historical". That lets you enter days and times for the preceding week. Click the small cross-hatched square just after the "date to load" window. That shows what days are available for replay. Click any day that you want to look at. You'll then see a bar graph of aircraft arrival numbers for different times during the day. Click one of the bars and then click Set. Now look for the distance-scale bar in the lower left of the display page (showing how many kilometres is covered by that distance on the map). Just below that is something very useful: hold your cursor over the middle symbol and click Play Speed. Tick any of the boxes to adjust the play-back speed. It lets you see all the arrivals and departures in quick-time.
If you hold your cursor over one of the aircraft symbols, it shows some flight info, and also the height. Anything less than 1500m isn't good at all (if you're more or less underneath). For some people, even 3000m makes them foam at the mouth.
A few other tips: make sure you look at some early morning times, from about 5.30am to 8am. That's when a lot of the big jets arrive. Also make sure you pick a day and time that lets you see aircraft landing from the north of the north-south runway, and also another time (or day) when the aircraft are landing from the south of the north-south runway. The north-south runway is the long runway that runs approximately north-south. It's the main one used for the big jets. The patterns for the landings from the south and north are strikingly different. Try to choose a house where both flight patterns are far enough away.
Meanwhile, Airservices tirelessly collect data on aircraft noise. It's summarised in colour-coded maps that show how many ear-blasting events per day you can expect in different suburbs. Like the engrossing map I'm looking at now: "Annual Average Day N65 for 2007." An N65 event means an aircraft has gone over and raised the noise level on the ground to 65 decibels. What this means (quoting the Planning Coordinator at Perth Airport) is:
"The level of 65 bD(A) has been chosen because this is the equivalent to the single event of 55 dB(A) specified in Appendix 2 of the WA Government Gazette planning document as the indoor sound level for "other habitable spaces" in dwellings. An external single event noise will be reduced by approximately 10 dB(A) by the fabric of a house with open windows. An internal noise level of 55 dB(A) is the sound level of a noise event that is likely to interfere with conversation, listening to the radio or television, and may interrupt reading or studying."
Those N65 events aren't rare in the suburbs I listed. Queens Park gets between 70 and 99 in an average 24 hours. Earplug Land.
If you want to get a copy yourself of the latest suburb aircraft noise map, contact the Westralia Airports Corporation. (9478 8888).
The big picture of Perth's future: Network City
Perth is meant to crystallise around a number of hubs (Perth City, Midland, Armadale, Joondalup, Fremantle, Rockingham, Mandurah). Fast rail and road links will connect the hubs. People will live and work mainly in one hub or another.
As the Department for Planning and Infrastructure puts it:
"The level of consultation involved in developing this strategy has been unprecedented. Faced with a population that will grow by over fifty per cent in the next 25 years, requiring an additional 375,000 homes and 350,000 new jobs, the State Government invited local government, industry and the community to come together for Dialogue with the city - where stakeholders were asked what sort of city they wanted in 2030 and how this vision could be achieved. There is much in this website on Dialogue with the city."
"The community plan that has evolved from the Dialogue process - Network city: community planning strategy for Perth and Peel - outlines a change in direction for Perth, not only in how the city develops, but also in how planning is done. The key will be to plan through participative decision-making at a local and regional level."
This may have some bearing on where you choose to buy a house. For example, if you're attracted to Rockingham because you're going to be working in Kwinana, then knowing that Rockingham is meant to be a hub in the new set-up may sway you some.
Update: There is now a vast elaboration of the Network City plan. You can get all 103 pages by downloading five PDFs at Directions 2031 and beyond.
My other writings about Perth
list of Perth suburbs
Q & A
My answers below cover a great deal and I hope you find what you need. If not, I have to let you know that I'm no longer freely answering questions. But I may be willing if you're willing to pay, and depending on your question. With that in mind, you can use this form to contact me.
"We are two young lads from Wales who have had enough of the rising costs and the total shambles the country is in and have decided to get away as we still can! We are coming to Australia in August on working visas and have decided to make Perth our first stop. I am a carpenter and my friend is a scaffolder. I was just wondering if you could give us advice on what suburb to go to, where the work is, but we don't want to be too far away from the nightlife!! If you could write back to me with a little advice we would really appreciate it."
Adrenaline-pumping music and nightlife is found in Northbridge. You might rent a Northbridge apartment (flat). Cheap or not cheap, depending what you're after. Then walk to the nightlife (with maybe a less steady walk back).
Getting to building jobs shouldn't be hard: Northbridge is close to the main Perth train station, buses also converge near there, and if you're driving, you'd be heading out of the city in the morning and back in the evening -- the opposite direction to the heavy traffic.
Another suburb with powerful tides of nightlife is Fremantle, a harbour city 17km from Perth. But getting from there to building jobs in most other parts of the Perth metro area would be like dragging an anchor. You may be happiest with work near Fremantle. But there'd be enough, most likely.
"I went through all your articles and got a knowledge about Perth city. I would like to know more details about jobs and good schools closer to inner Perth."
You don't say where you are, but even if you're already in Perth, try Seek for jobs.
As for schools, did you look at this link noted above?...
We are a young family of four. I am a nurse. My husband currently works for Ford motor company as a mechanical engineer and my two girls are only one and three years. We are starting our visa process in order to move to Perth. But where? I will still want to work, part-time. My husband wants to work. Good schools. Nice house prices, although we are looking to build. All of which not too far from each other.
The idea of moving to OZ is for a better quality of life for us as a family. We liked the sound of Joondalup, Bunbury or Armadale. Any advice? Would you recommend a visit first to check things out, or merely do it once we are there and renting?
Coming as a nurse from the UK, you'll most likely be qualified to work here without much trouble. But my wife, a Migration Agent, says there are some things to check. One thing is your recent work experience, if you've been at home with the children for several years.
I don't know if your husband is a mechanical engineer with a university degree, or a hands-on man who services and overhauls engines. 'Mechanical engineer' tends to be used for both types of work in the UK. Both are in raging demand here, but where he'd find work would be different. If he works on engines, then -- like you -- he could find work all over the place. If he works in an office, optimising designs and such, he's likely to work in Perth itself, or in an industrial area near Fremantle, or down the coast from there (Kwinana), or maybe far up north in the sprawling mining towns.
For nursing, Joondalup could suit you. Also for a hands-on mechanic. It's thoroughly pleasant, and good for families and schools. And there are building lots for sale. But if your husband worked in the city of Perth or -- worse -- in Kwinana, the grinding travel from Joondalup might grind him right down.
Armadale isn't sweet for families (in my view). Nothing like Joondalup.
Bunbury does make families smile, but isn't part of Perth. It's a quiet seaside town, hours down the coast.
Last, you asked how to size up things for yourselves.
No need to make a special trip first. Wait until you
come here to live, then rent in some likely place (or
even stay in a motel or self-catering tourist
accommodation at first). Then explore at your own pace.
Give it time.
My wife and I and our four young children are in the migration process and really need some guidance on which part (suburb) to live. Here is a brief outline of what we want/need:
Firstly I am a freelance carpenter and would need somewhere there's plenty of work going on. Good schools near to, or not hours from, home. A suburb that's quiet, houses with decent-sized gardens (and a bit spaced out one from another). Not too far from town or from local amenities (things that a family of 6 would need!) Near to a good sports/leisure centre (would be good but not essential)
I suggest looking in Darlington or around there. There is plenty of carpentry work in the hills, or down the hill into Midland and nearby places. The hills are mostly peaceful (but be careful, because a few locations get aircraft noise), the schools are OK, and getting around is easy. For example, you only have to drive 15 minutes to get to Midland. Local traffic is never clogged. Getting into Perth itself takes longer, but you may rarely need to go there.
Another thing is that the hills are still much cheaper than a lot of suburbs near the city. And those city houses rarely have much garden or space between neighbours.
You can browse properties at realestate.com.au... among other real estate websites. Type in the postcode 6070 for Darlington, if you want to look at those.
Can you please send me a map of Mundaring which has every street on it and includes Mundaring's neigbouring suburbs?
I don't know where you are, but you may be able to order a copy of the "UBD Perth Street Directory." That covers everything. It's also heavy. It must weigh a kilo or so.
If you just want to browse around, then
may be enough. Type in Mundaring, Western Australia.
Then you can zoom in and move around. Streets are named.
Hi. We are moving to Perth in Jan and would like some information on good State primary schools (or any links to reports/surveys etc). I am a GP and my husband an IT professional. My son turns 5 in May.
We plan to rent initially and we are looking at the
I am hoping the zoned State primary schools will be OK. (All the private schools I contacted have 1-2 year waiting lists!) Thereafter we'll probably have to look at something else - some combination of safe, family friendly, close to the ocean and with good schools if possible.
See the education link at the beginning for reports on State primary schools.
To get a broader picture for you, last night I talked to a man we know: the Principal of a State High School (conveniently cornered at a party we gave) and I asked which State primary schools are best. Without hesitation he said "Rossmoyne, Kensington, Willeton, Shenton Park, Floreat, and any of the other leafy suburbs."
Your list 1-13 is all leafy suburbs, so you should be OK. And I see you already have Floreat there. Which is pretty close to the ocean, so it may suit your longer-term plans.
My husband and I are a young couple moving to Perth this year. I am a nurse and he is a maintenance engineer. We would like to live somewhere not too far away from nightlife/amenities, but would like to live in a suburb as near to a beach as possible in a new style house. I have been informed that I will get a job almost anywhere in perth, but could do with some advice re work for my husband.
Fremantle is a coastal city that brims with nightlife and amenities. And down the coast from there is a whopping industrial area (Kwinana) that employs maintenance engineers by the gross. Kwinana has a BP Refinery, Alcoa, and some other chemical plants of great size.
So if you want to live in a new house that's not too far from the beach, and not too far from Kwinana, then concentrate on these suburbs:
Fremantle itself (most houses are old and renovated,
but new ones too)
Any of these places will mean your husband will have a little commute to Kwinana (assuming he works there). But not too bad.
I don't know what kind of maintenance your husband organises or does himself, but he may also find maintenance-engineering work in Fremantle, a busy port city.
My wife and I are a couple in our late twenties with no kids and are moving to Perth from Canada this year. She is a registered nurse and I work in EPC. The style of house itself is not of the greatest concern, rather where it is. While we are not clubbers at all, we do like to be close to cafes/restaurants/nightlife (the "action"), and MUST live in a suburb close to parks and many running trails (we are both avid runners). Close to fresh markets would be a bonus and a reasonable to average commute would be great as well. (Kind of shooting for the stars!) I would likely be working in the CBD, and my wife at an area hospital.
We have found a spot described above in Calgary (our city), but have heard such great things about Perth from friends that live there, including how much better the weather is than Canada.
Here's a suburb that embraces everything you want: Subiaco.
Home to three hospitals: King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, St John of God Hospital, and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. And two more close by: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (Nedlands) and Mount Hospital (West Perth).
Walk along Subiaco's Rockeby Road and smell the aromas from the cafes and restaurants. Several renowned pubs fill with chatty and relaxed-looking folks, from late afternoon.
There's a fresh food market about a 10-minute drive away.
And getting from Subiaco to the CBD is about as quick and easy as scratching your back.
Ah, but what about your main requirement? No problem. You can walk (or jog) to King's Park, which has one boundary with Subiaco. Then run as long as you want to, in gorgeous surroundings. The park overlooks the Swan River in places and covers a whopping four square kilometres. There's natural bushland (with many trails), grassy parkland, and botanical gardens.
You might think that a suburb like Subiaco would attract people. Unfortunately for you, it does. Which means it's a tad expensive. Depending on your budget and the size of place you want, it may be OK. You can check typical rents or house and apartment prices at http://reiwa.com.au (click Advanced Search near the top, then go from there.)
We lived in Subiaco for nearly two years. That's why I can offer such rich detail.
My husband and two children, age 6 and 7 are moving to Perth in September. I have a job in a bank but will only be told which branch I am managing when we arrive. All I know is it is South of the river metro area. We are looking at Warnbro as a place to live as eventually would like to settle further south of the city. We prefer a quiet life close to the sea but need somewhere with reasonable travel links to work. Could you give me any information on Warnbro please?
I've heard that Shoalwater attracts professional people. I guess Warnbro is the same. If so, schools may be OK -- because they take their tone from the catchment area.
But both these suburbs rub against Rockingham, which grew as a dormitory town to serve the giant Kwinana industrial area. Rockingham is praised for its convenience and such things, but understandably not for its refined atmosphere.
If you or your husband ever needed to get into Perth by car every day, it would be heroic travel from Warnbro. But getting to any of the southern suburbs wouldn't be too sluggish (maybe 30-40 minutes to some place like Applecross in heavy traffic. I'm guessing there.).
You're right to want to live on the same side of the river that you work. That spares you crossing the river in Perth's peak-hour traffic fiasco.
Do you know that the new Perth-Mandurah train stops in Warnbro? Presto. No traffic hassles for rail commuters from Warnbro to Perth, or to any stops on the way. If trains appeal, this may help you. It's a sweet ride. I've tried it from Perth to Mandurah and back. It flies past kilometres of slow traffic, which you can glance at and feel blessed.
One other idea: you might have a look at Coogee. Likely to be more convenient (unless you manage a bank in Rockingham) and it's an agreeable place with surf, sand and seagulls right there.
In time, you'll find that Perth has a glory of beaches. Beaches and beaches and beaches. So many sandy beaches because there's so much sand. The flat part of Perth, which is most of it, is one enormous sand plain. So most houses are built on deep sand. (Check out my link about Perth's water supply or our sad lawns for what all the sand means to homeowners.)
So don't just gaze at the beaches. They'll aways be there. Concentrate more on the feel of the beach-side suburbs. They differ.
I'm presently living in Melbourne. I'm planning to move to Perth next month. But I'm not sure where to live. So can you please tell me which suburbs are cheap have less rent? I'm looking for 1 or 2 bedroom house or apartment in 600 - 800 dollar per month range.
You don't mention any requirement but the rent, so I suggest you go to...
... and then put in your maximum weekly rental (slide the Max marker to the left) and see what comes up.
I'm a 23 year old female from Toronto, Canada, planning to study (for my Masters in Communications) at Edith Cowan University in February-June 2009. Ideally, I would like to rent on/near the beach but realize that this may not be affordable on a student budget. Anywhere from the beach to ECU's Mount Lawley campus would be good, although preferably close to public transport, nightlife, and a park (for jogs/rollerblading) would be best. Would prefer living closer to the beach vs. campus (as I won't be attending classes since I'm doing a research project for the semester).
All in all, consider Fremantle ("Freo," locally). A lively mix of rough amiable fishing-port types, students, artists, backpackers, ancient locals, young locals, and on and on. Not to mention picturesque buildings, with many old and renovated houses. Others not renovated and ready to collapse, but still occupied. And crazily expensive mansions. The works.
An easy train ride to Perth, and a bus trip from there. Check out:
The one drawback to Freo is the price. Not exactly cheap. But there are all kinds of places and something may suit you and your budget.
My husband and I are thinking of shifting to Perth. He is an qualified electrician who wants industrial experience and I am considering some postgrad. study possibly at Murdoch University. While we have no children we do have 2 cats and a dog. Ideally we would like some nice safe suburb, not too over the top in rental prices that is animal friendly. However, my main concern is that because of our animals we may have problems finding a rental property at all. Do you know if there are many rental properties available in Perth that allow for pets and will this to any great extent decrease the quality of the house and area that is available to us. Thank you.
I won't get an A in Statistics for this, but I can tell you that there are two rentals on our little street that have pets: one is a cheery modern house with a large dog, and the other is a blighted old doomed house with two cats. On that slim evidence, YES you can rent with pets and YES you can also rent a pleasant house.
I don't know how to get better stats on pets and rentals, short of a heavy project.
I suggest that you pick a likely suburb, check out the rentals using...
...and contact the agents about houses that look promising (if their web-info says nothing about pets).
Now which suburb? You'd be better off south of the river, near Fremantle. Generally cheaper. Also easy to get to Murdoch University. Not to mention plenty of industrial electrical work in the Kwinana area for your husband.
I'd consider Palmyra. Or near there.
My husband and I (empty-nesters in our early 50's) are looking for an apartment or townhouse that has public transportation access into the CBD, but don't necessarily want to live in the city itself. We are in Perth for a 3 year transfer.
I read your description of South Perth on the website and walking outside in early evening and having access to cafes and such is definitely on our list of things we'd like. My concern is that we are not exactly "young" professionals but we don't want a "senior" lifestyle (yet).
Would South Perth have a mix of different age groups? I guess we are looking for some diversity, if possible. We enjoy an active lifestyle, golf, bike riding and the convenience of public transportation.
South Perth has all ages. From school kids to grey heads. But almost everyone seems upbeat, active, and reasonably prosperous (including the kids).
You can get to the CBD by bus (a bit slow in the peak traffic). Or catch the ferry across the river and then walk, or hop onto a free CAT bus.
Another question: descriptions I've read of Subiaco seems like it's a trendy place for younger people.
Yes, there are trendy young people, which helps to make the place eye-catching. But again, there's everyone else too: wealthy retired people, pensioners short of dollars, two-income couples with young families, a lot of doctors and medical staff because of the three hospitals in walking distance (not that people usually walk to a hospital), some trades-people, not to mention cyclists of all ages who swarm on Sunday and finish sweatily in the Brew-Ha Coffee House.
About public transport: if you live a walkable distance from either the train stop at Subiaco Station or Daglish Station, that's a quick way into the CBD. There's also a vast circulation of buses.
We will be relocating to Perth soon. My son is 13 yrs old and my husband a Fitter by trade. We looking for a really good safe suburb, reasonable in rent, and near to the coast. Also needs to be near the city. What can you advise? Our rent range would be $350-385 weekly, at the very maximum $400. I've heard that some suburbs in the North are nice...is that so? I have looked online and looked at the area of Joondalup and the surrounding suburbs.
First, is it essential to be near the coast? Right near the coast, let me say, is not always that safe. Certain beaches can be rowdy and noisy at night, mainly because of seaside pubs. If you just want to go to the beach now and then, there are many suburbs that aren't a long drive away. Another thing: suburbs close to the beach are also expensive.
It is true that many northern suburbs are nice. Especially Joondalup. But it isn't nice travelling from Joondalup to the city and back. The whole northern area has been overbuilt for the size of the freeway that runs up there (the Mitchell). The Mitchell is a dismal sight during rush hours, a nightmare of stop-start traffic that must wear out a lot of clutches.
If you can both work in Joondalup or around there, fine. All will be well. There's an industrial area at Osborne Park that might suit your husband, and wouldn't be too awful to travel to.
Apart from that, you might look at Bayswater or Maylands. Much closer to the city (we have friends who live in Bayswater and work in the city, and love the location) and it would also be easy enough for your husband to work in the large industrial area to the south -- Welshpool, for example.
If you wanted to go to the beach from Bayswater, it
might take 15 or 20 minutes. And rents are in your range
I am a registered nurse with a partner and one child. My partner is a qualified Electrician and my son is 6 years old in February. I hope to move to Perth this year and am anxious for my son to attend a good school. I am not sure whether to put him in a private school or state school as I have heard that state schools are not very good. I am unsure of which suburbs would be best to look for accommodation.
We initially plan to rent until we are sure of where we want to settle. Ideally we would like to live somewhere we can both find work and where schools and the neighborhood is nice. I would prefer to live near the sea but our rental budget would not be more than $300 a week. Could you suggest any suburbs that would suit us based on this information?
I'd suggest you start by renting in Joondalup or some suburb around there. There is a big hospital in Joondalup, and there's much building in those northern parts, and it's all pretty self-contained. You never need to go to Perth in order to find almost anything (except maybe boutique fashions or exceptionally exotic shopping).
The beach is close (probably less than ten minutes from Joondalup). There are many parks, and many pleasant areas around Lake Joondalup.
Lots of UK people live in the northern suburbs, many pulled there by the beaches. The beaches don't stop. (You can see for yourself from Google Earth.)
I don't know about schools specifically, but the whole area is quite civilised and the schools usually take their tone from their catchment areas. I have no trouble myself with State schools. Our three sons went to a State school and two now have PhDs in engineering, and the third is studying medicine.
Rents are far cheaper up north than closer to Perth city. You could probably find a suitable rental near Joondalup for something like you are prepared to pay. But close to Perth, rentals are more like $600 to $1000 for suburbs as nice as Joondalup.
For rentals, check out:
I am most interested in your site. I have been burnt by shifty agents twice in two years, and would like my next home purchase to be as transparent as possible. I am looking in Lesmurdie at present. I am contacting the Kalamunda Shire about various things, but thought you may be able to help me with some others. Noise is an issue for me, and environmental awareness - as in pesticides, pollutants etc. Do you have any noise profiles for different areas? Many Thanks
I know Lesmurdie to some extent, but haven't lived there. And I don't have a noise profile for the suburb.
You will get big jets over there now and then, depending on the wind direction at the airport. But they are pretty high when they get to Lesmurdie. Possibly still a bother to you. I suggest you check on WebTrak to see when they're going near Lesmudie, then pop up there and listen.
Don't know if you've ever lived in the hills, but other sounds can be: whipper snippers, chain saws and sometimes loud traffic noise if you live on the side of a hill with a road below, even far below.
I'd just go up there and listen at different times of day, if that's possible for you.
As for pollutants, the only one I can guarantee is smoke from people's pot-belly fires in the winter. Or bush-fire smoke sometimes.
Myself, husband and 10-month-old daughter have just been granted our visas and will be moving out to Perth. The problem is we want to bring our 4 dogs with us. They are chihuahuas, a tiny breed, but I've read lots and researched lots and we will firstly have a problem finding a landlord to rent a property to us, then many areas only allow 2 dogs and we would have to apply to the council to have any more. I have been told that this may depend on neighbour objections. Are there any areas in Perth that the '2 dog rule' does not apply? And could you offer any advice on the renting issue, as I feel that we won't have a chance! Desperately want to bring them.
I tried phoning the Shire of Mundaring, where houses typically have lot sizes of about 2000sqm -- thinking that in this semi-rural setting that the dog rules might be more slack. But no. For anything less than 10,000sqm, only two dogs are allowed. You need more than 20,000sqm to automatically be allowed four. You can apply for more dogs on the smaller properties, but I was told it was almost never allowed.
You need to look up the Dog Act. That restricts you to two dogs in Perth, though some councils will allow more. With considerable struggle, I'd say.
But as you know, you have another problem: you're planning to rent. Quite often that means No Pets. So you'd be restricting your choice of houses a great deal, even if you had only one dog. And this is in a tight rental market.
Not good news for you.