Brisbane unit prices ease 3.7% but 17% wipe-out in Cairns and Whitsundays: REIQ

Unit, townhouse and villa prices in tourism-dependent Cairns and the Whitsundays have fallen more than four times the rate of decline in Brisbane over the year to March, according to the latest update from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).

The latest report has the Brisbane median unit price down 3.7% over this period to a median of $387,750, reflecting a state-wide trend of buyers snapping up properties at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

The report notes a “dramatic increase” in numbers of units sold between $250,000 and $350,000, with sales in this price bracket increasing 22%.

In Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, apartments, villas and townhouse prices have fallen 17% in the 12 months to March 2012 to a median price of $212,500.

In March 2011, the Cairns median unit price was $265,000

In the Whitsundays, unit prices are down almost 18% over the same period, falling from $345,000 to $285,000.

These results contrast starkly with sales figures in the mining boom town of Gladstone, where unit prices are up 10.4% to a median of $458,000 over the year to March.

The report notes that the Cairns’ unit market continues to struggle, with sales down 30%.

“Comments from various regional zone chairs, Cairns included, say that units are proving difficult to sell, as buyers are put off by the increased costs associated with owning a unit, such as body corporate fees, insurance levies and council rates.

"As such, buyers end up seeing more value in buying a house, with the ongoing servicing costs equalling that of a unit,” notes the REIQ.

REIQ chief exexutive Anton Kardash says the state-wide increase in more affordable unit and townhouse sales is being driven by demand from first-home buyers and investors, who often target properties at the lower end of the market.

‘‘About 19% of homes financed in Queensland are now being bought by first home buyers, which is the highest level of activity from first-time property buyers since 2009 when the first-home owners' boost was available.

‘‘Investors too are making a long-awaited return to the market, with more than 4,500 properties bought by investors in March this year. The 10-year average is 5,000 dwellings per month, so this is also the strongest level of activity from investors since early 2010,” he says.

The Brisbane satellite cities of Logan City and Redland City both experienced big falls in their median unit price with the REIQ attributing this to a “shift towards affordable stock”.

Logan City unit prices fell 8.9% to a median of $239,000, while the Redland City median unit price was down 14.3% to a median of $307,500.

“Woodridge in Logan saw an increase in sales – particularly for the sub-$250,000 bracket. In Redland, Cleveland sales were down, while more affordable sales in Capalaba were up," says the REIQ.

“Logan recorded the largest increase in sales activity for the southeast, with preliminary sales numbers nearly doubling that recorded over the previous quarter."

The Sunshine Coast was also the only major region in south-east Queensland to record a quarterly increase in its median, up 2.2% to $332,250. 

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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