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Lockdown-weary Victorians use school holidays to inspect properties up north

Agents in Noosa, Byron Bay and Port Douglas in far north Queensland all reported a spike in enquiries for properties as soon as Melbourne went into lockdown in late May.

“Interstate enquiries and sales plateaued a bit a couple of months ago, but the latest lockdown in Victoria gave us another burst of activity,” says Kate Cox from Reed & Co Estate Agents in Noosa. “Straight away, the phone started ringing, and we started doing virtual inspections again.”

“I think we all have short memories. And when life went back to normal, everyone was like, ‘no, everything’s OK’. And then with the last lockdown, Victorians were saying ‘no, actually we can’t keep living like this’.”

Ms Cox says she expects to be busy over the coming weeks as Victorians visiting the area for school holidays also book in home inspections.

“We’ve already got a lot of inspections booked in for the next couple of weeks,” she says.

“Others who can’t get up here are getting friends or family who already live up here to look at homes for them, or they’re doing virtual inspections,” she said.

She says others who don’t want to wait for the right property to become available are moving up and renting while they search for their dream home.

“There’s a lot of Victorian number plates driving around up here,” she says.

“We are seeing a lot of people selling up their homes in Victoria, and if they can’t find anything to buy, they’ll just move up and rent until they find something, which is, of course, causing a shortage of rentals,” she adds.

In Byron Bay, it’s a similar story. Liam Annesley from Byron Bay Real Estate Agency says he also had “an influx of enquiries” from Victorians as soon as the state entered its fourth lockdown on May 27.

“And what we’re seeing now is those people lining up for inspections throughout the school holidays,” he says.

“A lot of those people were coming in this direction anyway, so they’re combining a holiday with looking at some properties.”

Mr Annesley says each time there has been a lockdown in Victoria or in parts of Sydney; he has seen a spike in enquiries from those areas.

“Sometimes, it’s people we’ve been speaking to for a long time, who simply move their plans to relocate forward,” he says.

“The COVID experience has been life-altering for many people and forced them to look inwards and think ‘what do I really want and what is important for my family’ and each time there is a lockdown, we do see a lot of activity up here.”

Callum Jones from Real Estate Port Douglas says he has seen a jump in Victorians looking to relocate to Port Douglas since November last year, as popular sea-change destinations like Byron Bay and Noosa becoming increasingly busier.

“They’re telling us that it’s too busy for them there now. They can’t get a car park, and they can’t get into restaurants,” he says.

“It’s a lot quieter and laidback in Port Douglas. It’s probably got the same vibe that Noosa perhaps had 10 years ago.”

While Mr Jones says he typically sees a spike in enquiries from Victorians from late May onwards, when the weather starts getting colder, this year he is seeing those enquiries translate into sales.

“I’d say about 80 to 85 per cent of our enquiries are coming out of Victoria,” he says. “That’s pretty typical because of winter. But this year, what we are finding is that people aren’t just enquiring now and buying later; they are actually transacting now.”

He says the increased urgency from Victorians to relocate north is putting upward pressure on prices in the region.

“What we find now is that we have multiple buyers for every property, and that is pushing up prices. We weren’t seeing that two or three years ago or even a year ago. There was always the interest and people looking and buying but not with competition.”

He said a large portion of the interest in properties in and around Port Douglas is coming from the Mornington Peninsula.

“We are getting a lot of enquiries from people who have places down on the Peninsula who are telling us they are sick of being locked down and held prisoner.

“They are also telling us that it’s getting busier down there and a hassle to get to, so they’re cashing out of some of those places that have seen big price increases and are looking to come to Port.”

The latest internal migration figures from the ABS, released in May, show Queensland gained the most people from net interstate migration – up 9800 – over the December 2020 quarter, while Victoria lost the most – down 6500.

Victoria also had the largest change in net migration, from a loss of 3700 people in the previous quarter to a loss of 6500 people in the December 2020 quarter.

This was a result of departures, which were  17,100  in the September 2020 quarter and  25,000 in the December quarter, increasing more than arrivals, which were 13,400 in September and 18,500 in December.

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