With the NSW Government easing restrictions and paving the way for communities to move forward, the Examiner is taking a look at what Port Stephens needs to bounce back, both economically and socially, after the agitation of COVID-19. The Port’s Road to Recovery series aims to paint a picture of individual industries and social issues, how they have been impacted and what the future looks like for them – as told by those on the ground. This week the series begins with a look at the real estate industry.

Suggestions that property prices could fall by 30 per cent due to the effects of COVID-19 have been shot down by Jane Blair, with the Medowie real estate principal believing that will not be the case in Port Stephens which could actually be on the cusp of a mini boom.

Mrs Blair, the managing director of Curtis and Blair, said after an initial three week downturn in business when COVID-19 first hit Australia her office is now busier than ever with inquiries from buyers, which is why she does not believe there will be a drop in the market.

“If anything, I think we’ll see the market pick up and we’ll have a really good end to the year,” she said.

“The biggest issue we have at the moment is not enough stock. People are frightened to sell because of COVID-19. But because interest rates are so low at the moment, and if you’re not affected by COVID, it’s a bumper time to be buying.

“First home buyers are very active at the moment and they’re looking at Medowie. It’s a strong growth area. But as well as the first home buyers, we have people from Sydney who realise through COVID that they don’t need to live in the city to work.

“They can work from home and they want more space. We also have a strong rental market here, which is ideal for investors. What I think we’ll see now is a big shift, like what we did after the Global Financial Crisis. I think that a lot of people will take their money out of shares and put it into property.”

The Real Estate Institute of Australia has also shot down predictions that property prices could fall by 30 per cent, stating that “when supply decreases and demand remains that prices edge upwards”.

Mrs Blair said it was a relief that COVID-19 was not having a greater, negative effect on the market, particularly after a tough first quarter to 2019 due to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry which made it hard for buyers to get home loans and the state and federal elections when buyers and sellers traditionally “pull back” due to uncertainty.

Instead, the pandemic appears to be pushing people out of cities and into Port Stephens.

Tiffany Jeffery, a licensed sales associate at Curtis and Blair, said the office had been fielding inquiries from Sydney residents looking to make a tree change.

“I think now that a lot of us have adapted to working from home, people are thinking about making that tree change or sea change. We’ve had a lot of people from Sydney, Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains lately purchasing properties in the area,” she said.

“A lot of people want space, and the lifestyle, that living up here can give them. It’s also still so close to everything. We also have a lot of first home buyers from Newcastle or the Bay getting their foot in the door here in Medowie.”

The McCloy Group, which is responsible for building three residential communities, or 858 homes, in Medowie and Raymond Terrace, experienced a similar “cooling of the market” in the the three weeks when the pandemic hit and the nation went into lockdown but was once again fielding high numbers of inquiries for its homes.

The property development company has constructed The Bower in Medowie, Potter’s Lane in Raymond Terrace and is due to release The Gardens in Medowie on the market in July.

“The McCloy Group is true to its reputation of being in for the long haul, having been in the business for over 50 years we’ve seen a variety of challenges from the ’91 recession to the GFC and now COVID-19,” James Goode, senior project manager for the McCloy Group, said.

“The company is structured to be able to withstand these types of crisis that do come along and we want to assure current and future purchases that McCloy communities are a safe investment and we will always see our projects through to completion.

“With that being said, the wider real estate market has definitely felt some change with the impacts of COVID-19. For purchasers the health crisis brought uncertainty and with that comes the cooling of a market, people are more cautious in both buying and selling existing property.

“We did see a slow in the level of inquiry around the initial shutdowns across the region. However over a period of weeks when the transition to working from home or people had more clarity around ongoing employment and easing restrictions the inquiry level certainly spiked again and we’ve welcomed several new purchasers at both The Bower and Potter’s Lane.”

Mr Goode said the group expected to see a “flurry of activity as restrictions lift and things return to normal”.

“There will be a lot of home owners who’ve been looking to make their next move but have held off during the crisis due to uncertainty in the market. In terms of land, with the NSW Government grants in place for new builds, first home buyers and low interest rates if you’re financially stable and looking to crack the property market these are great conditions to make your move. We’ve seen new home builders also offering enticing deals as well,” he said.

“In the new residential community space the NSW Government has impressive grants in place for new builds and first home buyers. Plus there is now all time low interest rates. If you’re financially stable and looking to crack the property market these are great conditions to make your move. We’ve seen new home builders also offering enticing deals as well.”

On how COVID-19 has impacted on the McCloy Group’s operations, Mr Goode said the company implemented safety measured to allow remote working set-ups as well as digital communication with customers and team members.

“Our onsite teams in the construction space continued to work as the building sector was deemed safe to do so by the Australian Government,” he said.

“We continued on with all our active projects and during this time have seen stage nine at The Bower and stage four at Potter’s Lane complete construction along with the commencement of construction of stage five at Potter’s Lane and stage one at our newest project on Medowie Road, The Gardens.”

Ellie-Marie Watts | PORT STEPHENS EXAMINER – 28TH MAY 2020