SNOW BUSI­NESS

Winter is al­most here and it’s the per­fect time to buy prop­erty in the Aus­tralian alps

The Weekend Australian - Life - - PROPERTY - LISA ALLEN

Fancy a stone fire­place cou­pled with ex­pan­sive views of snow-cov­ered moun­tains this ski sea­son? Agents re­port strong de­mand for chalets, town­houses and apart­ments, but there’s a scarcity of stock in one of the more pop­u­lar town­ships, Jind­abyne, near the NSW ski fields.

There’s prop­erty aplenty in the Victorian alpine re­gions of Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller, where the Grollo fam­ily re­cently won ap­proval to de­velop White­horse Vil­lage, billed as the high­est free­hold land avail­able in Aus­tralia. And there are bar­gains. Two blocks of land at Higgi Drive, Mount Buller, sold over Easter for $14,000 and $18,000 via a no-re­serve auc­tion through veteran alpine agent John Cas­tran of Cas­tran Real Es­tate. The blocks were 220sq m each. “I would not say that was in­dica­tive of prices in Mount Hotham,” says Cas­tran. “But it shows mir­a­cles do hap­pen, and you had to be there to bid.”

Be­sides those bar­gain-base­ment auc­tion sales, Cas­tran says the usual price for a house block in Mount Hotham is $200,000 to $260,000 — he should know, he sold three over sum­mer.

Cas­tran will soon mar­ket the White­horse Vil­lage devel­op­ment, which he says will be the high­est drive-in and drive-out and ski-in and ski-out devel­op­ment in Aus­tralia. Six blocks of land will be priced from $1 mil­lion to $1.5m each when they hit the mar­ket in two weeks.

“The mar­ket has been tough since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2008, prices are not back to pre-GFC lev­els,” Cas­tran says. “(But) Mount Buller does well given its prox­im­ity to Mel­bourne; it is only three hours’ drive.

“While the Mount Hotham and Falls Creek (prop­erty mar­ket) is weaker, the mar­ket for Din­ner Plane next to Mount Hotham is very strong be­cause it has the high­est free­hold land in Aus­tralia, and the banks like free­hold land.”

Christa Zirknitzer, di­rec­tor of Zirky’s Real Es­tate, says Mount Hotham and Falls Creek have pro­duced some good real es­tate turnover.

“There have been much bet­ter prices than the 2011 fire-sale prices,” she says. “But ob­vi­ously there is a lot of stock on the mar­ket. We get a lot of buy­ers out of Al­bury and Wodonga and peo­ple from Mel­bourne. And it’s def­i­nitely the fam­ily mar­ket who are buy­ing.”

Zirknitzer has listed a four-bed­room apart­ment at the QT com­plex for $1.295m. It is non-man­aged, she says, which means there are no re­stric­tions on owner use of the lux­ury Falls Creek apart­ment.

A Mel­bourne fam­ily has just forked out $770,000 for a three-bed­room, three-bath­room unit in the Rop­ers Apart­ments in Falls Creek.

More af­ford­able prop­er­ties at Falls Creek in­clude a four-bed­room, two-bath­room apart­ment in the Vil­lage which is on the mar­ket for $450,000 through Falls Creek Real Es­tate prin­ci­pal Ted Weeks.

“The mar­ket at the mo­ment is more buoy­ant than I have seen it for quite some time,” Weeks says. “Prop­er­ties in the alps are down to their low­est prices in years, and in the past week I have sold three apart­ments.

“Some of th­ese prop­er­ties re­turn in winter alone 5 per cent net and the cur­rent term de­posit is 3 per cent. And of course the peo­ple can use them all sum­mer, it’s

Two blocks of land at Higgi Drive, Mount Buller, sold over Easter for $14,000 and $18,000

lovely up here in sum­mer. Moun­tain bik­ing has re­ally taken off here, like it has in Jack­son Hole (in Wy­oming, US).”

Hol­i­day rentals are also per­form­ing well at Falls Creek. Ka­t­rina Milne of Moun­tain Mul­tiser­vice Ac­com­mo­da­tion, which rents 70 pri­vate apart­ments each sea­son, says book­ings in the run up to this year’s ski sea­son are strong.

“Ev­ery­one is book­ing in nice and early, we have gaps avail­able but peo­ple need to get on to it very quickly,” she says. Milne says two-bed­room pri­vate apart­ments rent from $2000 to $4000 a week in the peak sea­son, with the av­er­age cost­ing about $3000.

Across the bor­der in Jind­abyne, NSW, which is close to sev­eral ski re­sorts in the Kosciuszko Na­tional Park in­clud­ing Thredbo and Per­isher, there’s a lack of prop­er­ties to buy in the run-up to this year’s ski sea­son, Jind­abyne Real Es­tate prin­ci­pal Don Killin says.

“We have had a mas­sive de­mand for prop­erty over the past 12 months,” Killin says. “We are at that stage where there is very lit­tle left for sale in Jind­abyne and there are al­ways buy­ers.”

De­spite the lack of stock, Killin says Syd­ney buy­ers al­ways act at this time of year, be­tween Easter and late April. “It takes them up to the ski sea­son,” he says.

Killin says alpine house and apart­ment prices were sta­ble for the past decade but be­cause of the price boom in Syd­ney and his­tor­i­cally low in­ter­est rates they have surged.

Most buy­ers will pay about $450,000. For that they will get a four-bed­room town­house with two bath­rooms that will sleep 10 peo­ple. It will gen­er­ate rents of about $40,000 across the winter months or about $4000 a week in the peak ski sea­son.

“Be­cause buy­ers are not nec­es­sar­ily get­ting younger they are look­ing for more mod­ern prop­erty and for prop­er­ties they can use year-round be­cause the growth in sum­mer tourism is strong,” Killin says. “It’s a prop­erty they can use dur­ing school hol­i­days and week­ends dur­ing winter and gen­er­ate a good re­turn from hol­i­day let­tings.”

In the more up-mar­ket ski vil­lage of Thredbo, Glenn Smith of Dis­cover Thredbo real es­tate is mar­ket­ing Fire Dream­ing, with an ask­ing price of $1.8m for the five-bed­room chalet.

Smith, who is the ven­dor, says Fire Dream­ing at 3 Sum­mit Way is po­si­tioned on the largest slice of land avail­able in Thredbo. In peak sea­son the five-bed­room prop­erty rents for $13,500 a week and there are solid book­ings for the com­ing ski sea­son.

“It would be the most booked-out prop­erty on the moun­tain,” Smith says.

“We are get­ting a lot of in­quiry at the lower end of the Thredbo real es­tate mar­ket. The higher end has been dam­aged by the banks be­cause the banks don’t want to lend more than 60 per cent of the value of the prop­erty.”

Smith says there is a lot of in­quiry for prop­er­ties in the $500,000 to $600,000 range. “That is what peo­ple are buy­ing. The high end is very dif­fi­cult.”

Skiers catch a lift at Mount Buller, main pic­ture; Fire Dream­ing, top and above, a fivebed­room Thredbo chalet on the mar­ket for $1.8 mil­lion; a four-bed­room apart­ment in the QT com­plex at Falls Creek listed for $1.295m, left

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