AFTER a few years in the relative doldrums, the Hunter’s real estate market has bounced back with scores of Hunter suburbs recording double-digit growth last year.
New figures compiled for the Newcastle Herald by Australian Property Monitors show that, overall, property in Port Stephens recorded the strongest growth, climbing 9.6per cent last year.
Median sales prices climbed by 8.4per cent in the Newcastle area last year, 7.69per cent in Lake Macquarie, 6.2per cent in Cessnock and 4.1per cent in Maitland.
The mining downturn, though, made for tougher times in the Upper Hunter where median values dropped 8.7per cent in Singleton and remained reasonably stable in Muswellbrook.
Of note, the median house price at Newcastle’s Bar Beach climbed to a staggering $1.25million last year, almost 14per cent higher than the previous year. It was a similar tale in neighbouring Merewether where the median price climbed 18.7per cent, to a new median price of $810,000.
Incredibly, Morisset Park and Caves Beach both recorded median house price increases of more than 30per cent in 2013.
Such news is never good for those trying to enter the region’s real estate market, with first home buyers being pushed further west to find affordable entry-level prices.
But on the positive side, investors are flooding back to the market and agents are predicting the latest boom will open up more, and possibly cheaper, rental stock.
Australian Property Monitors senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson said the latest Hunter figures reflected the biggest annual rise since 2009, and they will likely continue to rise throughout 2014.
‘‘A solid economy will continue to keep the Newcastle housing market active throughout 2014 with the latest ABS unemployment rate falling to 3.8per cent in November,’’ Dr Wilson said.
‘‘The outlook for economic activity in other Hunter regions, however, remains problematic with jobless rates on the rise.’’
The Newcastle-Hunter divisional chairman of the Real Estate Institute of NSW, Wayne Stewart, said the strong figures were no real surprise, but the market’s strength was further reflected in new apartment projects in Newcastle.
‘‘Buyers are snapping up apartments off the plan,’’ Mr Stewart said.
‘‘In the Star Hotel project, 29 out of 31 apartments have already been sold, a couple of other projects have been completely sold out, all 19 are gone in the new Bolton Street project and I believe that more than half of the 150 apartments in [developer] Keith Stronach’s Arena project are already sold.
Domain Property spokesman Stuart Benson said the strong growth in the Port Stephens area was due largely to a booming Sydney market where median prices rose 13per cent last year.
‘‘The Sydney market is back,’’ he said, ‘‘and Sydney people are looking at retirement houses and investment properties, and the prices at Port Stephens are very attractive to them.’’
It wasn’t just the downturn in the mining industry that was driving down real estate prices in the Upper Hunter, analysts said.
Tony Charlesworth from Century 21 at Singleton said the impending completion of the major freeway extension project had also meant that many workers were now finishing up and leaving town.
‘‘But we’ve done very well up here for a long time,’’ Mr Charlesworth said.
‘‘We’re used to the cyclical nature of things here, because that’s the way the mining industry has always been.
‘‘A couple of years ago we were holding housing summits up here to attract developers. Now we have new developments happening everywhere.’’
Dr Wilson said house prices throughout Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter could be expected to rise by between 3 and 5per cent this year, but growth in the Upper Hunter would be more subdued.
HOUSE prices across the Hunter are rising, with more than 30 suburbs registering double-digit increases as the real estate market rebounds.
Bar Beach is the Hunter’s only million-dollar suburb, with the median price for a house reaching $1.25million last year, according to Australian Property Monitors figures – almost 14per cent higher than the previous 12 months.
And Bar Beach’s neighbouring suburb of Merewether was one of Newcastle’s biggest movers, with the median price climbing more than 18per cent to $810,000, while Merewether Heights increased by a similar rate to $741,000.
Across Newcastle, house prices increased 8.4per cent.
Port Stephens was the local government area with the strongest growth in the Hunter, climbing 9.6per cent, while Lake Macquarie (7.69per cent), Cessnock (6.2per cent) and Maitland (4.1per cent) also enjoyed solid growth.
But the mining downturn made for tougher times in the Upper Hunter, where median values dropped 8.7per cent in Singleton and remained reasonably stable in Muswellbrook.
Reports, Pages 4-5