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Recognising region’s long-term appeal

HOUSING prices in some South West property markets are growing by up to 18 per cent a year as towns in the region start to appeal as more than just holiday destinations.

Though the past 12 months have been quiet in the wake of the GST, real estate agents say the market has picked up and are anticipating a prosperous year.

In Margaret River, Stocker Preston principal Ken Preston said the start to the 2001/02 financial year had been the strongest for the past 10 years. Up the road in Dunsborough, White McMullen principal Joseph White said he had written more applications to the Foreign Investment Review Board in the past few months than he had in the past 11 years.

“All of a sudden the property market has moved from being WA only to global,” Mr White said.

Local real estate agents say the residential market is by far the strongest sector, particularly with the downturn in the region’s trademark industry, viticulture.

And while holiday houses are still a big market factor, more and more people are moving to the region on a permanent basis.

For the past three years, Busselton has been the fastest growing non-urban centre in Australia, with young families and empty nesters the driving force.

Busselton Land and Estate Agency principal Mike Laffare said younger homebuyers were opting for established homes in the town’s southern suburbs, while empty nesters were heading for the coast.

“The first homebuyers grant saw a lot of young buyers enter the residential market but most of them found it cheaper to buy established homes rather than build their own houses,” Mr Laffare said.

He said the average price of houses sold this year was $150,000.

Coastal locations were attractive to those who could afford the price tag, which was now inching closer and closer to $1 million.

“In Busselton the housing prices can be anywhere from $100,000 through to $600,000 and $700,000, although there is not much turnover of the houses at the top end of the scale,” Mr Laffare said.

“Geographe Bay Road is one of the top areas where people are spending upwards of $450,000 on a house, not including the land.

“There is one property there that will soon come on to the market at $1.2 million, which will be a record for residential property here.”

He said that, once established, the Port Geographe subdivision would provide upmarket suburb blocks that would sell for between $200,000 and $400,000.

In the Margaret River area the localities of Prevelly Park and Gracetown have enjoyed the higher property values.

Leeuwin Realty The Professionals principal Michael Richardson said the beachside location and the limited development opportunities in those areas meant existing properties rose in value by up to 18 per cent each year.

“Because it is now so difficult to get new developments near the beach, the property values in that area are going up at a rate of about 18 per cent each year,” Mr Richardson said.

“Some development mistakes have been made in the past and people are now very wary.”

He said the prices for some coastal properties would be more than $1 million, however there was more demand for properties around the $150,000 price bracket.

On the whole, while Dunsborough has not seen the same growth in property values, the prices for housing were slightly higher with the bulk of it falling between $200,000 and $400,000.

“Property values are rising at a rate of between five and 10 per cent a year but then people are pouring more and more money into their homes,” McMullen White principal Joseph White said.

“The market is very healthy in the $200,000 to $400,000 price range and has been for the past three years.”

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