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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Soaring house prices push locals out of the market

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Locals had expected the auction of the five-bedroom house in the hills outside Lennox Head to be a well-contested affair.  

But the events that unfolded raised eyebrows among even the most experienced real estate watcher. 

Semi-retired real estate agent and developer Graham Dunn. Photo supplied.

Straight out of the gate the opening bid for 17 Fieldcrest Drive was a cool $1.5 million – $100,000 over the reserve.

That bid immediately knocked some of the 10 registered bidders out of the running. 

But it didn’t stop there.

When the hammer finally fell, the selling price was $1.841 million – way over the reserve and far above the median price for that part of Lennox.

Dramatic though it may have been, the auction’s outcome was far from an isolated event.

According to local real estate agents, and data from Regional Australia Insights, the Byron Shire and surrounds is experiencing an unprecedented spike in demand, sending prices soaring into the stratosphere and creating a desperate shortage of rental accommodation, leaving a growing number of people without a home.

‘I’ve been in this business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it’, said semi-retired local real estate agent and developer Graham Dunn.

‘COVID-19 has made people realise there’s a lot more to life than making money in a big office and living in a flash apartment in the city’.

‘And because everyone’s realised they can work from Zoom now, that’s what they’re doing.’

While the new owner of 17 Fieldcrest Drive is a long-term local, The Echo has received numerous reports of cashed-up buyers from Sydney and Melbourne taking a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude to buying properties in the Shire.

This includes making offers on properties on the basis of a quick video tour conducted by an agent with an iPhone.

‘I’ve heard of 14 properties being sold, site unseen, to buyers via video-link,’ Mr Dunn said. ‘Talking to agents in Lennox, Ballina, Byron, they’re all doing the virtual tour.’

Others are offering way over the asking price to secure a Northern Rivers home, leaving first home-buyers in the dust.

Further evidence of the interest in local real estate is the incredible popularity of online listings in towns such as Bangalow.

Once barely a blip on the national real estate radar, Bangalow’s soaring popularity saw it become the most in-demand regional town in the country in 2020. 

On average, Bangalow’s listings averaged 11,451 views each on a multitude of real estate websites this year. 

The spike in demand from outside buyers, along with the arrival of peak Airbnb season, has sucked yet more properties out of the long-term rental market.

Some in the real estate industry have described the situation as ‘desperate’, with up to 60 people showing up for rental inspections in the Byron Shire, and up to 30 queuing to see homes in Lennox and Ballina.

‘People can’t get rentals anywhere – not in Ballina, not in Alstonville, and definitely not in Byron,’ local Greens MP Tamara Smith said. 

‘People who’ve bought houses from a video – they’re not planning to move here for four or five years.

‘If the owner is rich enough, the house will probably stay empty until they’re ready to move up, or they’ll just put it on Airbnb.

‘We need real incentives to encourage long-term rentals, and we need to have the 90-day cap on Airbnb in Byron that we were promised, but which the state government has now reneged on’.

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  1. So sick of hearing this “locals priced out call”.
    Who are selling all these properties
    Ahhh that would be locals.
    And they are all asking for as much as they can get while snarling “it’s not like it used to be”.
    Get real , show me another city/tourist hotspot where prices stay the same for ever.
    It’s pretty simple, it’s supply/demand.
    Not many houses, beautiful lifestyle area, Heaps of people and little if any development = hi price

    It’s not an area for affordable housing. Never will be.
    Be a little aspirational and work hard and you could possibly get into the market rather than standing around waiting for a handout.

    Don’t know many people that can afford to live where their parents lived. You’ll need to pay someone’s parents a premium for that.

    It would be nice to think we could all live in an idyllic place for a low rent but that’s just unrealistic in our society right now.

    Merry Xmas all

    • It wasnt unrealistic 30 years ago but it is now? The problem is entirely by design. There are a million ways house prices could have stayed affordable but our country is little more than a ponzi finance system. Why is house price inflation not the main component of the inflation figures the reserve bank uses to calculate interest rates? Its the most expensive item there is and of most impact to society. In years where house prices rose by 5% we should have had big increases in interest rates. In fact it should have been impossible for those 5% rises to even occur. That is just one measure. Add in the distortions of negative gearing, rampant population growth, loose lending, bail outs to banks when they get in wrong, first homeowner bribes, etc etc etc. It been a completely avoidable disaster for our society. And literally nothing Byron can do about this, this is all about national capital city prices and how enormously overpriced they are.

  2. Plenty of ex dairy farms around. Just zone and build three story apartments and high rises along the coast and in the hinterland as far as the eye can see. Simple. Muzzle the rich NIMBYs and house our population along the coast where it will be a bit cooler in future.

  3. In the coming years because of the soaring house prices their will undoubtedly be more homeless people and poverty ..than the country can has seen before..


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