Hotspots: Tree-changing retirees driving up property prices in Woodend

Hotspots: Tree-changing retirees driving up property prices in Woodend
Hotspots: Tree-changing retirees driving up property prices in Woodend

The Macedon Ranges town of Woodend is perhaps most famous for its close proximity to eerie Hanging Rock, but that has not spooked Melburnians seeking a lifestyle change, with strong house price gains over the past 12 months.

Location and demographics

Woodend is located about 70 kilometres north of Melbourne just off the Calder Freeway and forms part of a corridor of Macedon Ranges country towns, which starts with Gisborne and runs all the way to Bendigo.

Woodend had a population 0f 3,170 at the time of the 2006 census and is estimated to be home to 3,600 currently. It expected to reach about 5,000 residents by 2036, with nearly half (47%) of Woodend’s population expected to be 65 or older by this time, according to forecasts by the Macedon Ranges Shire Council.

“There will be considerable growth in small one- and two-person households for example, and a greater proportion of older people in the population,” says the council report.

The ageing population could result in an “increase in volunteerism and in vibrancy of community life”.

“However, it is a shift that requires appropriate resources, especially to meet the needs of the growing number of frail aged. Infrastructure, service and community planning also will need to consider the requirements of an ageing population. There will also be a need to ensure enough housing stock exists in Woodend that can meet the changing needs of its ageing residents,” says the report.

Key property data

Data compiled by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) shows that Woodend house prices grew by 8.2% in 2011 to a median of $595,000 and have risen 77% over the past five years.

This is better than regional Victoria, where the median house price increased by 3.6% over 2011 to $315,000 and by 27% over the past five years.

In comparison, the Melbourne median house price contracted by 1.8% to $540,383 in 2011, though prices are still up 46% over the past five years.

According to research by property investor group Investar, Woodend had the fastest-growing house prices in 2011, with the price of a four-bedroom house appreciating by 38% to $580,000

Woodend vs other country Macedon ranges towns and Melbourne

 

Median house price

Change over past year

Weekly rent

Gross yield

Woodend

$518,750

8.2%

$340

3.4%

Gisborne

$437,500

6.7%

$350

4.2%

Kyenton

$377,000

21.6%

$290

4%

Melbourne 

$465,000

-5.4%

*$340

3.5% (H)

4.3% (U)

Source: RP Data, *sourced from REIA

What the town has to offer:

A walk down the Woodend High Street reveals a modern rural village, with a mix of cafes, bookstores, expensive restaurants as well as a disproportionate number of real estate offices advertising properties for sale, most in rural settings.

Famous landmarks include the Holgate Brewhouse with its artisan beers, which stands in a restored 19th-century hotel and the 1920s Campaspe Country House on Goldies Lane, with its Edna Walling-designed gardens and natural bushland grounds.

Woodend’s most famous nearby landmark is the striking outcrop of rocks formed by ancient volcanic action known as Hanging Rock and the setting for the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay about a group of Victorian school girls who go missing while on a picnic, later made into an acclaimed film by Peter Weir.

There is a direct V-Line train service from Melbourne’s Southern Cross to Woodend, which takes just over an hour, while a commute along the Calder Freeway takes about 45 to 50 minutes.

Nearby schools include Braemar College and Woodend Primary. Supermarkets include Coles and an IGA.

Current state of the market

Local agent Peter Mussared from Town, Coast and Country Realty Macedon tells Property Observer he is getting a good level of enquiries at the more affordable end of the market – properties priced between $400,000 and $600,000 – but not as much interest for those at the higher end of town.

He says most interest comes from Melburnians looking for a lifestyle property within an easy commute to the city.

Mussared is currently selling this three-bedroom country home on Waterfalls Road in nearby Mount Macedon with a price tag of $465,000 targeted at first-home buyers, investors or “for those scaling down”.

“I have had 10 to 12 enquiries and two have come from investors. Most are from Melbourne buyers,” he says.

Mussared says the property could rent for around $370 to $380 per week, equating to a yield of around 4.2%.

According to the REIV’s Robert Larocca the growth in Woodend house prices is “part of a clear trend for above-normal prices for towns along a corridor north of the city, from Melbourne to Bendigo”.

Larocca says Woodend and other towns in the corridor have a lot more affordable options than what’s available in Melbourne

“Not every house is going to be that price but there are Melbourne-type house prices in that corridor ... and that really stands out when compared to many other parts of regional Victoria,” he says.

He also says the area has managed to retain its country charm despite its increasing popularity and has not gone down the route of sea-change beneficiaries like Torquay, which have responded to increased housing demand by developing “suburban-type homes”.

"I think part of the character and beauty of those towns along the Calder is that they still have very much that town feel about them,” says Larocca.

He expects house prices in the corridor to continue to rise beyond what is usually expected in regional Victoria.

"Location is critical in real estate and that's really obvious here, and I think you'll see them continue in strength over the coming years because all the things that make them popular and in demand at the moment are not going anywhere in a hurry."

The demand for housing in Woodend has prompted the release of 25 prime housing allotments on Washington Lane currently being market by Joan Gladman-Woodend. They allotments have an average land size of 600 square metres with prices ranging from $215,000 to $235,000.

Reasons to buy:

  • Affordable country living
  • Good transport connections to Melbourne
  • Town has retained country charm
  • Regular picnics at Hanging Rock

Reasons not to buy:

  • Investment in infrastructure required further down the line to manage growing and ageing population
  • An ageing population will not appeal to younger buyers.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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