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Queensland’s property and rental markets are set to soar from one of the biggest southern migrations in history with reports of interstate home hunters and holidaymakers heading north in their droves just days after the state border reopened.
With liveability, affordability and a balmy climate sparking the surge, property punters say the sunshine state and Brisbane, in particular, are on track for a record-breaking summer with holiday vacancy rates plummeting to zero amid a red-hot real estate market fuelled by interstate and ex-pat buyers.
Ray White New Farm principal Matt Lancashire said those hungry interstate home hunters had all but pounced on prestige homes mere hours after the border restrictions ended almost two weeks ago, revealing the strength of a new migration trend he said was only rising.
“I have got a list of 30 or 40 buyers who want to come to Brisbane … and one of the greatest things I have heard is that the first flight out of Melbourne on December 1 was a domestic (flight to Brisbane) and it was full,” Mr Lancashire said.
“I also had one guy who crossed the border on the first [of December] (he’d been waiting in Byron Bay), and I took him through six properties straight away.
“COVID has done wonders (for our market) … and we’ve had our biggest year (of sales) yet.
“We sold over $100 million in just half a year alone, and I reckon I’ll get $200 million by the end of the year. I’ve never done that before; my record is $130 million.”
Mr Lancashire said the level of interstate and overseas migration to Brisbane alone was unprecedented with the city set to topple Melbourne for liveability thanks to the affordability of homes and the laidback lifestyle on offer.
“And this trend is sustainable … It’s not necessarily that prices are going astronomically through the roof, it’s more that they are creeping up – but it’s also our days on market. Things are transacting incredibly quickly.”
He said the appetite for high-end homes had also sparked a domino effect into the prestige rental market, with some buyers forking out thousands per week in rent while they waited for the right home.
“High-end rentals and high-end sales – everything is just going bananas … I had eight auctions on Saturday, and I sold seven. The minimum amount of bidders was four, and I sold those seven for $27.5 million,” Mr Lancashire said.
Matt Lancashire had a very successful auction event at the Calile Hotel in Fortitude Valley on the weekend, which he says is an indicator of the strength of Brisbane’s market right now. Photo: Tammy Law
“It’s unbelievable because in April we were rethinking our business strategy and how we’ll adapt and how we’ll support our people … and then May came, and we had a record month.”
While Queensland’s housing market has nothing short of boomed off the back of the global health crisis, it was a tougher climb back into the black for the state’s holiday rental sector, with thousands of homes sitting empty during June and July – causing millions in lost revenue from the tropics down to the Gold Coast.
But even before state borders opened to release the interstate holidaymaker flood, industry experts said the sector was all but saved by stir-crazy locals who splashed serious cash from September onwards to holiday in their own backyard.
Mark Beale, from Ray White Whitsunday, said while their holiday and property industry all but ground to a halt halfway through the year, both sales and holiday rentals had since soared with $2 million in properties sold sight-unseen last month alone, with the agency recently clocking a record week in holiday reservations.
“A lot of people are now booking their flights and coming up here because they are not travelling overseas … instead of spending $50,000 on that trip abroad they’re saying ‘let’s put that towards a holiday (on the Whitsundays),” Mr Beale said.
Holidaymakers have rushed to book their summer vacations in the Whitsundays. Photo: Supplied
“During the pandemic, we had a lot of bookings in our holiday rentals, and pretty well everyone cancelled … we lost a lot. But as we got to August, they started to come back. Then four weeks ago we had really good bookings and last week we achieved double our personal best because people are booking their holidays for 2021.
“And there’s a lot of interstate interest, particularly from Sydney. So, while it was all south-east Queenslanders leading up to mid- November – when the borders looked like opening – it changed. And then three days before they opened it went crazy.
“On average they are paying $675 a night and the average time they are staying is now seven nights. Our sales are also double what they were last year. As for permanent rentals, we now have a 0.4 per cent vacancy rate.”
Emily Thomas, of LJ Hooker Peregian Beach, said while their Sunshine Coast holiday rentals also ground to a halt during the toughest quarantine months, it was locals from Brisbane who brought it back to life in September, with interstate families quick to take up the mantle – leading to a booked-out Christmas and January period.
“It’s almost back to normal now … and we have no properties available over Christmas,” Ms Thomas said.
Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast is completely booked out over Christmas. Photo: Supplied
“During that tough period, more than 50 per cent of our holiday homes were sitting empty. We didn’t know what would happen and we normally have people from down south come up for three months in the winter period, and that didn’t happen.
“But then November – which is normally quiet – was really busy. The locals kept us alive.”
It was entirely thanks to those south-east Queenslanders that Ray White North Stradbroke agent Chris Ransley said his patch of island paradise stayed afloat, with the quiet holiday spot now undergoing a boom.
“The market on the island from both holiday rentals and sales is now really strong … it has gone from strength to strength since the island reopened,” Mr Ransley said.
“But when it was closed off for part-time owners and holidaymakers (from March to May), they were zero-dollar months – and that really tested the island. We did, unfortunately, lose some businesses – they just couldn’t afford to stay open.
“But then in June, July and August (three normally quiet months) it was huge.
“We are finding that usually, our generic customer who comes over to the island will be 80 per cent a return visitor and 20 per cent a ‘newbie’. But that’s completely changed. For June, July and August it was 80 per cent ‘newbies’, and they were people who normally go to Fiji or Bali – and instead they came here.
“And I think that strength is going to continue.”