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Hornsby: The new commercial real estate frontier

In Sydney's North-West, Hornsby is quickly making its name as the Harbour City's fifth CBD. As Nicole Madigan discovered, that growth has inspired a well-known independent brand, Chadwick Real Estate, to open a new office in the burgeoning commercial hub. Director Benjamin Goben says the goal is to raise the commercial management bar and provide a new, vibrant option for investors.

It’s affectionately known as Sydney’s green heart, thanks to its lush bushland and proximity to parks and nature reserves. 

But the shire of Hornsby is swiftly becoming known for something else too.

“Hornsby, is without a doubt, fast becoming Sydney’s fifth commercial centre, following the CBD, North Sydney, Parramatta and Chatswood,” Benjamin Goben, Director and Chief Executive Officer of Chadwick Real Estate, says.

“We’ve had a construction boom in that area of Sydney.

“And I think as you build more and more housing and more and more apartments, the commercial centre has to evolve from there.”

Targeted growth

A Hornsby has also been identified for targeted growth as part of the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, Benjamin says.

“It’s become a place where people want to be located because of its access to major infrastructure and roads,” he says.

“But it’s more than that; Hornsby is evolving and reacting to what’s happening in and around the area.”

The Hornsby Shire takes in more than 500 square kilometres of land and 6000 hectares of public bushland. 

There’s about 150,000 people in the area and just under 60,000 dwellings. 

And according to Benjamin, interest in the area is surging. 

“Because of the fact the Hornsby Shire is right on the doorstep of the big transport corridors, there’s easy access into the city, to the airport, to businesses, and parks,” he says.

“Not to mention the major routes up and down the coast.”

Opportunity galore

As the shire continues to grow, establishing its name as a commercial hub along the way, so to do the opportunities up for grabs – for agents, agencies, and investors. 

“For an agent, Hornsby offers a pretty amazing lifestyle to work and live in,” Benjamin explains.

“It also gives them a diverse mix of housing, but also an area that has a strong sense of community, and it’s that family-oriented community that drives the vast mix of property. 

“It’s not just three-bedroom houses. There are older apartments, new buildings, two-bedroom houses, four-bedroom houses, big, beautiful houses on large acreage as well. Which, for an agent, is exciting.”

Those same driving factors apply to agencies too, but Benjamin says it also affords those agencies an amazing opportunity to build a strong familiar brand, both residentially and commercially, in a family-oriented area. 

“We know that our industry is one that is very reliant on referral and word of mouth, so this is a major plus,” he notes.

A solid investment

As for investors, Benjamin says Hornsby is a proven area for them to park their money, and it’s only becoming more popular.  

“For a residential investor, it’s a pretty safe bet that if you buy a $600,000 or $700,000 property, you’ll get a reasonable rental return and low vacancy,” he says.

“Hornsby offers such good infrastructure and proximity to the city. People want to bring up their family there. 

“It’s also unique because it’s surrounded by bushland and family-friendly, but these days, it is also a commercial hub. 

“From a lifestyle point of view, it offers something that other CBDs don’t.”

Expansion calls

These reasons and more led to Chadwick Real Estate’s decision to open a new office in the ever-growing municipality. 

A decision that was years in the making. 

“Our five-year plan always had Hornsby in it,” Benjamin notes.

“As an office, we tend to expand into adjoining areas rather than take a scattergun approach. 

“We’re not a franchise, but an independent group. We own our offices completely, and keeping that culture, keeping a close-knit team is very important for us.

“That’s hard to do when you start to scattergun new offices.”

As well as everything Hornsby has to offer in terms of dwellings and surroundings, Benjamin believes the region has become an extension of the Upper North Shore. 

“Once, Hornsby was looked at as the poor cousin, but not anymore,” he says.

“If anything, people have gone, ‘Wow, look at the lifestyle that it affords people’.”

A commercial push

The move to Hornsby also signifies Chadwick Real Estate’s further push into the commercial sector. 

“When we move into any new office, part of our philosophy is we do so with a rent roll acquisition,” Benjamin notes.

“So, part of this move was always going to be picking up a good solid rent roll in the area.

“We did that, and within the rent roll was a large chunk of commercial property. 

“This met with our strategy of increasing our commercial presence, and where better to do that than in a CBD.”

When it comes to cementing its name as the go-to agency for both residential and commercial, Chadwick Real Estate will be leveraging off their already familiar name, along with Hornsby’s strong community focus.

“We’re already in an adjoining municipality, so for us, it was just such a logical extension because we were already a relatively familiar name,” Benjamin explains.

“Most people in the Hornsby area, if they didn’t know us personally, they’d at least know of the name.”

A local approach

Data suggests many of Hornsby’s commercial investors also live locally, and Benjamin believes many investors prefer to work with a local agent.  

But that doesn’t mean they’ll be sitting idly by waiting for clients to come to them.

He says the newly developed commercial team will be aggressively chasing down business. 

“We’ve identified a huge opportunity to raise the bar on commercial management in that area and provide a fresh, energetic option for investors,” he says.  

“Often with the bigger agencies, the specialist agencies, while they’re great and they do work well, they may not be as interested in the small stuff.”

Benjamin says investors in suburban areas like Hornsby tend to prefer local agents, so while Chadwick may not have the manpower or the prestige of the big guys, they do have the drive and local knowledge to be a viable alternative. 

“In the local neighbourhood areas, investors feel very comfortable with local agencies,” he says.  

“They want to know that the agent looking after their property is close by, not some big juggernaut where when they call, they may not even know who they’re speaking to. 

“A lot of these investors are mums and dads who might feel intimidated by going to the big boys, so there is a significant market for a good commercial agent in the area.”

The Hornsby town centre already has more than 6000 employees, 40 per cent of those professionals, and 22 per cent aged between 40 and 50 years. 

“When you look at all that, together with the Hornsby location, there’s no wonder it’s a big opportunity for agencies and agents,” Benjamin says.

“It’s understandable that’s it’s been targeted for growth in the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy because you’ve got all the ingredients there for it to become another major part of Sydney.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a freelance journalist for Elite Agent.