The current Southern Highlands housing market has become unaffordable for those who live in the area.
That is the opinion of Raine & Horne Southern Highlands principal Matt Anstee.
Over the past few years, house prices in the Highlands have continued to rise as more buyers from Sydney enter the market.
“It’s not affordable for our local Southern Highlands residents from where it’s gone to where it’s been,” Mr Anstee said.
“I started this business 10 years ago, so I’ve seen the 10 year growth pattern of this district and we’ve outpriced the highlands resident.”
He believes the “overpopulation” of areas such as the Blue Mountains, Windsor and Kellyville had funnelled people towards the Southern Highlands.
Mr Anstee said a four bedroom house on a quarter acre block in East Bowral would have cost between $500,000 and $600,000 a few years ago.
Now that house would sell between $900,000 and one million dollars.
“Our agency would service 30 transactions a month across three offices and 80 per cent of those are Sydney based buyers.” And many of those buyers are now blue collar workers and young families who cannot afford to buy in the Sydney market.
Mr Anstee said 20 to 25 per cent of the market would now be the blue collar workers.
This marks a change from five years ago when many of the Sydney buyers came from North Sydney or the Eastern Suburbs.
“We’re still seeing the upper class looking at the higher end but if you look at East Bowral and Renwick, it’s more of a blue collar worker, middle class with semi-retirees moving out of those Hills district into the Southern Highlands.
“They’re coming down here and looking for value for money.”
Looking to the year ahead and in what could be bad news for Highlands buyers, Mr Anstee said he did not expect prices to drop.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a downturn in the market anywhere.”
Mr Anstee said Moss Vale would soon see growth like that of Renwick, which was already evident with the transformation of the main street which regularly attracted shoppers.
According to Domain.com.au, the median price for a three bedroom house in Moss Vale is $600,000 and will spend 59 days on average on the market.
He predicted the Coomungie- Chelsea Gardens development which was recently approved by the state government would have an affect on vacant land prices when it hits the market.
And while people have been driven out of Sydney by overdevelopment, Mr Anstee welcomed it in the Highlands and said it was unlikely the same situation would occur here.
“I don’t think we’re going to see an overdevelopment provided we don’t drop down to 400 square metre lots and people keep it at the standard quarter acre,” he said.
“We are a retiree’s dream but I think good development is healthy for our economy and healthy for our area. I think development is a good activity for the area provided it’s done sympathetically.”
The outerlying areas of the Highlands such as Wingello, Bundanoon, Hill Top and Colo Vale are expected to remain affordable for buyers.
But they will have to be quick, with houses usually sitting on the market between four and six weeks.
Already this year (as of February 13), there have been 167 properties (units and houses) sold in Moss Vale.
In Bowral 223 properties have sold while traffic has not been as busy in some of the outerlying areas with 18 properties sold in Colo Vale and 56 in Bundanoon.
Mr Anstee said September, October and November were busy in 2017 with many houses selling within two weeks.
“The Highlands three or four years ago had the benefit that properties would sit on the market for three to six months. That doesn’t happen anymore.
“If it’s priced well, properties sell well and at the end of the day that’s what it all comes down to.”
For those looking to buy in the Southern Highlands, Mr Anstee said preparation was the key to securing a property.
He said buyers needed to do their research, speak to their bank and solicitor to have a pre-approval and deposit in place.