Regional NSW Property Market Update September 2019

Lismore Property Updates

The usual resident population of Lismore in 2011 was 42,763 people. By 2016 the population was 43,135 showing a slight increase during the elapsed period. The following table outlines the migration patterns for Lismore from 2011 to 2016.


The following table indicates that the Lismore unemployment rate has decreased in the period from 2011 to 2016.

Lismore City’s building approvals are used as a leading indicator of the general level of residential development, economic activity, employment and investment. Residential building activity depends on many factors that vary with the state of the economy including interest rates, availability of mortgage funds, government spending and business investment. The following table and chart indicate a substantial increase in building approvals in the past three years relative to the years prior to 2015.

The statistics are an indication of a relatively stable local economy in the Lismore area with stable migration patterns, adjoining regions enjoying relatively solid growth and reasonable localised employment prospects.

The Lismore area is increasingly being viewed as a more affordable alternative as the coastal areas of Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head reach price points that are beyond the reach of many people.

Demonstrating this is a simple price point comparison of what $500,000 can purchase in Goonellabah, a suburb of Lismore, compared with

Evans Head, a beachside town with a population of only 3,100 people.

30 James Road, Goonellabah is a well built, 2002, four-bedroom, three-bathroom, two-level modern dwelling that sold very recently for $500,000.

3 Anson Avenue, Evans Head is an older high set residence consisting of one bedroom plus two enclosed veranda or sleep outs, together with an open plan lounge, dining and kitchen. It has recently gone under contract for $530,000.

Speak with a Lismore Harbour Mortgage Broker today.

Byron Bay Property Updates

The Byron Shire has been under a significant increase in population over the past five to seven years, as national businesses over this time have shifted their focus and allowed employees to be able to roam, justify their presence using online working platforms and still be within a short flight back to headquarters, rather than holding all employees within a glass building in a CBD location.

The Byron Shire location provides good services for all of the above. The airports of Ballina and Coolangatta have made an easy transport route for these commuters whilst providing an idealic location for a work-life balance. This has seen the coastal resort towns of Byron Bay, Suffolk Park, Lennox Head and the outer quaint townships of Bangalow, Federal and Mullumbimby targeted areas for interstate buyers from Melbourne and Sydney.

As these areas have been under pressure of rapid population growth, councils have been under pressure to provide more availability for building opportunities and therefore we have seen a significant roll-out of vacant land to combat the rapid growth. Take up rates in these new developments (particularly the townships of Lennox Head and Skennars Head) has been extremely strong.

Along with new land developments, some localities have been earmarked for future commercial development to aid in meeting the needs of the increasing population. One example would be the Epiq Estate in Lennox Head where construction of a new commercial precinct located approximately two kilometres from the actual town centre has commenced and is due for completion in 2020.

There’s no doubt that this population growth from interstate migration has put pressure on the price of real estate in these localities. Melbourne and Sydney buyers who have sold in those areas over the past few years (particularly before their downturns) have snapped up limited available stock in the built environment in all the coastal resort locations. This has seen an increase in prices as stocks have remained limited particularly in the broad price bracket of $850,000 to $2 million.

As these interstate markets have seen recent downturns, it is only in recent months (since the commencement of 2019) that the flow on effect into our market has seen a slight change in this price bracket. Time spent on market would be the first observation, while no significant change in price levels has occurred as stock levels have remained relatively low.

Casino/Kyogle Property Updates

For the country towns of Casino and Kyogle and their surrounding rural localities, the primary reason for the influx (if any) of out of towners into the area is generally for employment or a change in lifestyle or semi-retirement.

The respective population figures for Casino (10,914) and Kyogle (2,751) remain static and any changes resulting from migrating into these areas is relatively small.

The prospect of employment opportunities always provides some cause of interest in the area. The abattoir in Casino has always been a mainstay for employment and the recent infrastructure spend to improve the Casino Saleyards into a modernized facility helps boost the profile of Casino as a rural service town and the associated jobs that may flow from it within the agricultural sector.

The prospect of coal seam gas mining was somewhat lauded and welcomed in the area over 12 years ago as a boon for investment and employment in Casino and the surrounding towns. However, following more research and growing community disquiet about the effects of such mining practices, the mood soon turned sour and such promises of growth in this business took a proverbial tumble off the cliff.

Now there is the promising prospect of a medicinal cannabis facility to be created and developed in the Casino and Richmond Valley region which is touted to bring approximately 300 direct and indirect jobs into the region. Not so much simply a puff of smoke, but a decent shot in the arm for business opportunity and income generation… in a legal way.

In terms of people coming into the area for a lifestyle change, it is the relative affordability offered in Casino and Kyogle compared to other Northern Rivers towns. A quiet and private five acres with creek frontage and a decent three or four-bedroom home for under $550,000 and only five to 15 kilometres from Casino or Kyogle can be a drawcard. It’s the laid back life that a lot of busy and mid-life adults crave. Or, consider the young individual or couple moving into the area thanks to a new job. A reasonable house for under $300,000 is not out of reach, with generally schools and all the usual town services nearby. No, it’s not a one-bedroom unit in Manly overlooking the sea…but at least the rent or mortgage payments are not 99% of your take home pay!

In summary, the influx of out of towners into the regional and rural areas of Casino and Kyogle are unlikely to witness the manic buying and selling activity that can be experienced in the more popular coastal areas of say, Byron Bay, which is generally frequented by high net worth individuals with money to burn and who want the coastal lifestyle vibe.

Here in Casino and Kyogle, it’s more about the trees and land and the quiet that can be achieved at a reasonable price and minus the rat race hassle. And that sounds pretty cool.

Ballina Property Updates

The Ballina Shire continues to see an increase in population growth, particularly concentrated within the coastal areas of Ballina, Skennars Head and Lennox Head. The estates of Ferngrove and Riveroaks in Ballina, Ballina Heights and Banyan Hill in Cumbalum, Epiq Estate in Lennox Head and most recently the Aureus Estate opposite Sharpes Beach at Skennars Head are catering to this population growth.

The sought after areas of the North Coast of New South Wales have traditionally attracted buyers from Sydney and Melbourne looking for a sea change or tree change. In more recent times, local agents active within the coastal areas of the Ballina Shire have reported a strong increase in Byron Bay residents looking to relocate south on the back of strong increases in value in Byron Bay.

Infrastructure projects catering for this population increase include upgrade works along the Coast Road between Lennox Head and Ballina which includes a recently completed roundabout at the Skennars Head Road intersection, a proposed roundabout at the Headlands Drive intersection and works have commenced for a footpath between Skennars Head and Lennox Head. It is also proposed that River Street which is the main entry point into Ballina from the west is to be upgraded to four lanes.

Clarence Valley Property Updates

The Clarence Valley, in particular Yamba, Maclean and Grafton, is seeing a continued increase in workforce due to the Pacific Highway upgrade and new Clarence Correctional Centre. These infrastructure works have drawn a workforce nationally and locally and brought many workers across state lines. However, this influx is likely to cease, or at least lose momentum as these works reach their completion. In saying that, some people who have temporarily worked in the region are looking at permanently relocating due to a new found love of the area and its prime beaches, river system and overall appeal.

Looking at another demographic, the Clarence Valley has long struggled to compete against larger cities, universities and broader travel endeavors to keep its young (school leaver age and young adult) demographic in the region. However, there is much being done to entice these groups to build the economy locally, although it continues to be a curse most rural areas endure.

Long term, these issues will likely remain and the short to medium term is predicted to be a time of change for the Valley, with its shifting workforce and continued beach appeal.

Coffs Harbour Property Updates

To understand population movements within any region we must look to the census statistics to determine what type and amount of people are moving. Based on the statistics provided by the Coffs Harbour City Council website, population movements between 2011 and 2016 can be broken down as follows: 51.3% of people did not change address during this period, while 37.6% moved from elsewhere in Australia and 3% moved from overseas. A total of 14,142 people, or 54.6% of those who moved within Australia, moved within Coffs Harbour city.

From these basic statistics, we can see the greatest population movement is from within Australia with only a small percentage of overseas immigration. We can break down this Australian migration further:

  • the highest percentage of movement was from within New South Wales (net migration 1,865);
  • net migration from Victoria was 182;
  • Queensland’s net migration was -849;
  • the balance of 3,017 net migration came from all other states and territories.

Other points to consider when discussing migration are the age demographic, family structure and housing tenure (owner-occupied or rented) all of which have different property needs. Younger adults and renters are more likely to move more often, whilst owner-occupiers tend to stay in one place.

The age group with the highest net migration within Coffs Harbour are the 35 to 44 year olds and not surprisingly, the highest percentage leaving is the 18 to 24 years age group. This is a reflection of the younger population leaving for higher education or work opportunities, whilst the 35 to 44 year old are coming for the lifestyle benefits and lower cost of housing.

The next largest group to migrate are retirees (55 to 65 plus). Housing requirements for this sector cannot be stereotyped as this is a diverse market. Traditionally the 50 to 60 year sector were the empty nesters looking to downsize, however increasing property prices, living and education expenses, both the kids and grandma are staying at home with multiple generations living in one property.

What we can derive from the above is that the Coffs Coast region is experiencing a steady population growth although mainly in the 35 to 65 plus age group which has diverse property needs. These ages are generally families or retirees coming for the lifestyle benefits coupled with good availability of education, transport and medical facilities.

To cope with increasing population trends we require land to be developed which is well located to all these facilities. Not surprisingly, Coffs Harbour has experienced very strong capital growth and activity in the vacant land market over the recent boom period. There is never an oversupply in the market at any one time given the natural constraints of supply, however, the increased demand over the past two to three years has seen values rise significantly. It has not been uncommon in developing estates such as North Sapphire Beach, Woolgoolga and Sandy Beach for a high proportion of sales to occur off the plan to either spec builders, owner-occupiers or investors, with values rising five to ten per cent as each stage becomes available for sale. Further expansion of large land tracts will be required moving forward with several large en globo parcels earmarked for Sandy Beach to the north and Bonville to the south whilst the coastal township of Urunga will also see some major land being developed in coming years.

The other sector which requires development is aged care facilities. As noted in the population statistics a high percentage age group moving is 55 to 65 years and older, plus the fact that we are living longer and healthier has also changed the face of what is needed in our ageing years in terms of property requirements. So instead of looking for retirement homes at age 55, we are looking for a property that will benefit the next stage of life. Traditionally this next stage was to downsize and look toward lower maintenance property whilst realising some equity from the family home to use for travel or extra living money. These buyers are typically looking for centralised property close to services and public transport.

Where we are seeing a real lack of property choice is in the 70 year plus bracket for those who can no longer live independently at home and are looking to move to an aged care facility. The waiting list for the available facilities within the region is forever growing with limited product available in comparison to demand. We have seen construction start recently on a $100 million dollar aged care facility at Park Beach (Coffs Harbour) being an upmarket facility which will provide a 120-bed residential care facility and 183 self-contained dwellings which are very much lacking in the local market.

Housing requirements and an ageing population within the Coffs Harbour and surrounding regions area will be key issues in years to come.

Central Coast Property Updates

The Central Coast is that region just to the north of the Sydney metropolitan area.

For generations, it used to be the place where people went for holidays or a weekend break – you know the place, an easy drive and an even easier place to relax. Seems almost everyone had a grandparent, auntie or uncle somewhere here with a sleepout to bunk down in for the weekend or holiday.

That used to be the case, except over the past 20 or so years the benefits available in the region have seen it become a permanent place to live for many.

Two factors led to this – firstly the Sydney/Newcastle Tollway (later the F3 Freeway and now the M1 Motorway) and secondly the affordability of the property.

Today, the Central Coast region is viewed by many as an extension of Sydney’s north.

The topic this month is where the people are coming from, and in our daily lives of valuing property, when we go to a property under contract, we ask the selling agent whether the buyer is local or an out of towner. After years of hearing the answers, and in no particular order, it seems buyers are attracted to:

  • New residential unit developments. This is particularly the case in the Gosford CBD and hospital precinct. From the sale contracts we are seeing, there are a few locals buying for investment purposes, but the majority of purchasers are Sydney based looking for investment properties.

At the moment, a close watch is recommended for new units as there is an oversupply situation arising. Prices for new units can be seen in the mid $400,000s and rising to well over the $1 million mark. Most new units were purchased off the plan in 2016 and 2017 with little to no capital gain seen for the most part when valued in the current market and in some instances, losses are being seen.

  • New residential estates. Particular attention is given to the new communities in Hamlyn Terrace, Woongarrah and Wadalba. These are suburbs to the northern end of the region and have been expanding for many years now, but still have a lot of land available for further development. The attraction here is new dwellings that are affordable and functional within easy access of the M1 Motorway and providing entry to the agreeable lifestyle offered by the region.

Although there are a few investor purchasers, the majority are those looking to occupy after leaving the Sydney market where affordability has become a real challenge for many.

House and land packages are popular in these areas and we see pretty good value in this product, in many cases between $450,000 and $600,000 depending on dwelling and land size, although we have seen some inexplicable variances in sale prices, so we do recommend a good level of research be carried out before committing to a purchase.

  • The other property type targeted by out of towners is the weekender property. Again, we see a majority of purchasers of these properties coming from Sydney. These are people in the fortunate position of holding a property in Sydney and the ability to have a weekender on the coast. Most purchasers target the beach or other waterfront areas and this can be anywhere from Patonga, Pearl Beach, MacMasters Beach, Avoca Beach, Terrigal, Toowoon Bay to Blue Bay.

Property types are houses in the plus $2 million range (much higher for beachfronts) or units with prices paid being dependent on location or view, but usually upwards of $700,000. They will usually be older, established properties, although there are several new unit developments in Terrigal which Sydney buyers are finding attractive to either live in or use for investment purposes.

These are the main properties we see out of towners being drawn to. There are other locations and property types seeing some interest from out of towners, but less so than those mentioned above.

As mentioned, the majority of new buyers and residents originate from the Sydney market where affordability levels are such that they are leaving it. Occasionally, we see buyers from other regions and the odd family moving here from overseas, but not in great numbers. Similarly, like many other regions, we saw quite a number of Chinese nationals buying in the region a few years back, but that has almost ceased now.

The not so surprising fact of Sydneysiders buying into the region raises the question of where are the local sellers going? Well, we see two things happening with them. They are moving further north – Queensland or the far north coast of New South Wales seem to be the popular choices – or alternatively, they are upgrading to superior properties within the region, in many cases to the next suburb or just around the corner from where they are.

It’s a funny period in the region’s growth. We see the locals shaking their heads in disbelief at some of the prices paid by Sydneysiders, while at the same time the Sydneysiders, being used to Sydney prices, struggle to contain their joy at securing a property at such a bargain price.

The region’s progression for the next generation of property owners will be inevitable and very interesting. New needs, wants and ideas will dictate the future of the region and while contentious choices by our decision-makers are nothing new, the now and future generations are bound to test them even more. We hear of many proposals for new or expanded business districts and anyone familiar with the region will appreciate that proposers of expansion have rarely enjoyed an easy journey to realisation of their proposals by the decision-makers, backed by the many interest (and very vocal) groups.

Mid North Coast/Port Macquarie Property Updates

Port Macquarie has always been an area for population growth and as at 2018, had a population of 46,447, being the ninth most populous place in New South Wales.

Over the past two years, we have seen building development occurring in the retirement age group with two new retirement nursing home expansions and a new retirement village south of Port Macquarie. This in turn has produced an on flow effect and we have seen a rise in older original properties being placed on the market.

The outer fringe suburbs of Port Macquarie have seen extensive residential development with many developers commenting on a 50/50 mix of locals and out of towners purchasing new homes. Port Macquarie having a high unemployment rate has seen an increase in the development of educational and medical infrastructure. This in turn has attracted a middle class- out of town population to the area and has assisted with neutralising the downturn that has been felt across other areas, producing a stable property market.

According to census, the main occupations of people living in Port Macquarie are professionals (21.9%),, technicians and trades workers (13.9%), clerical and administrative workers (13.8%), community and personal services workers (13.1%) and sales workers (11.4%).

The main industry people from Port Macquarie work in is hospitals (except psychiatric hospitals) at 5.2%. Other major industries of employment include aged care residential services (3.6%), cafes and restaurants (2.9%), secondary education (2.9%) and electricity distribution (2.7%).

The property market in Port Macquarie has also been affected by national and local politics. The federal and state elections in the first half of 2019 caused a slowing in the property market and the outer fringes subdivisions were the first to be affected by a slowdown in sales and consequently a reduction in some land prices. Since then we have started to see a slow increase in land sales and construction of new residential dwellings.

Local politics have also affected the property market where pockets of areas have been affected by local council decisions such as the Orbital Road project. This local issue and the unknown designated routes have affected local sales in and around Clifton, Fernhill Road, Lake Innes and Greenmeadows. The possibility of an unknown amount of properties to be compulsorily acquired for the project raises the question of their ability to be sold at a true market value.

Whilst the Port Macquarie market has been somewhat sheltered from the downturn felt in metropolitan areas, other local areas such as Taree and Kempsey have not been as fortunate. with a drop in market values seen in these areas.

Albury Property Updates

The prosperity of any regional city or area depends heavily on people movement generally and population growth specifically. Regional cities need to work harder than metropolitan cities to attract new residents from other cities, states or countries. The drivers of migration to regional areas are compelling and topical and feature on national news daily: housing affordability and lifestyle.

The deal-breaker will always be employment; affordability and lifestyle go out the window if you don’t have a job. Figures available from 2016 show the Albury area unemployment rate was 6.5% against a national figure of 6.9%. In the 2016 census, health care and social assistance (14.4%) represented the largest industry of employment, followed by education and training (9.5%), retail trade (10.9%), manufacturing (8.9%) and construction (9%), then public administration (7.1%), accommodation and food services (7.8%) and then transport, postal and warehousing services (4.7%) and professional, scientific and technical services (4.2%).

In 2018, the population of the Albury area ( with a land area of just under 560,000 hectares) was 64,188; in 2013 it was 60,371, so there has been an increase of 6.3% or 3,817 people over five years. This figure equates to an average of 763 per annum, with approximately 40% from internal migration and 60% from overseas migration. Not surprisingly, the construction industry as an employer represents 9% of the workforce, which has been required with 2,273 new house approvals in the five years to June 2018 and 328 new units in the same time period. If we were calculating that the new residents were only occupying the new dwellings or units, the average household size would be 1.5 persons, well below the Albury area average house size in 2016 of 2.4 which was lower than the national average of 2.6 in 2016 (ABS Albury SA3 10901).

In terms of the property market and the impact of out of towners, we need people to keep moving to regional cities and towns and the Albury area is no different in this regard. The Albury area is fortunate to be able to canvass Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra as potential population growth sources and due to housing affordability and a large stock of different property types, market activity across the area is promising. Albury-Wodonga is a regional city of approximately 105,000 people. With Albury’s population in 2018 being 64,188 and Wodonga’s 41,429 (source: ABS), it is a comprehensive regional area and Albury is well placed to enjoy the benefits of the burgeoning Victorian population along with the sustained growth seen in Wodonga.

There is not really one property type or locality that stands alone. The entire area benefits from people moving to the country and this holistic approach needs to be fostered so all parts of the property market and the local economy can enjoy a vibrant regional experience. There are few factors stronger than affordability and lifestyle in a property market. These drivers motivate people to act which means people want to live, work and invest in an area offering these choices. People moving internally within an area do so to upgrade, downsize or aspire to owning some land. People moving from capital cities can afford to push the local property market higher and they have been very active in central Albury and also in the high-end rural lifestyle markets. The challenge is striking a balance so affordability for newcomers does not completely diminish the affordability for existing residents starting or continuing their property experience.

Tamworth Property Updates

Over the past five years, Tamworth has seen an average population growth of roughly 1% per annum, with the current population sitting around 62,000. This growth is predominantly locally driven with few residents moving away each year, and those who do are quickly replaced by those looking for a cheaper alternative to the major cities. Tamworth is an attractive option for those who feel priced out of the major cities with a range of housing options, jobs to pay for them and all the niceties offered by many larger cities, with the only downfall being the lack of a beach.

The most noticeably transient demographic for Tamworth is the 20 to 35 year olds. Many of these residents come to Tamworth for work in either the agricultural, industrial, health or professional sectors. However once they have spent a few years in the town, completed training, achieved qualifications or climbed the corporate ladder as they say, we see them start to drift away from Tamworth to chase bigger goals in the larger cities.

The effect of this steady but constant growth can be seen in the number of new housing developments located around the Tamworth CBD, with the city growing in all directions. For those who move from the much higher priced cities, it becomes a very attractive option to buy land and build a brand new home for as little as $400,000 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, compared to what they can get for similar money elsewhere.

Goulburn Property Updates

With the new residential developments coming online in the area over the last few years, we have seen an influx of various out of towners moving to the area. Situated between both Canberra and the Southern Highlands, the market has become increasingly popular for commuters seeing the region as an affordable lifestyle alternative due to excellent proximity to the Federal and Hume Highways.

Being located only an hour north-east of Canberra city and Canberra housing becoming further out of reach for young families, the Goulburn region has continued to transform as we see a broadening purchaser cohort comprising first home buyers, investors and more young families moving to the area. Brand new fully detached homes starting from $450,000 and established infrastructure already in place are motivating the shift from the ACT.

Marulan has seen an inflow of Southern Highland residents moving to the area, again appealing to commuters, first home buyers and logistics workers due to excellent proximity to the Hume Highway, the Sydney CBD being under two hours away and new infrastructure such as the opening of the town’s first supermarket, IGA.

Southern Highlands Property Updates

The thriving population of the Southern Highlands demonstrates the diversity of the local economy that is likely to continue as the area continues its transition from a rural, retiree location to a dormitory suburb of Sydney, being an increasingly popular location for young families and first home buyers looking for a real lifestyle alternative to an increasingly congested Sydney.

The more recent influx of families is particularly evident in the northern suburbs of Mittagong due to several large developments in the suburb of Renwick having been completed over the past five years coupled with increasingly flexible work arrangements providing the ability for people to work remotely. The most recent census data showed that the Southern Highlands was the third fastest-growing regional area in New South Wales behind Maitland and Port Macquarie, with a 7.8% population increase from the previous census.

This influx in population has also recently seen some evidence of an oversupply of vacant land in the region due to several large scale developments coming online towards the very peak of the market. This has resulted in some declining sale prices within these new estates in the short term.

Overall the longer-term outlook for the region remains positive as the population continues to grow and the state sees more large scale infrastructure coming online for Sydney’s ever-expanding population, particularly in the southwestern corridor spreading down toward the borders of the Southern Highlands.