Regional property markets historically defy their economic downturns: Hotspotting's Terry Ryder

Regional property markets historically defy their economic downturns: Hotspotting's Terry Ryder
Regional property markets historically defy their economic downturns: Hotspotting's Terry Ryder

EXPERT OBSERVER

Sometimes economic upheaval can be the best thing that happens to a property market. Places afflicted by business closures and industry shutdowns often go into fightback mode and the end result is a net positive.

Newcastle since the closure of BHP in the late 1990s is a great example. So is Wollongong, a city where doom was forecast when Bluescope Steel was downsizing but which these days has a thriving local economy and growth property market.

And Geelong, which has had a number of blue-collar industries close but which has evolved into one of regional Australia’s strongest economies, with a property market which had led Victoria on price growth in the past two years.

In Adelaide, the former Mitsubishi car plant property has been re-purposed as a high-tech innovation precinct, a sector in which the SA capital leads the nation. More recently, the Holden manufacturing facility closed down but that too is being reinvented with modern creative industries.

Sometimes, this kind of supposed adversity can be the best thing that can happen in a local economy and its real estate market.

So now, to the surprise of many, we have resurgence in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, where the closure of coal-related industries was thought be the death knell for local towns. But, yet again, the opposite is true and now towns like Traralgon and Moe are shaping as the next to join Victoria’s regional property boom.

Yes, there’s a property boom sweeping through regional Victoria. Contrary to the theme of mainstream media, which has created the false impression of decline everywhere, there are thriving and rising markets across the nation – and regional Victoria is at the forefront of them.

Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is a market that many investors would avoid because many of its towns are down-market and the region has attracted mostly negative publicity suggesting economic decline.

But the reality is quite different from the media-driven perceptions. The Latrobe Valley is performing strongly and the real estate market is rising. It’s becoming the latest of the fightback markets of Australia.

Buyer demand has been slowly rippling eastward from Melbourne in the last few years. Sales activity in Cardinia Shire (Pakenham and Officer) and Baw Baw (Warragul and Drouin) has risen strongly, with big price growth. Now, it’s Latrobe City’s turn. 

The Latrobe Valley economy was impacted by the closure of coal-fired power stations but various levels of government have been directing resources to the region to boost the economy and maintain jobs. Numerous small projects to support small business and manufacturing are under way, schools and sporting complexes are being upgraded, a GovHub is being established and unemployment has fallen.

On a larger scale, the Defence Force is relocating its pilot training academy to nearby Sale, the local hospital is being redeveloped in a $217 million project, the Gippsland rail line is being duplicated in several sections and there are plans to establish an electronic car-making factory in the region.

This is drawing the focus from the traditional mining sector and steering Latrobe Valley in a new direction.

Latrobe City is recognised as one of Victoria’s four major regional centres along with Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. It is made up of four central towns – Churchill, Moe/Newborough, Morwell and Traralgon.

The City is the residential and commercial hub of a larger catchment of 262,000 people stretching across the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland region. Latrobe Valley is one of the most liveable regions in Victoria, known for its high-quality health, education and community services.

More commonly known for its energy production, the Latrobe region is also a heartland for agriculture, pastoral, papermaking and timber, supplemented by manufacturing and engineering.

Latrobe Valley is serviced by Victoria’s regional train network with V/Line train stations at Trafalgar, Moe, Morwell and Traralgon.

Regional Victoria is now the strongest market in Australian real estate. As the Melbourne boom subsides, regional markets are rising strongly.

Latrobe is a prime example: demand is rising in all four main towns. These markets are very affordable – Churchill, Moe and Morwell all have medians below $200,000. Traralgon, the biggest market with 620 annual sales, has a median house price of $290,000. 

Strong yields and low vacancies, both being hallmarks of a promising property market, are evident across Latrobe City. SQM Research data shows rents have generally risen in the last 12 months. The median rent in Morwell is $240, 8% higher than a year ago and 18% up on the rate of three years ago. Investors can expect rental returns around 6.8% in Churchill and Morwell, and 6.4% in Moe. 

The region can now offer a combination of low prices, low vacancies and high rental returns. 

Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au

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Terry Ryder

Terry Ryder

Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au.

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