Australia

Geelong, regional hubs still booming

Real estate is booming in the bush as Melbourne’s property market languishes.

Big regional centres like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong are defying the coronavirus-driven downturn in the city.

Hotspotting founder and property expert Terry Ryder said the pandemic had actually boosted Victoria’s established country property markets.

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“They’re going really well … sometimes it’s actually because of coronavirus,” Mr Ryder said.

“The economies are thriving because of hospital, medical and aged-care industries … all businesses that are hiring rather than firing.”

Affordable regions like Albury/Wodonga and the Latrobe Valley were popular with buyers who were abandoning Melbourne’s expensive prices, he said.

“Thanks to technology and transport, a lot of people can work remotely and it’s opened their eyes to living away from the city, where the cost of living is higher and the roads are congested,” he said.

Bendigo is one of the nation’s most resilient property markets, with a low unemployment rate and a $410,000 median house price, according to Mr Ryder’s report.

Ray White Bendigo director Rory Somerville said the past three months had been a “perfect storm” with a boom in buyer demand, low rental vacancy rates and infrastructure investment in the town.

Federal spending into defence manufacturing and a new $700 million hospital were boosting the local economy, he said.

Geelong continued to attract owner-occupiers and interest is tipped to skyrocket again after the pandemic.

Barry Plant Highton director Kieron Hunter said there were more buyers this year than in 2019.

“The first-home buyer market is still huge out here, especially with extra government deposit incentives and low interest rates at the moment,” Mr Hunter said.

Ex-Melbourne residents Cal and Jess Forsyth bought a family home in Highton this week after an 18-month search.

Mr Forsyth said the Geelong’s “space, education (and) infrastructure” was ideal for their young family.

“We’d find ourselves migrating to the Surf Coast on weekends for a day trip and noticed many similarities to Bayside in Melbourne,” Mr Forsyth said.

“Although I’m moving away from everything that I’ve ever known, the fundamentals of what I perceive as a greater quality of life were more evident outside of the city.”

He said quality family homes for sale in Highton had been “hotly contested”.

Melbourne’s property market took another hit in June, with house and unit values slipping by 1.1 per cent, according to CoreLogic. A 2.3 per cent drop in the past quarter made the city Australia’s worst performing capital.

Inner-city rental vacancy rates skyrocketed into double-digit figures and stock levels have been extremely low during the pandemic.

CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless told the Sunday Herald Sun the city’s downturn was “gathering momentum” and there was still a risk of homes losing up to 10 per cent their value during the health and economic crisis.

“There’s now added complexity because of the second wave of coronavirus across Victoria, which will weigh on consumer sentiment,” Mr Lawless said.

“It will probably mean less activity and fewer buyers.”

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