By Tom McNish
WORKING from home is the new reality for people around the world, and for Melbournians, the option to live somewhere more affordable with access to good schools, hospitals and beaches is leading them to Bass Coast.
Regional property interest has spiked during the pandemic with a recent online analysis by domain.com.au showing a 577 per cent rise in view per listing at Ventnor on Phillip Island over the year to July.
According to LJ Hooker Wonthaggi director, Scott Hughes, many buyers were waiting for lockdowns to ease before buying properties.
“Our buyers are looking for a range of properties and Wonthaggi caters for that perfectly,” Mr Hughes said.
“From permanent residences to investment properties and redevelopment sites to lifestyle properties, our office has a demand for all categories at the moment,” he said.
“Titled blocks of land are also in hot demand with stock levels all but dried up,” Hughes said.
Bass Coast has always been popular with retirees and people seeking a tree or sea change.
“Now we are also seeing more families and investors moving to the area, with increased facilities for education and a great demand for rental properties,” Hughes said.
“First home buyers are also forming a large percentage of our sales with blocks of land to build their first home, particularly with the government grants available,” he said.
Wonthaggi, Traralgon, Bairnsdale, Warragul and Drouin are designated regional growth areas.
“Between the town’s growing facilities, proximity to coastline and working from home, …demand has been sustained through coronavirus lockdowns,” Mr Hughes said.
“What the coronavirus has shown us, is how many people can work from home,” he said.
Mr Hughes said the market initially slowed amongst coronavirus fears.
“Our market hasn’t really slowed down too much apart from right at the beginning of COVID-19 where back in March/April where there was much uncertainty from everyone as to what was going happen.”
“This uncertainty only lasted a matter of weeks and the market kicked on again.”
“We have not seen prices drop at all – quite the opposite – prices are holding steady and, in most cases, increasing as demand for our area continues to grow.”
“And now we are experiencing social change with more and more people wanting to escape metropolitan Melbourne and surrounds.”
“We have currently been talking to a whole host of buyers waiting for the Stage Four lockdown to ease so they can come and inspect properties.”
“We have also fielded a number of calls lately from interstate investors wanting to invest their money in Wonthaggi,” Mr Hughes said.
THERE has been strong demand for real estate in Wonthaggi this year.
Despite some uncertainty in late March, consumer confidence has returned and is growing with more people working from home.
PBE director Adam Mabilia said new titled blocks have helped meet the area’s growing demand.
“Just within the past month, we have sold in excess of 12 allotments to eager buyers in the Cloverdale Estate (in Dalyston).
“In recent months, the government building stimulus grant was a great boost, and we saw a huge demand for titled land and this reflected in increased sale prices.”
Adam has seen some changes with the second round of lockdown.
“This second Stage Three and Stage Four lockdown has certainly impacted the real estate market, as many buyers within the metro Stage Four radius are not able to inspect properties,” he said.
Adam said there was diverse demand for properties.
“Wonthaggi, Dalyston and Kilcunda offer a range of properties and all are very strong with enquiries,” he said.
“Lifestyle properties are popular, any listings on small acreage are in demand,” he said.
“The rental market is the strongest it has been in years and an investor looking for a property to purchase and lease is achieving a healthy return,” Adam said.
PBE Real Estate has seen continued demand, even from buyers within Stage Four restrictions.
“A larger part of our buyers through this recent COVID 2.0 have been locals, or at least from regional areas that allow inspections,” he said.
“Our successful sales in the past three months have also resulted from virtual tours, telephone calls and Facetimes from buyers in the Stage Four area that could not view it in person,” he said.
“This demonstrates that purchasers are still monitoring the market and are eager to buy,” Adam said.
PBE is seeking properties to sell.
“Stock is always in demand. The Bass Coast stock in general is low, and even in the face of these challenging times, it is good to know that the market is still strong,” Adam said.
Interest in Inverloch residential properties has surged during the latest lockdown, according to local real estate agents, but that hasn’t converted into sales… yet.
Stockdale and Leggo Inverloch director Adam Leys confirmed his branch had seen a big increase in phone, email and website enquiries from prospective buyers across metropolitan Melbourne since the introduction of Stage Three and Four lockdowns at the beginning of August, but sales weren’t expected to boom until we come out the other side.
The top two demographics looking to relocate to Inverloch were people at or nearing retirement age, and people in the 30s-40s age bracket, Adam said.
The demand’s not unprecedented, but what’s unique about it this time around is buyers “are all saying the same thing”.
“People thought they’d have to change careers to move down here; now they realise they don’t have to do that,” Adam said.
“They can maintain their existing career but do it remotely, if not full-time, at least a few days a week, whereas in the past they might’ve thought that wouldn’t be viable.
“So, we’re seeing people who were planning to move to Inverloch after they’d retired, who are now bringing those plans forward, or people who’ve reached reasonably senior positions in their jobs, with young families, who want to raise a family in the country.
“There’s a lot of people looking for that country lifestyle, especially coming from Melbourne lockdown, where you’re basically stuck in your house not being able to do anything,” he said.
But while there’s no doubt the demand’s there, agents “can’t service it properly at the moment” due to the difficulties of finalising a sale amidst the current restrictions.
Adam’s team have done a few virtual inspections for metro buyers unable to travel, but they’ve been mainly to help people “narrow down a shortlist”. You’re hard pressed to find someone prepared to close the deal without seeing a property in person “which they just can’t do at the moment”.
“It’s very much stymied by the lockdown,” Adam said.
A big increase in website traffic was put down to people “doing a lot of research” in preparation to pull the trigger when restrictions ease, like they did the last time that happened.
“It’s a matter of waiting,” Adam said. “As soon as the lockdown comes to an end, we’re expecting a big influx of people coming down, and a big spike in sales and holiday rentals, as we saw in June, after the first lockdown.”
Likewise, sellers were holding off listing their properties until the lockdown’s lifted and they know the buyers are out there. A “reasonable” increase in supply was expected in the next month or so.
As for the well-publicised coastal erosion issues afflicting the surf beach area, according to Adam they’re not putting buyers off as much as they were earlier in the year.
“People were concerned about it over summer, but now that the council’s making some proactive decisions and getting work done to rectify it, that’s satisfying people to a degree.
“It’s not as big of an issue now,” he said.
Alex Scott real estate agent Scott McKenzie said he expected to see a lot of interest from metropolitan Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula when Stage Four lockdown was over.
“The biggest problem at the moment is that we don’t have a lot of properties to sell,” he said.
“People are holding off to when the lockdown is over because they think there will be more interest out of Melbourne.”
Scott said at the end of July and start of August there was a lot of interest in small acreage properties in the area where the agency sold six to seven in the span of two weeks.
Nyora-based agent, Joanne Spencer of Spencer’s Unlock Real Estate, said there was “a huge amount of buyer interest at the moment” with people looking to buy lifestyle properties and move from the city.
“Most people live in proximity to their workplace but they’re now realising they don’t have to do that with working from home,” Ms Spencer said.
The principal of the 16-month-old agency said she could have 20 more listings on her books and they would all sell.
“In Korumburra alone I’ve had multiple offers on three different properties in the last three days.
“On one property in Nyora, I’ve had 10 offers from 10 separate buyers, in a week,” Ms Spencer said.
“It’s definitely a seller’s market at the moment.”