Rents set to soar

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Brookfield Estate, Margaret River.
Camera IconBrookfield Estate, Margaret River.

The Margaret River region’s reputation as a safe haven during COVID-19 is having a knock-on effect, with wealthy interstate buyers snapping up homes and rents surging due to a dire lack of affordable accommodation.

Realtors have reported a surge in cashed-up east-coast buyers looking for permanent holiday options while international travel is off the cards. A new Propertyology report this week predicted local rents could soar in regional centres like Margaret River because of shortages and high demand.

Acton South West Margaret River sales executive Brook Palmateer said there was huge interest in luxury homes from the corporate sector interstate and overseas.

“These people know COVID didn’t hit us too hard, and we’re seeing a lot of people looking to buy down here,” he said.

“In the Margaret River region, when you are in the $2 million-plus bracket, there is usually a limited number of buyers looking, but at the moment there are more buyers looking at the higher end in the South West.”

Mack Hall Real Estate South West’s Mitch Thorson reported a similar jump in interest. “The most interesting for me is the interest from high net-wealth people from the medical world,” he said.

“It’s a scenario that’s unfolded in the last few months that’s quite intriguing.”

The Propertyology report found the Margaret River region had a rental vacancy rate of just 0.4 per cent of available housing.

Head of research Simon Pressley said “sharp rent price rises are inevitable”.

“It’s not as if the coronavirus dropped thousands of extra dwellings from the sky,” he said.

Just Home Margaret River chairwoman Naomi Godden — a Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillor who has campaigned on housing affordability and homelessness — said the pressure on existing residents from lower socio-economic backgrounds was becoming apparent.

“Just Home is deeply concerned about reports of lack of rental vacancies in Augusta-Margaret River,” she said.

“We have observed local people with reasonable budgets experiencing difficulties securing a rental property.

“We are very concerned that local rental prices may increase as supply drops, which will make it even more difficult for residents on a low income to find secure housing.”

Dr Godden said housing stress and homelessness would “intensify” as government JobKeeper and JobSeeker allowances decreased next month.

She urged the WA Government to use stimulus measures to kickstart more social housing in regional areas and provide rental subsidies for low-income residents.

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