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Broome’s ‘tin shed with lattice’ in very high demand

PROPERTY prices in the historic pearl of the north, Kimberley holiday resort of Broome are soaring through the roof as Perth’s idle rich seek a winter retreat.

In the past two years prices for the laid-back Broome style of architecture described by one developer as an ‘aesthetic tin shed with lattice’ have rocketed to an all time high.

Two years ago the $180,000 cost of a substantial Perth house, land and double garage would comparatively have purchased a nice but modest traditional older style house in Broome built of corrugated iron, with two or three beds and ‘potential.’ Around $140,000–$160,000 would still have secured a decent livable pad.

Now that is virtually impossible.

The Broome average house price jumped from $200,000 to $240,000 in the past year alone, largely ending the hope of digging out that cheapie little weekender.

It is a spiral that has not stopped the wealthier young 50-something, semi-retired professionals from down south rushing to invest and join the cliquey, fun seeking lifestyle of the growing Broome ‘ex-pat set’ who spend six months of each year enjoying the idyllic, near perfect temperatures of a tropical Kimberley winter.

The well-heeled social crowd who are choosing the popular old pearl diving town as their second home are quick to snap up new residential two to three bedroom easy-care security town-house style properties or bungalows with pool, in new developments close to Cable Beach for anything between $317,500 to $375,000.

Broome property developer Kirsten Von Homeyer of JHC said the fundamental increase had been land.

“Your dollar would have bought you a much different abode two years ago than it would now,” Ms Von Homeyer said.

She said it was sometimes hard to explain to potential buyers that the high value of traditional Broome style has proved for years to ideally suit the harsh cyclonic climate.

In addition, building costs in a place as remote as Broome were almost doubled due to transport costs and essentials such as cyclone proofing with extra steel and double concrete, and air conditioning.

The newest most sought after addresses on the property market for southern buyers who want to winter in the Kimberley have the key ingredients: a location close to the beach, tennis courts and the ‘Cable Beach Club’, plus a drive-in garage for their 4 WD, with security and low maintenance.

For instance, the upmarket Cascades at Sunset Park has an asking price from $317,000 to $340,000.

There are still one or two cheapies available, with a range of 1-2-3 bed apartments starting at $140,000.

“When people look at these prices they soon realise the rents are commensurate – rising 5 to 6 per cent per annum – a great deal faster than down south. So if you structure your investment not only do you have a high rental return but sensational capital growth,” said Ms Von Homeyer.

The popular Roebuck Estate was started three years ago to cater for young families on low to middle incomes, living in tiny rented properties but unable to afford Cable Beach. It is now a sprawling development of attractive well-designed suburban housing set amid landscaped gardens with school and community amenities.

The world famous Cable Beach area is still the most popular among the town’s 25,000 a year visitors but there too prices have risen, according to Tony Hutchinson of Hutchinson Real Estate.

“What you could get for $250,000 12 months ago now generally we are looking at $300,000,” Mr Hutchison said.

On the other hand that can be rented out for between $400 to $450 a week. And, he predicts, the shortage of rental properties in Broome this wet season signals there may soon be more rent rises to come.

A three-bed /two baths townhouse in Broome’s other prestigious best address, The Catalinas overlooking the incomparable views of Roebuck Bay, is also on the market now at $390,000.

Of course, the only really prestigious address to have if you care about such things is an original Pearling Master’s residence in Old Broome with wooden shutters, deep verandahs and jarrah floors. You won’t find one – not the real thing, the locals hang on to them jealously, but if you did you would be looking at upwards of $500,000.

Broome’s property boom riding on the back of around $80 million in public development in the past four years including two major shopping centres, a big modern new hospital, new Shire offices opened last month by the Premier, and six major tourist accommodation sites is driven by a healthy mainly younger population growth of up to 7 per cent per year.

In the financial year, Broome Shire Council’s total building approvals increased by 20 per cent.

Broome’s electricity needs will be supplied by a gas-fired power station, even though most Kimberley residents wanted a tidal power station based in Derby. The WA Government has allowed a trial tidal power station to be set up but is relying on a gas-fired power station.

Tidal power proponent Peter McCumstie has been chosen to run as the WA National Party’s candidate for the Kimberley at the next state election.

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