Coastal gold

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am

SEASIDE PROPERTY has turned out to be the most lucrative real estate investment anywhere in the world, and no more so than in the 'sunshine state' of Queensland, Australia's favourite coastal playground.

Property remains the country's best blue-chip investment, on the Gold Coast in particular, with an average annual growth of 8 per cent over the past 30 years. Further north, the Great Barrier Reef gateway cities of Townsville and Cairns continue to power ahead, recording median price increases of 18.2 per cent and 9 per cent respectively last year.

Housing in Australia is traditionally of the house-and-land variety, but apartments make sense, especially when choosing a holiday home. They are easy to manage, can be let to other holidaymakers when you are not using them, and are proven investment performers.

Leading real estate firm PRDnationwide said its Gold Coast high-rise apartment sales had risen 60 per cent over the past three months. The selling price of new high-rise developments had also increased from A$716,000 ($4.16million) for an average apartment in the December quarter last year to A$864,000 in the March quarter this year.

Tony Holland, the firm's project marketing manager, predicted the trend would continue. 'The positive fundamentals of an expanding population, strong economy and general strength of the property market on the Gold Coast are ensuring that interest in the residential market remains strong.'

Similarly, developers of Sanctuary Cove, a fully integrated waterfront residential resort on the Gold Coast, recently experienced their best selling spell. Sales amounting to A$27 million, involving both new and established homes, had been recorded since mid-April, said Neil Paton, sales manager, Sanctuary Cove Realty.

'Buyers see the value in purchasing property that is increasingly becoming more difficult to obtain, particularly in a gated community where water and golf are part of the lifestyle,' he said.

Over the past four years, waterfront land prices at Sanctuary Cove have seen a 320 per cent rise in value, from A$560 per square metre to A$1,600 per square metre.

In the tropical north, the Cairns region continues to prosper, especially in the coastal village of Palm Cove, between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

'Palm Cove has a subtropical hideaway feel but continues to defy nationwide real estate trends by achieving strong price growth and increased room rates,' said David Stafford, general manager, sales and marketing, for development group Indigo. The fastest-selling projects in north Queensland in the December quarter were in Palm Cove. A beachfront 'condomaximum' (a designer beachfront condominium) at Drift recently set a new price benchmark when it sold for A$2.5 million.

'Bound by mountains and the Coral Sea, Palm Cove's natural features provide a limitation to both population growth and future development - features that go hand in hand with good capital growth but also scarcity of opportunity,' Mr Stafford said.

Those who fancy owning their own piece of a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef are advised to consider the holiday isle of Magnetic Island, off Townsville.

According to Ross Napier, principal of the island's First National Real Estate, Magnetic Island offers great value. A number of luxury waterfront apartments are under construction, while land less than 2km from the beach is still available for under A$200,000. Overseas buyers could purchase land, so long as they built on it within 12 months, Mr Napier said. He added that Townsville, as Australia's largest army base and home to numerous state and federal government departments, offered an economically stable future not wholly dependent on tourism.

In Sydney, prestige comes by the bucketful at upmarket harbourfront development Jacksons Landing. The 11.7-hectare luxury waterfront residential development has a prime Sydney harbour frontage near Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. When finished in about 2009, it will comprise 1,350 apartments, terraces, heritage warehouse conversions and town-homes. The investment potential of the development 'speaks for itself', said developer Lend Lease, which has sold unfinished boutique apartments in the area at A$910,000 and above.