As one of the last places on the southern bayside rim that is affordable for first-home buyers, but with that window closing fast, its lyrical Aboriginal name could mean “jump in before the market croaks”.
But tiny Tootgarook — an onomatopoeic word meaning “land of the croaking frog” — wedged between pricey Rye and the smaller subdivisions of Rosebud West (which has lately changed its name to Capel Sound in a bid to shake a vaguely low-rent reputation), is experiencing a sudden leap in value.
Being discovered by first-home buyers like 26 year old Josh Iezzi and his partner Amy Appleby, who settle on their three bedroom weatherboard house on Monday, and by sea-changing retirees who missed finding Blairgowrie, Rye or McCrae within their budgetary zone, Tootgarook “is really improving,” says Briggs Shaw agent Stephen Brown. “We are so low on stock and there are so many pre-retirees looking to invest.”
With Blairgowrie’s median now being about $750,000, “a rise of about 25 per cent over the past 18 months”, Brown tells that “anything in the $500,000 range is in huge demand, because where else in Victoria can you find those prices?”
Brown sold the young Heidelberg couple the Tootgarook property they intend “to rejuvenate with a new kitchen and paintjob”, for $460,000. It was at the very top of their financial range.
Apprentice carpenter Iezzi said after realising they were outpriced in the city (“forget it”), they last year began looking around Rye where his grandparents had maintained a family holiday house for decades.
“We really liked the idea of that sort of bayside lifestyle and thought we’d be able to get into something before summer,” he said. But as prices escalated, “we watched our chances evaporate”.
They were shifted over to Tootgarook, “a blink-and-you-miss-it suburb” 69 kilometres from the CBD, says Iezzi, “and we found something we both love”.
Michael Prentice, third generation realtor in the Prentice agency operating at Rye since 1946, and who sold his first four bedroom fibro in Tootgarook 20 years ago for $40,000, says the little suburb has been so easy to overlook because it has no commercial hub.
“It’s a drive-through town still with a lot of absentee-owned holiday houses. But that’s part of its attraction,” he says.
The pancake flat bottom of a former swamp (thereby the croaking frog reference), Prentice says Tootgarook — geographically bounded by Truemans Road and Marshall Street — is experiencing “the knock-on effect of the hiking value of Rye and Blairgowrie which have grown exponentially”. Entry level in Sorrento, a few more kilometres down Point Nepean Road, is $1 million.
“In the past 12 to 18 months, the value of Tootgarook has hiked up $100,000, easily. Even one kilometre back from the beach, entry level is now in the $450,000 to $500,000 range.”
Although there are an increasing number of young families and first-home buyers cruising the streets in search of the sometimes 900-square metre blocks “and looking for something ready-made to move into, to either work from home or do the 70-75 minute commute to work in Melbourne, it’s the baby boomers who are starting to put pressure on the lower end”.
Prentice predicts that push will persist. “We’ve only got a small wedge of land between the bay and the ocean here and I’ve never seen the market this strong in the last 20 years. Stock has never been this tight.”