Property: steady does it
REAL estate agents in the region are at last wearing smiles as they see the property market definitely on the up after such a long period of weakness.
No one’s calling it a boom or similar, but they are calling the bottom of the market and a return to a more normal conditions.
A consensus among agents we contacted was that there is a general, gentle upswing and that: it’s better to buy today than tomorrow; buyers are keen, cashed up and ready to go; they’re getting out of equities and into property; residential rental space is tight; properties pitched too high will still just sit there but it’s no longer a buyer’s market.
It seems the good news is right across - from apartments to houses and land - and the buyers likewise, from southerners recognising the comparative cheapness of local property, to locals upsizing/downsizing, to fly-in fly-out workers realising the attractions of the area and its handy proximity to a major aviation hub.
‘‘I’m seeing buyers being a lot more aggressive than they were even six months ago in their keenness to buy. They are ready to go. They’ve got their pre- approvals, they’re ready to move,’’ says Matt Scott, sales manager at LJ Hooker.
‘‘In some cases - and we haven’t seen this for years - we’re seeing multiple buyers on properties, so we can present the vendor with various offers, and they can sort it out among themselves, which is really good.
‘‘Time on market is still there; housing stock is starting to tighten up; and we’re seeing great results particularly north of Port Douglas - the house and land sales in Cooya are strong, and in Wonga - at a price - it’s starting to take off. People have just started to discover Wonga - great beach, great little school.’’
The last few Wonga sale contracts in his office had been Cairns people relocating. He’s also had good sales of land at Oak Beach and rural sites around Mowbray.
Rendezvous Apartments in Port Douglas had been appealing to the lifestyle market, with buyers feeling a need to ‘‘get in before it’s too late’’.
The big date looming on the calendar for the LJ Hooker branch is the Saturday, October 19 super auction at the QT Resort when 13 properties will go under the hammer.
Phil Holloway, principal of Century 21 Port Douglas, says ‘‘We’re getting a general feeling from investors and other buyers that the market has bottomed and they’re frightened that if they don’t get in now it could be too late.
‘‘ I think you’ve got about six months up your sleeve if you’re looking to buy but we believe there is going to be rise in the market everywhere before too long, because people can see that things have settled down into a more normal market. This attitude is right across the country.’’
Mr Holloway also cites the pending approval of the huge Aquis resort project at Yorkeys Knob near Cairns as a major boost to confidence and optimism for the whole region.
‘‘A lot of people in Port Douglas think there’s going to be a spin-off from that for the Far North, and I think there’s no doubt about that.’’
He said activity was appearing right across the market, with the only drawback being the ‘‘terrible rise in body corporate fees in recent years’’, due especially to insurance costs - which were ‘‘unjustified in my opinion and need to be looked at hopefully by some government inquiry to try bring some more sanity back into it’’.
But seeing as they were coming off very low price levels, apartments were now definitely improving, Mr Holloway said.
David Cotton, of Raine and Horne Port Douglas, believes the market has definitely bottomed and ‘‘bounced along the bottom for the past six to 12 months, and I can see a very strong trend at the moment to sug- gest the bottom is over and I can see a tendency to growth over the next 12 months. Times are good - I’ve been selling property here for 16 years and I haven’t seen it this good in about four years.’’
Local market doyen Tony McGrath, of McGrath Real Estate, believes there is a nation-wide shortage of stock. But ‘‘the market is definitely in a state of flux. I’ve been here four or five times in the space of 40 years and it’s because no one’s doing anything, no one’s building anything - it’s a shortage. Demand is coming from people who have been sitting on their hands for five years or more, waiting to purchase. They’ve been waiting for someone to ring a bell and tell them the market has bottomed - but no one rings that bell!
‘‘There’s no boom, but there is a shortage of second-hand stock.
‘‘It’s reasonable to assume that if you’ve got no stock the price will go up - but it will only go up steadily because the economy isn’t all that flash, still.
‘‘Port Douglas is a very minute market and there’s never been a lot of stock. It’s market is getting better but it’s coming off a very low base.’’
With the apartment market, he says, there had been a lot on the market for the past decade but ‘‘no one is building any more and I think that at some stage the price has got to come back to replacement value’’.
He says the land price is the key factor. ‘‘There’s been virtually no new building for six or seven years, and that is something that can turn around very quickly.’’
As Mr McGrath sees it, the market has finally shucked off the effects of the GFC and has ‘‘normalised’’, with slow, steady growth ahead. It’s not a buyer’s market, and it’s not a seller’s market.
Let the games begin.
Agents think the market is normalising after years of being in the doldrums