Property prices are booming in Sydney's west, with some houses rising in value by more than 50 per cent over the past five years.
House price growth in Auburn, Holroyd, Fairfield and Parramatta outpaced most of NSW and was 10 percentage points higher than the 42.9 per cent rise in City of Sydney property values, figures from Australian Property Monitors show.
Quarterly auction data shows that the west has been the best performing region in Sydney this year, clocking 8.8 per cent price growth over the March quarter.
The linchpin for this explosion in western Sydney house values is Parramatta, which was recently crowned the most liveable centre in NSW. ''Parramatta 10 to 15 years ago didn't have a lot of sparkle to it,'' Bill Randolph, director of the city futures research centre at the University of NSW, said.
''But if you go there now it's got theatres, it's got a very active restaurant scene, it has a lot of activity, and that is generated by that concentration of jobs and deliberate planning action.''
Rapid price growth in the inner city has driven many buyers to Parramatta and nearby areas that offer more affordable housing. ''Affordability was the main thing,'' said first home buyer Brendon Clark, 36, who has just bought an apartment south of Parramatta in Guildford with his girlfriend, Jade Grimwood, 33.
The couple, who rented in Erskineville for six years, secured a modern three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms, two balconies and a car spot for $465,000.
''We all know how insanely expensive it is in the inner city, so I was fairly surprised to get something this good at this price,'' Mr Clark said.
The couple commute to the city and to the inner west for work but for shopping and restaurants they have Parramatta.
Guildford is within both the Holroyd and Parramatta local government areas, which both have experienced 51.3 per cent house price growth over the past five years. Last year, both areas clocked just over 15 per cent house price growth.
APM senior economist Andrew Wilson said impressive price growth in Parramatta and nearby areas was a story of ''gradual gentrification''.
Population and price growth in inner Sydney has underpinned a ''hunt for residential amenity'', Dr Wilson said, with home buyers wanting to find affordable suburbs that have good infrastructure.
Parramatta lord mayor John Chedid said he was not surprised by the price growth.
''We've got all the right attributes for our city to be able to market itself and for people to come invest in the city, which creates jobs,'' he said.
''We are also very fortunate to have one of the best eat streets in Sydney [Church Street].''
But Mr Chedid said the most urgently needed development was light rail connecting people from Parramatta to the Hills as well as Macquarie Park.
The chief executive of Starr Partners, Douglas Driscoll, said, apart from Parramatta, families buying homes had been propping up demand in other hotspots such as Penrith, Pemulwuy, Rouse Hill and Narellan. But not all of the west is doing well.
''It's not black and white; it is a patchwork of leading and lagging areas,'' Professor Randolph said.
''The south-west is more of a problem because there is less access to the global arc and job opportunities as there is in the north-west. I think the south-west is going to lag for some time.''
Danish architect Jan Gehl said the key to ''saving the suburbs'' was to promote better transport.
''The suburbs were made on the condition that we had cheap gasoline for eternity,'' he said. ''We don't. We need to move in other ways than with a rubber wheel in all four corners.''
Professor Randolph said Parramatta was a success story, but it was critical for investment to be spread more evenly through the western suburbs.
''The game changer of all time would be a second airport,'' he said.