Bega property market playing 'catch-up' to Sydney bubble | Special report

THE median Sydney house price broke the million-dollar barrier this month.

Domain’s quarterly report has shown a jump in the median house price of almost $200,000 in the past year, including an 8.4 per cent increase to $1,000,616 just in the June quarter.

“It’s the highest rate of growth since the 1980s,” a Domain senior economist said. 

But how does spending big in the city compare with prices on the Far South Coast?

Upward pressure is being felt in the Batemans Bay market as Sydneysiders cash out and head to the coast, and Eden has been identified as the place to go for stunning bargains.

Meanwhile, Bega real estate agents say the town is “playing catch-up” to the rest of the market.

Whether it’s a waterfront home or family house plus an investment property, you’ll get a whole lot more on the South Coast for the money you’ll spend in Sydney.

However, is the local market more easily accessible to metropolitan buyers than first time home buyers of the Bega Valley?

ALASDAIR MCDONALD and ALBERT MCKNIGHT investigate.

PROPERTIES on the Far South Coast are becoming a favourite for ageing metropolitan couples looking to put their feet up and enjoy their retirement with views over the region’s pristine Pacific Ocean.

“There are more people coming out of Sydney and Canberra getting out of the city and retiring,” Fisk and Nagle sales representative Michael Sturgess said from his Bega office.

“A three bedroom, one bath at 57 Upper Street sold for $275,000, and a four bedroom one bath sold for $319,000 at 270 Auckland Street.

“Although I did sell a property listed at around a million dollars in Bermagui recently.”

Partner at LJ Hooker’s Bega office Simon Owens said that while the strongest market in Bega were houses in the $250 000 to $300 000 range, properties in Tarraganda were also becoming popular.

“A four bedroom property with four bedrooms and two bathrooms at 104 Corridgeree Rd in Tarraganda sold for $600 000 in February this year,” he said. 

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey recently advised metropolitan first home buyers to find a job that “pays good money” to enter into a market that rose 12.4 per cent in 2014, and has a median price of more than $900,000.

However, what is the property market like for a first home buyer in a region such as the Bega Valley? 

A region that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2011 had an average annual wage and salary income of just under $39,000. 

What will $900,000 get you on the South Coast?

What will $900,000 get you on the South Coast?

Mr Sturgess said rising property prices on the Far South Coast were not “stretched” beyond where they should be, but shifting towards the market norm.

“Bega has always been low, we’re just catching up to the rest of the market,” Mr Sturgess said.

“I’ve sold eight houses in the last month and we’re selling more than we’re listing at the moment because we have so many buyers waiting.

“I sold a property with three bedrooms and one bath on Koolgarra Drive in Bega for $300,000 before it was even online.”

Tathra Beach Real Estate’s Mick Tarlinton said the bottom end of the market, or houses from $300,000 to $450,000 had jumped 10 to 15 per cent, middle range properties are now selling well, while top end properties around the Sydney mean price were selling very slowly.

“We’ve sold a four bedroom, two bath with a double garage at 89 Bay St for $625,000, a three bed, two bath at 45 Wildlife Drive for $520,000, one at Riverview Crescent for $525,000, one at Stafford Crescent for $660,000 and one out at Thompsons Drive for $585,000,” he said.

Bermagui Real Estate principal Gary Cotterill said the median house price in the Bermagui region for May was $416,000, and at the top end a house could go for as much as a few million dollars.

He said house prices around the area had only increased about 10 per cent in the past two years.

Mr Cotterill said it was also getting harder to find houses in the lower-price category of under $500,000, as people are regularly buying a cheaper house to renovate and then put on the market for an increased sale price.

Bermagui’s Julie Rutherford Real Estate sales consultant Mick Butterfield said median sale prices were at around $380-400,000 for his agency.

Mr Butterfield said the agency’s most expensive house sold this year was one for $1,095,000 near Bears Beach in Bermagui.

He said that while most sale prices were still around 2006 levels, they may have slightly increased in the past few months by only a few percentage points.

According to Mr Butterfield, the problem is one of supply with not many houses in the Bermagui region priced under $500,000.

He said most properties are selling in the $600-900,000 price range, pushing towards that Sydney median of just over a million dollars.

Head south for bargains

IN INNER-CITY Sydney, buyers can’t jump on the housing ladder for much less than $1million, which is a figure almost unheard of in our region.

 “We only have one property over $1million on our books,” Chris Wilson from Eden’s Chris Wilson Real Estate said. 

“And that’s a cliff-top half-acre property on Yule St, Eden, with an in-ground swimming pool, four bedrooms, and views of the Pacific Ocean.”

Another way to look at the picture is from rock-bottom. 

Flicking through the portfolios of the three leading Eden agencies - Chris Wilson Real Estate, Eden Realty, and In-House Real Estate - the cheapest land in Eden at time of writing was a residential block for $95,000 boasting ocean views, while the cheapest house was $218,000 with three bedrooms, close to the town centre.

“$218,000 wouldn’t get you anything in Bondi. It wouldn’t even get you a studio apartment,” an agent from the Century 21 real estate agency in Bondi, who requested anonymity, reported curtly. 

“The last three-bedroom home I sold in this area was in Bronte, for $2.9million.

“The building was 80 years old, run-down, with no views.” 

Just finding a “home” for your car is expensive in Sydney, with many city folk forced to rent car-parking space for an average amount of $80 per week, or almost $4000 per year. 

And that’s without ocean views. 

Batemans Bay the place to be

GAYLE Ferrier, licensed conveyancer at Batemans Bay-based South East Coast Conveyancing, said the Eurobodalla real estate market is already seeing the effects of Sydney’s high property prices.

“We do seem to be seeing people selling in Sydney and coming down here,” she said.

“With the money that would buy an average home up there they can get something great here and also have enough left to have a good quality of life.”

LJ Hooker Moruya licensee Janet Donnelly said the effects of the high Sydney prices are being strongly felt in the Eurobodalla.

“Never in the past have we had as much activity from Sydney buyers wishing to relocate to our area,” she said.

“They are looking at property priced $700,000 and up, either coastal or acreage, and also investors with units from $110,000 to houses around $300,000.

“This has opened our market, previously heavily reliant on Canberra.”

Elders Batemans Bay agent John Haslem gave examples of what a typical Sydney home price would buy in the Eurobodalla.

“There’s a very nice waterfront home in Malua Bay for $870,000, a cliff-top four-bedroom home in North Malua Bay and a home on five acres at Long Beach,” he said.

“You can get a four-bedroom 5000 square metre home here for the price of a two bedroom unit in Sydney’s North Shore.”