As prospective buyers look for a way to get into the Illawarra market, a new list of "bridesmaid suburbs" potentially offers affordable alternatives for aspiring home owners. Lloyd Edge from Aus Property Professionals said a "bridesmaid suburb" is the suburb neighbouring one that has experienced strong growth. "When suburbs experience high growth, the property prices will increase considerably, which results in some buyers being priced out of the suburb," he said. "If a buyer cannot afford their favourite suburb it is likely that buyers will consider a neighbouring suburb as the next best thing. This is why growth typically ripples outwards. "To find a 'bridesmaid', look for suburbs that are cheaper than their neighbours, as property prices are likely to catch up." Mr Edge provided the Mercury with his top five bridesmaid suburbs in the Illawarra. He said the list was both suited to Sydney buyers seeking a lifestyle shift, as well as Illawarra residents looking to buy within the region. Mr Edge said Shellharbour has a median house price of $1,150,000, and believed those looking for lifestyle and amenities in a similar location would be better off trying Port Kembla, which is 16 kilometres away. He said Port Kembla has a cheaper median house price at $895,000 and some real gentrification occurring with cafes and restaurants. Meanwhile, they still get the lifestyle aspect near the water. "I feel it's still an under-rated and under-valued area, but has gentrified over the years and in recent years has enjoyed more of a case and restaurant culture," Mr Edge said. Mr Edge said Figtree, with a median house price of $990,000, was a relatively more affordable option. "It's a nice, peaceful and leafy area which is attractive to families, but has a cheaper price-point than a lot of neighbouring suburbs, such as Mount Pleasant and North Wollongong. "But it has the same infrastructure in place - shops, cafes, restaurants, and good access to the CBD. "I think it's a bridesmaid suburb that will grow in value a fair bit over time." Mr Edge said although Towradgi was next door neighbours to East Corrimal, the suburbs were priced significantly differently. "Both suburbs offer a laid-back lifestyle with great beaches, a local train station, and both are approximately 10 minutes north of Wollongong CBD," he said. "The main difference is that East Corrimal lies on the hill with more properties having sweeping coastal views compared to Towradgi, and this desirability has driven prices higher in East Corrimal." Mr Edge said both these suburbs are great family-friendly spots with close proximity to amenities, the university and playgrounds. "The median house price difference of nearly $400,000 could mean all the difference to young families looking to get there own piece of coastal lifestyle," he said. "The median price in East Corrimal is currently sitting at $1.6 million, but the median prices are more affordable in Towradgi sitting at $1.23 million." If Thirroul is out of your price range, the next best option would have to be Woonona. "If you are willing to travel four kilometres south of Thirroul, you will be able to snag a similar lifestyle for half a million less, with median house prices in Woonona currently $1.37 million," Mr Edge said. "Woonona is south of Bulli and north of Wollongong, and boasts its own train station, Woonona Beach with beautiful rock pools, and a main (small) shopping strip with restaurants, cafés, and main amenities like a pharmacy, post office, dentist, florist and gym. "You certainly will not feel like you are missing out, and you will soon be grateful you saved that half a million for the wonderful lifestyle Woonona has to offer." Mr Edge said Thirroul is considered one of the premium suburbs of the region, with median house prices now sitting at $1,860,000 due to the conveniences of Thirroul's shopping village, coastal lifestyle and express trains to Sydney's CBD. "Although this is at the more premium end of the Illawarra market, it's a great entry point if you are looking for premium properties," he said. "If you are looking to buy a property with great sweeping views into the horizon that you can only dream about, Austinmer and Scarborough would be the choice with median house prices sitting at $2.4 million and $2 million, respectively. "However, the affordability of Thirroul in comparison has drawn a lot of wealth into Thirroul which has reflected in its lively café and restaurant scene." Readers can now subscribe to Australian Community Media's free weekly Illawarra property newsletter, Hot Property Illawarra. The newsletter will keep you informed about what's currently making headlines in the region's real estate market and beyond. To sign up, click here, scroll down, enter your details, click the 'property' box and then click 'subscribe'.