Families with equity in their homes have been able to upgrade to larger $1 million dollar-plus lifestyle properties that might have previously been out of reach, due to the COVID-19 real estate boom.
Homeseeka Real Estate auctioneer and senior agent Tim Wells said some homes had doubled in value in the past two years, enabling south-west residents to buy in sought-after locations or million dollar-plus lifestyle properties.
Mr Wells, who has been in the industry for 20 years, said the growth in property values had seen "plenty" of south-west residents sell and upgrade to larger homes on acreage and some had also used the equity to move interstate.
"Because some of these people built homes for $400,000 to $420,000 seven or eight years ago and suddenly they're worth $750,000 to $800,000," Mr Wells said.
"That extra chunk of equity has enabled them to purchase upwards to get that lifestyle property, a central property or a home with a view."
He said four-bedroom homes in Warrnambool, which sold for around $450,000 five years ago, were now on the market for $600,000 to $750,000 and were still selling well despite interest rate rises.
Rather than the year-round COVID-19 influx of out-of-town buyers of the past two years, Mr Wells expects to see a return to a more seasonal, traditional migration of metro buyers in the coming months.
Harris & Wood real estate agent Josh Bermingham said popular locations for lifestyle properties were Allansford, Woodford, Bushfield, Grassmere and Cudgee.
"Anything within a 10 to 15-minute drive within Warrnambool is what the buyers and market is looking for," Mr Bermingham said.
He said newer and low-maintenance homes people could move straight into in Woodford and Bushfield were highly sought after.
"We have tradies with young families purchasing a property to make their own mark with renovations or extensions," he said.
Mr Bermingham said lifestyle properties had always been in demand and ranged from young families and people wanting a few acres to property owners already living on 100 acres who were keen to downsize.
"We have sold a few to out-of-towners coming from Melbourne for a tree change but a majority of those buyers are locals," he said.
"The popularity with lifestyle properties has and always will be there."
Charles Stewart & Co Warrnambool branch manager Nick Adamson said it had listed about 10 to 12 lifestyle properties in the past two months around Hamilton and Warrnambool.
He said the interest from local buyers was on par with previous springs.
"During COVID-19 there was a much higher level of inquiry from Melbourne people and regional areas outside of the south-west," Mr Adamson said.
"Whereas now, it's coming from local buyers that have a young family and want more space and want to live 15 kilometres from town.
"The popularity with lifestyle properties has and always will be there.- Agent Josh Bermingham
"We're still witnessing interest from further away - whether that's metropolitan Melbourne, regional or interstate, but at a lower level,"
Mr Adamson said many were farmers looking to retire or scale down.
He said buyers wanted location, access to towns and schools and a quality home. The size of the property, which could range anywhere from five to 50 acres, was also important.
"A lot of them are wanting space for boutique agriculture pursuits such as horses, stud sheep or cattle and generally they've got an idea of what they want to run on the land," Mr Adamson said.
Lockett & Co Real Estate sales manager Paula Dwyer said she'd noticed a huge increase in demand for lifestyle properties within a 30-minute radius of Port Fairy.
"Anything between three and five acres is like gold, because anything over that you need equipment and it becomes a bit of a chore, but anything between one to five is very highly sought after," Ms Dwyer said.
"They've always been popular but since COVID-19 they have become more popular and we just can't get enough on our books.
"I've had some that have sold quietly and not even hit the market.
"As soon as they come they're gone."
Ms Dwyer said most of her sales over the past 18 months were people upgrading their homes to include aspects such as a coastal location and views or on some land.
Nick and Dani Amundsen moved from north Warrnambool to a three-acre property in Illowa in April after both growing up on semi-rural properties in Tasmania.
The couple wanted to raise their children Logan, 5, and Isla, 2, with some space around them and to encourage an active, outdoors lifestyle.
"Spending so much time at home with COVID-19, we always wanted to move to a semi-rural type property and then this popped up at Illowa and it ticked all our boxes in terms of a couple of acres and a big shed as well," Ms Amundsen said.
She said they'd always been looking for a rural property with the pandemic making them reassess their lifestyle.
Ms Amundsen said the couple was fortunate to sell their home off-market with the increased property values enabling them to move to a bigger property.
"We probably paid a bit more moving out here because everything was at a premium," she said.
"That's the thing with the property market - it was a seller's market but at the end of the day if you're selling, unless you've got multiple properties, you're also buying in that market.
"It's been great, there's no downsides...We love the town of Koroit, and there's everything we need."
While rural living is in demand in the Moyne Shire, the supply of lifestyle blocks has been a difficult issue with councillors trying to balance the need for new housing against the risk new subdivisions could irrevocably splinter prime agricultural land.
Moyne Shire council is in the process of amending the planning scheme to rezone areas of land on the edge of towns like Hawkesdale, Koroit and Woolsthorpe in an attempt to clarify which areas are suitable for development.
Earlier this week The Standard revealed that after a 45.5 per cent upswing in property prices driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, interest rates had put a hand brake on median values across the region.
From the peak which was recorded in the June quarter, prices at the end of October dropped 7.6 per cent across the south-west.
A Real Estate Institute of Victoria report in July, revealed the median house price in Warrnambool had spiked to $603,000 in the June quarter.
The smaller rise follows a big jump over the past 12 months where prices had risen almost 21 per cent from a median of $499,000 in 2021. In mid-2020 - when the city was in the middle of pandemic lockdowns - the median house price was $378,000 in Warrnambool.
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