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Regional real estate boom as Geelong almost tops Melbourne

Victoria’s official real estate report card for 2020 has revealed one of the state’s biggest years for property deals on record, with an estimated $120.5bn in sales despite the pandemic.

The figure in the Valuer-General’s Guide to Property Values released this week is the third highest ever recorded, and includes an unprecedented $25bn boom in the country.

Soaring demand from Melburnians looking for a sea or tree-change drove the state’s smaller cities into overdrive.

The City of Greater Geelong’s whopping $4.72bn in transactions came within $160m of toppling municipal Melbourne’s $4.86bn.

And with demand for regional areas still high, a booming Geelong might come close to trumping the City of Melbourne again this year, according to economic research executive manager Cameron Kusher.
“But that also speaks to the weakness of the inner-city apartment market in Melbourne, and the hit to retail,” Mr Kusher said. Real Estate Buyers Agent’s Association Cate Bakos said Geelong’s success wasn’t just a “knee-jerk reaction to Covid-19” and would continue for years.

“It’s a result of the city having a renaissance, being so close to Melbourne and having an affordability perception,” Ms Bakos said.

Across metropolitan Melbourne, $81.795bn in real estate changed hands in the year, the lowest figure since 2013, the figure falling as transaction numbers dropped away during lockdowns.

The Mornington Peninsula emerged as the state’s most valuable market, with more than $5bn changing hands — mostly for homes.

Mr Kusher said it had been going “gangbusters” throughout the pandemic and was the strongest market “by any of the metrics we use”, and while it was technically classified as Melbourne many of those living and buying there would view it as a regional escape.

Ballarat and Bendigo property deals totalled at $1.69bn and $1.489bn respectively.

A professional homebuyer, Ms Bakos gave up inspecting homes that had already been listed online in Ballarat during 2020.

“If you were going for a property on the internet already, it would probably be sold before you got up there,” she said.

And with regional cities soaring, cashed-up Melburnians were even taking a punt on tiny regional towns — splashing up to $100,000 on homes without ever going to inspect them.

Matt and Sharnie McAuliffe, with Noah and Oscar, are preparing to sell their Lara family home after watching the region’s property prices boom.

“People in lockdown stayed home and online, so we saw people research little itty-bitty towns and they were willing to have a punt buying a cheap home ($50,000-$100,000) if rental returns were there, knowing there might not be long-term growth,” Ms Bakos said.

This was likely behind a 9.1 per cent surge in the median price of a home in large regional Victorian towns, an 8.7 per cent lift for medium towns and a 9.5 per cent boon in small towns. Between the Melbourne and Geelong CBDs, Ray White Lara agent Matthew Wade-Taylor said things had “really kicked off” mid 2020.

His firm sold at least seven homes to locked-down Melbourne buyers after nothing more than a video inspection.

“And just this week I had someone call me after they got a knock on the door from a buyer who had missed out nearby,” Mr Wade-Taylor said.

Property prices in Geelong have boomed.

It’s proven a boon for savvy locals like Matt and Sharnie McAuliffe who bought a 2000sq m block of land for their next home in December, but used a long wait for the block to title to hold off listing their 10 Whistling Duck Drive, Lara, home for sale.

“We looked at a home just as the first lockdown came in … and that didn’t do all that well, but then it just took off,” he said.

“The market turned around and people wanted to get out to country Victoria.”

The market has since jumped even further, and they’re expecting Melbourne buyers to be among those sizing up the four-bedroom entertainer where they’ve raised kids Noah, 9, Oscar, 6, and their toy cavoodle Millie for the past 5.5 years.

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