High rental demand and property prices are music to the ears of landlords and property owners, but if you are looking for a place to live in Queensland at the moment, there is a good chance you are struggling to find what you are after.
The Real Estate Institute of Queensland reported that for the December quarter, 90 per cent of regional Queensland dipped to a new record low of just 0.575 per cent rental vacancy.
That means for every 10,000
rental properties, just 57 were available — and coastal parts of Queensland continued to report strong sales figures.
Professor Shaun Bond, from the University of Queensland Business School, said the housing pressure was driven by record interstate migration, the adoption of remote work arrangements and the return of hundreds of thousands of Australian expatriates.
Interstate migration 90pc above decade average
Heather Robertson moved to Cairns from Melbourne between lockdowns last year for the tropical lifestyle and reduced traffic of Far North Queensland.
“I actually visited Cairns two or three years ago on a holiday and as soon as I came here it just felt like home,” she said.
“I actually wanted to move in February/March last year, and I was a few days away from leaving for my road trip to come up here and the borders shut so I had to delay my departure, so I was just waiting in Melbourne with the rest of the world, with the rest of Australia, to see what the COVID situation was going to do.”
Ms Robertson finally moved in June, and sought to set up a healing business from her new home, but has found securing a property of her own to work from and live has been a challenge.
“I would love to live on my own, have my own two-bedroom place that I can work from and live in.
“Unfortunately that’s not a financial reality for me at the moment.”
A mass migration
Ms Robertson is one of many people who have decided to make the move north during the pandemic.
Research by Corelogic suggests more than 25,000 people have moved to Queensland during the past financial year, with the rate of interstate
migration last year 90 per cent above the decade average.
Professor Bond said remote work arrangements had made it possible for people to move away, and that many were choosing regional Queensland.
“People started to think about where they wanted to be, and to some extent if you aren’t required to go into the office, it can be much nicer being in a coastal location, Cairns, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, rather than being stuck in inner city Melbourne in a small apartment,” he said.
We’re getting this double whammy of people moving to Queensland but we’re also seeing there’s a lot of focus on people not being in capital cities, so people are
moving to regional areas, which is a reversal of the situation this time last year.
“We’re seeing both in terms of infrastructure and supply of available properties, that’s put a lot of demand on the rental markets as well as the purchase markets.
“People are trying to buy properties, in fact one of the things that’s pushing rental prices up is that many landlords have chosen to sell because the market is so strong that they’ve chosen this opportunity to sell their property, that reduces the supply of rental properties available.”
‘A transformative time’
Professor Bond said there is great opportunity for the population boosts to improve services in
“Will these regions have the amenities? And will they be able to increase their infrastructure to make it attractive for people to remain in these areas?” he said.
“There’s certainly the potential for extra business centres to develop around the state, and that could have a lasting impact if it sticks.
“This could be a very transformative time for regions.”
450,000 Aussies return during pandemic
Professor Bond said the other factor driving housing pressure was the number of Australians returning from overseas with the pandemic, and the small number leaving.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reports that more than 450,000 Australians returned since travel warnings were issued in March last year.
Business analyst Brad Thatcher moved to the United Kingdom 24 years ago and had been considering
moving home some time, but the idea became a reality during the pandemic.
Mr Thatcher, his wife and two children sold up their home in Essex before flying home to Australia in November and entering hotel quarantine.
Since they arrived back in Australia, the family has been
house hunting near Mr Thatcher’s family home on the Sunshine Coast and living with his sister in the meantime.
He said they had placed offers on multiple homes on the coast, but that none had been successful.
“Even when we were in quarantine we were looking at properties online, we were making some calls and it sort of became apparent that as soon as these properties were being listed, they were literally being sold and being taken off the market,” Mr Thatcher said.
“That’s the kind of things we’ve been having to deal with.”
The family’s possessions are expected to be delivered on Tuesday, three months after they left the UK, but they do not have a home to put them in yet.
Last June, the REIQ reported “absurd” growth in the Sunshine Coast property market, with the median
house price rising 1.7 per cent to $605,000, and similar growth is being seen on the Gold Coast.
Professor Bond said the Thatchers are likely competing against people in a similar position to themselves, given the number of returning Australians.
“When we think about what’s happening in Queensland, it’s not just the competition from buyers downsizing from Sydney or Melbourne, but it’s also people who have downsized from San Francisco or London as well,” he said.
Professor Bond questioned, with the imminent rollout of vaccines across Australia, whether the boom would continue.
“At the moment, while everyone is comfortable with Zoom a lot of meetings are conducted online now but two years from now, will there be that pressure to be back sitting around the table with your colleagues?” he said.
“You don’t necessarily want to be the only one on the video call when everyone else is sitting around the conference room.”