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September 13, 2022 by ash

Why Hervey Bay has become a real estate hotspot

The once quiet retirement and whale watching haven is surging ahead with a thriving real estate market and the chance to still bag a bargain with city cash gap.

For decades the seaside city of Hervey Bay has been trying to outrun a politically-born reputation as the pretty but slow-paced home of “the newlyweds and the nearly-deads”. In recent months however, the whale watching capital has been rewriting its story with a storming property market and a swath of major developments including the region’s first two high-rise buildings. The housing market around the Bay has become especially tight with people in lockdown ravaged states crossing the border to escape the big cities. They are finding bargains, too; median prices among Hervey Bay’s suburbs are between $130,000 to $200,000 cheaper than the average Brisbane price of about $600,000, according to CoreLogic data.

This has been buoyed by the Fraser Coast Regional Council slowly distancing itself from its reputation for prohibitive development application processes and given the green light to major projects including a residential tower in the city centre, a harbour-front resort which will transform the marina precinct where whale watching boats depart, and a multimillion-dollar retail showroom development driven by the Spotlight Group. Even the site of Vic Hislop’s iconic Hervey Bay Shark Show is currently under contract after six years on the market. The end result has been a market where real estate agent’s phone lines are running hot with some homes across the Bay selling before even making it to market or site unseen.

Hervey Bay REIQ chair Kim Carter of Carter Cooper Realty has been selling homes for 21 year and has never seen anything like it. “We saw the peak of the housing boom in between 2004 and 2008 and it’s nothing compared to what it is now,” she said.

“Stock is very limited and competition is tough, but a lot of agents have been here a long time and selling, our phones are running red hot all the time.” Ms Carter said while house prices were estimated to have risen by about 20 per cent around the Bay, buyers were still getting value for money. “I think affordability number one, people can see value for money being in the Bay lifestyle and it’s just outside that bubble that seems to go into lockdown all the time, so far we’ve been pretty safe” she said.

“We’re not only getting buyers from Sydney and Melbourne, younger ones buying on the Gold Coast and Brisbane are then moving because they feel like it’s getting too busy (there). “When you look at the size of the land and location compared to others, it is still value for money. “We’ve got good hospitals here too, people in Bargara have to go to Bundy, people in Rainbow Beach to Gympie and we have that in the Bay. “We have that new shopping centre that’s been approved as well, it’s still evolving all the time which is great.” Long-time local developer Glen Winney, managing director of Win Projects and Fraser Coast Property Association President, agreed the market had reach a level previously unheard of. “I’ve never seen it like this, and I’ve been here for 40 years,” Mr Winney said.

“They’re selling houses for $1 million down there, and buying them for $500,000-$700,000 here,” Mr Winney said. Half a dozen or so properties were being bought sight unseen each month, he said. There were still some parts of the market that held to the idea of inspecting something in person before taking the financial plunge. “The older (demographic in the) market still want to see (the properties),” Mr Winney said. His own major development, The Springs at Nikenbah, has already sold 450 lots with another 100 on the way in the next stage.

There had been “three or four-to-one” interest in the lots, he said, with a long list of registered interest even with titles not expected until August next year. This was going to add to a Fraser Coast property market that was already up almost 20 per cent in the past decade. Unfortunately the growth – which Mr Winney said was expected to deliver another 40,000 people into the Fraser Coast over the next 20 years – came with trapdoors state and regional leaders needed to pay attention to before they opened up. Improved water, sewerage, and road infrastructure was essential and could not wait. “They need to be doing it now,” Mr Winney said.

He pointed to plans flagged to improve the Hervey Bay CBD, saying roads had to be central ahead of any growth as the infrastructure right now “isn’t ready for it”.

A lot of developers were already making this investment as part of their projects and trying to claim the credit back from the council, Mr Winney said. Doing this did made it harder for them to bankroll their projects, though. The thriving property market was also placing a critical squeeze on those who could least afford it. “There needs to be more lower cost social housing because its pushing poorer people out of the market,” Mr Winney said. Hospitals and health services were going to be placed under growing pressure, too. “With these booms, governments have got to jump on board,” Mr Winney said. If not they, risked being left to play catch up, because the boom was not going to stop soon. The market was already thriving even before Victorian and New South Wales residents began taking an interest in it, Mr Winney said. Now they had joined the hunt, accounting for “about 20-30 per cent” of the market, a second surge was coming once those state’s lockdowns ended around Christmas.