Prop­erty: steady does it

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

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

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