Secret NSW celeb hotspot sparks housing boom
Byron Bay locals joke that the millionaires are annoyed with the billionaires for buying up all the property in the area.
Some claim the prices have rocketed 600 per cent, though more realistic experts estimate the market has risen around 15 per cent in some areas and up to 40 per cent in others.
Those increases are this year alone. Hot property is obviously beachfront and also hinterland.
It is cashed up executives and business leaders who are pushing the prices up, locals and real estate agents say.
Belle Property Byron Bay/Lennox Head owner Braden Walters and real estate agent Brad Rogan describe the booming market as "white hot, not just red hot".
"There is a high demand, you can't stop people from wanting to live here," former Sydney agent Walters said. "Because the corporate climate has changed in bigger cities now, people are having to work remotely and if they are going to work remotely they are going to do it from Byron or the region and fly back to Sydney or Melbourne every month. It is the upper executives that don't have to be in the office anymore so they run their businesses from here."
Even before COVID-19, bigger companies like Split Payments and TripADeal began setting up companies in Byron's new industrial estate. But it is COVID-19 that has driven the market this year.
Initially, during the first wave of the pandemic, locals described Byron Bay as a ghost town but as restrictions eased and city dwellers looked for alternatives to working from home, the property market took off dramatically.
The rental market is so hot that agents estimate they get around 60 applications per property. For the first time Walters can remember, they have an extensive waiting list for rentals.
Those willing to pay a premium win - and it is the same in the sales market.
"Stock levels and rental levels are so low that people are competing," Rogan said. "It is not normal. People are paying a year upfront, they are paying a premium to get what they want."
Additionally, two major TV productions - Nicole Kidman's Nine Perfect Strangers and drama Eden - and feature film Bosch & Rockit - saw large batches of rental properties snapped up to house cast and crew.
"It is all COVID and the new corporate climate that is taking place," Walters explained. "Post COVID it has just ramped up massively. Everything stalled in March and April, nothing happened for a month or so then it took off. You also get a bit of keeping up with the Joneses. People aren't holidaying overseas, they are not spending a fortune on a holiday, they might as well buy a holiday house in Byron that they can rent out when they are not here. Coronavirus was the catalyst for all of this."
he acreage market in the hinterland is even more sought after than houses in Byron Bay itself. Properties range from the hundreds of thousands in outlying suburbs and small towns to $20 million in exclusive suburbs like Wategos Beach.
"It is that hinterland stock that provides privacy and a bit of exclusivity," Walters said. "The outskirt suburbs of Byron, we're seeing around 15 per cent increase on the year and we are only three quarters of the way through. There's nothing to rent so they buy. These are four or five million dollar properties."
Businessman Johnny Carter is one local vendor - he is getting ready to part with his five-bedroom three-bathroom Belongil home in a bid to capitalise on the current market.
He bought the home in 2014 for $1.6 million and is looking at a sale of between $4.5 million and $5 million. He currently uses the house as his work headquarters and home but has previously rented it out to the likes of British royal Zara Phillips.
"It has been a difficult decision," Carter said.
"The market is hot. It is a really difficult decision because it is not all about money but by the same token, I am not an idiot to think that you don't want to push the envelope too much.
"We have had significant growth here and I could maybe position myself and be able to move myself maybe a bit quicker on the chess board if I was to sell. I don't really want to sell if I am honest but I am okay to turn the chapter over at the right price."
Ballina Airport, about 25 minutes from Byron township, is running at almost full capacity with Sydney-siders escaping north for mini-breaks.
Hotels and other short-term rentals are almost booked out.
"They are widening the runway to take bigger planes," Walters said. "That is why the corporates are able to base themselves here. The good thing about this location is that everything is 15 minutes to everything else. Imagine living somewhere with no traffic lights?"
Some locals are outraged over the price increases, arguing affordable housing should be established to ensure they can stay living in the township.
Walters pointed out that locals who own property have also won out in the exploding market.
"Everyone has gained from this increase," he said. "It can also just as quickly come backwards as it can go up. It is a fair and open market, you take the good with the bad. If you want to live in the centre of Byron and you are worried about people pricing you out, it is the same thing we've argued in Sydney for more than 20 years over affordability. You just could look five minutes down the road and then all of a sudden your million bucks buys you twice as much."
Originally published as Secret NSW celeb hotspot sparks housing boom