Pandemic fears haven’t shaken Ballarat housing market

PRPTY360 | November 17, 2020

DESPITE the myriad of social and economic changes that has occurred throughout the pandemic, Ballarat’s housing market continues to stand strong.

Whether people are investing in the region because of the lifestyle, housing affordability or job re-location, industry professionals have been noticing the area’s consistent growth for years.

According to industry figures, Ballarat’s house prices rose by 9.7 per cent to a median of $395,000 just last year and jumped 38.6 per cent over five years.

One Agency director Shani Stevens said that due to COVID-19, the supply shortage of houses on the market is keeping rates up and continuing the economic growth in the sector.

“It’s a real seller’s market at the moment because there’s a lot of demand,” she said.

“People don’t want to make any life changing decisions right now which has slowed the supply and kept the prices up.

“The COVID crisis is playing into the hands of regional Victoria in a way because the idea of working remotely has gone from a fantasy to a reality.”

The forecast completion of the GovHub for early 2021 which is set to bring 600 jobs from metropolitan areas to Ballarat is a factor for the rise in inquiries from Melbourne buyers.

Not only does this demand hold prices up, but Ms Stevens said large scale commercial projects like this are a great way to decentralise workers into regional areas.

“There is still a really good level of inquiry and a lot of it is coming from out of town,” she said.

“The GovHub will be a really good model for other large businesses that can work in a decentralised model and come to a regionalised setting.

“They save so much money and if they don’t have to pay those exorbitant CBD rates, why would they?”

Although property prices have stayed stable throughout the pandemic and are looking to continue that way in the future, some industry professionals have noted that buying behaviour has changed.

Harcourt’s real estate agent Tim Menz said although the prices are stable, housing supply is the driest he has seen it over the last decade.

“Because of COVID, some people are sitting on their hands and others might even be worried about putting their house up for sale and having strangers look through their home,” he said.

“Normally 40 per cent of sales would be to investors and currently it’s at 10 per cent so it seems like they’ve disappeared out of the market.

“Although it’s a little bit different right now the housing market in Ballarat is still strong.”

Rumours of a market crash have been circulating since the beginning of the pandemic and as we enter the second round of stage three restrictions, some experts are bracing for the fall.

Domain economist Trent Wiltshire said regional areas within a couple of hours of Melbourne will face a softer market over the next year as prices moderate in metropolitan areas.

“What happens in Melbourne will likely affect regional towns,” Mr Wiltshire said. “The downturn spreads outwards.”

However, some industry professionals a little closer to home are disregarding the possibility of a dramatic downturn here in Ballarat.

Mr Menz said that although we might experience a little dip in the market, it won’t have a huge impact when people decide to resell.

“It’s going to have to depend on what happens to the wider economy, there’s been people saying there’s going to be a housing crash for the last 10 years and it hasn’t happened,” he said.

“No-one knows but at this point in time the housing industry in Ballarat is as strong as it’s ever been.”

Although the future of the industry remains unclear, director at Ray White Ballarat, Phillip Lee, is one of many experienced professionals looking forward with optimism.

Mr Lee said as we re-enter stage three lockdown, there’s no reason for us to expect to see prices spiral.

“The median for the June quarter showed Ballarat went up nearly one per cent during the period of stage three restrictions,” he said.

“It’s still business as usual, a strong market and the only thing that has really changed is the way we conduct open houses.

“There’s no reason to see it being any different to last time except for maybe the limitations on Melbourne buyers coming to Ballarat but we don’t know much about yet.”

With the help of the first homeowners and builders grants, some buyers are finding buying a property more attainable than ever before.

Right now, if you’re in a position to buy or sell, Mr Lee said that waiting for a change in the market is never the answer.

“Don’t try to time it because I’ve seen people wait for a crash and pay more months later,” he said.

“You can get home loans for just over two per cent, so it’s a good time to buy from an interest rate point of view.

“If you look at the Ballarat properties over the last 20 to 30 years, it’s a very resilient and stable market and whether it’s now or later, it’s always a good place to invest.”

Written by Ruby Staley -  Times New Group Ballarat