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‘People are desperate’: Regional renters forced to apply for homes sight unseen

Regional renters

Real estate agents in regional areas with housing shortages are asking prospective tenants to complete a rental application before letting them attend a property inspection.

Leo Patterson Ross, the chief executive of the Tenants Union, said this practice used to be rare but it had taken off in the past six months across regional NSW, including the Central Coast, Illawarra, Hunter Valley, New England and Riverina.

“Because the landlord generally has multiple applicants they operate a competitive system to choose,” Mr Patterson Ross said. “The more people they have, the more rapidly they want to cut down the list – and asking for applications up front is clearly a pretty effective method and has bonuses because it also gets all the info up front.”

Many regional areas are grappling with very low vacancy rates because of a housing shortage and an influx of city dwellers moving to regional areas in a trend sparked by the pandemic and working from home. The real estate industry uses a 3 per cent vacancy rate as a benchmark of what is “normal”, but SQM Research figures show vacancies are well below 1 per cent in most country towns and regional cities.

The Sun-Herald has seen several advertisements for rental properties on the Central Coast where the agents are requesting prospective tenants to fill out a rental application beforehand in order to be allocated a place at an inspection or to arrange a private viewing.

A three-bedroom house on Summerland Point, near Lake Macquarie, was advertised with instructions to complete an application form first. “This will allow our office to process your application and then make an individual inspection time if your application has been pre-approved.”

Several agencies advertising this process did not return calls.

Regional renters

Virgina Richardson found agents would destroy the applications, meaning they needed to be completed multiple times.CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN 

Emily Sim, the chief executive of property management for Ray White, said it was a symptom of the low vacancy rate across the country.

Ms Sim said Ray White preferred online tenancy applications because tenants could complete one form for multiple properties and it cut down the time to process the application.

“We’re not requiring or encouraging it to be done in advance but on an individual office basis, they might be making their own policy around that, just trying to manage the numerous applications they’re getting,” she said.

Kelly Seaton, the owner of the Leasing Network in Bateau Bay, said demand for rental properties on the Central Coast started to pick up in October last year and it was now a crisis.

“I’ve been in the industry 27 years and I’ve never seen it like this,” she said. “People are desperate – it’s alarming.”

Ms Seaton said she does not ask prospective tenants to fill out an application in order to see a property and in her view it would be a waste of time to vet tenants beforehand in case they were not interested. However, some prospective clients chose to do the paperwork in advance so they were ready to go if they found something.

Jayne Pavic moved from Balmain to Forresters Beach on the Central Coast before Christmas with her husband and toddler and found the competition for rental properties intense, with properties being snapped up after two hours.

“We had to fill out the applications beforehand and it was really frustrating because … they weren’t all in the same system and it felt like a job application because we had to put so much detail in,” Ms Pavic said.

“We’re in our 30s and we’ve been renting for 10 years, and that’s never been the ask before, so I guess we took it as a signal of how competitive it is to get a place on the Central Coast.”

Virginia Richardson in East Gosford had a similar experience but added she had to fill out the paperwork twice for some agencies because they destroyed all the applications after each property was let.


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Multimillion-dollar deals fuel record auction day in Brisbane

A record-setting $43 million in real estate sold under the hammer across Brisbane on Saturday in an incredible feat of strength that has revealed the city’s soaring market is showing no signs of slowing.

From the 71 auctions reported 63 transacted to achieve a 89 per cent clearance rate, compared with 65 per cent last week and a meagre 33 per cent this time last year.

It’s also the highest amount fetched in a single day of Saturday auctions in more than six months, with several multimillion-dollar properties sold amid reports of fierce bidding wars.

Although one of the top sales included a sophisticated Queenslander at 92 Elfreda Street in Enoggera, which collected $2.301 million through Place Estate Agents Newmarket, it was a laid-back family suburb on the outskirts of the city that stole the show after hundreds of buyers and onlookers flooded three separate auctions, resulting in milliondollar-plus sales.


92 Elfreda Street, Enoggera QLD 4051

Wishart, which is 14 kilometres from the city and has a median house price of just over $800,000, could have been mistaken for an inner-city borough after the three homes collected a combined $3.644 million. Property punters said house prices in the increasingly popular patch have risen by as much as 25 per cent in a year.

Ray White Annerley principal Geoff Sellars sold a dated, low-set brick abode on a 646-square-metre block at 106 Delavan Street to two first-home buyers for $1.067 million on Saturday, and said the price and number of bidders told more than just a tale of the city’s soaring market, but also of a suburb where demand was skyrocketing.


106 Delavan Street, Wishart QLD 4122 

The young buyers were forced to compete against 35 registered bidders for the modest four-bedroom house, forking out $217,000 over the reserve price in front of a crowd of more than 150.

“Wishart has always been fairly popular as well as the Mansfield area, there are people who just buy there to be in the Mansfield High School catchment, but not in the like of what we’re seeing at the moment,” Mr Sellars said.

“There’s an enormous amount of confidence in the market and it becomes a snowball effect. Interest rates are low and people have just prioritised buying property over things like travel and I think the bank of mum of dad is the fifth biggest bank in Australia right now so a large majority of buyers are first home buyers. The confidence over the past 12 months has driven them to that point but a lot of their parents are fronting up money (to help them get their deposit over the line) as well.

“And, in Wishart, I would have thought 106 Delavan would be lucky to be a mid-$700,000s property so there has been a 25 per cent price increase here in some parts.

“At its worst, I think this is the new normal and we have set new average prices for a lot of suburbs. I don’t think we’ll go down from here and there’s definitely the potential for things to strengthen.”

LJ Hooker Sunnybank Hills agents Rob Senic and Kosma Comino sold the other two Wishart homes under the hammer on Saturday, collecting $1.45 million for a contemporary abode at 44 Craig Street and $1.127 million for the slightly rundown four-bedroom house at 22 Cotswold Place.


44 Craig Street, Wishart QLD 4122

It was the Cotswold Place property that Mr Comino said attracted an almost rockstar turnout, leading to a 45-minute auction, about 50 bids and a sale price that was $127,000 above the reserve.

“While I knew it would be a good auction because that part always does well, we were thinking it would sell for a maximum of $1,030,000 but then, during the auction, we had a lot of people rock up late and we had a total of 15 registered bidders,” he said.


22 Cotswold Place, Wishart QLD 4122

“From the 15 registered, we had six of them really fighting for it – they were a very mixed group. The bidding opened at $800,000, and it was really rapid then on the fifth bid we hit the reserve.

“A family ultimately won the auction and it’s funny because they had actually missed out on the last two auctions with me in that pocket.”

Mr Comino said first-home buyers and young families looking to upgrade into their second home were making up a large portion of the buyer demographic, with that enticing school catchment attracting half of the buyers, and the suburb’s location being the “X-factor” for the rest.

“You’re also close to the motorway and then you’re close to Westfield Garden City – in fact, if you drive through there now, it’s busier than the city centre. It’s gotten crazy there now.”

Elsewhere, Ray White Carina agent Jose Peralta sold a striking four-bedroom family oasis at 22 Faraday Street in Camp Hill for $1.401 million, and next door in Norman Park, Paula Pearce, of Place Estate Agents Bulimba, sold a modern Queenslander at 64 Morehead Avenue for $1.675 million under the hammer.


64 Morehead Avenue, Norman Park QLD 4170 

In Northgate, Ray White Aspley agent Dwight Colbert transacted the meticulous four-bedroom abode at 26 Mann Avenue for $1.07 million in an auction he said attracted nine registered bidders before fetching $120,000 above the reserve price.

“They were all local buyers and many with young families but in the end it was a retired couple who bought the place as they have six grandchildren. My sellers are upsizing and have bought at Nudgee Beach as they have three children and want some more room,” Mr Colbert said.

“There’s still a lot of desperation for good stock, and it feels like a shortage of listings which I know is helping with competition.”


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Proposed Queensland rental reforms fall short: advocates


Rental advocates have slammed long-awaited Queensland reforms for dropping a key protection against unfair evictions and a strong assumption in favour of tenants keeping pets, after a significant campaign from property owners and the real estate sector.

The proposed laws, which Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch said aimed to end groundless evictions and establish minimum standards to improve conditions for the 36 per cent of the state’s households that rent, were introduced to Parliament on Friday after a years-long consultation process.

Under the changes, which push stage one of the government’s proposed reforms forward, a landlord will no longer be able to issue a notice to leave without grounds. Tenants who can no longer safely continue with a lease because they are experiencing domestic and family violence will be able to leave with one week’s notice.

Landlords must have reasonable grounds to refuse a tenant’s application to keep a pet, such as the property being unsuitable or to comply with by-laws, but could also place conditions on pet ownership, including that it be kept outside and the property properly cleaned at the end of the lease. The proposed laws also state that fair wear and tear does not include pet damage.

But tenant advocacy group Better Renting said the government needed to explain why it had moved away from a recommendation of its own review to bar landlords ending a lease at the end of a fixed-term contract unless they were planning to sell, undertake major renovations, or move in themselves.

“Queensland Labor must explain why they have departed from this recommendation and how people who rent their homes can possibly feel secure when, 10 months into a tenancy, they can be told to get out,” executive director Joel Dignam said.

With more people renting, and doing so for longer terms, tenants in such situations would still be in a weak position to oppose any refusal of a pet application, Mr Dignam said.

“The proposed changes fall short. People who rent will still be afraid of an unjustified notice to leave that will mean giving up their home and struggling to find a new place to live in a competitive rental market.”

Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr welcomed the introduction of minimum standards and moves to make rentals more pet-friendly, but said the changes would undermine the current tenancy laws.

“We advocated new grounds to end tenancies, but only with the view to removing the ability to end tenancies without grounds,” Ms Carr said. “The government have done the former but not the latter.”

The Queenslanders with Disability Network raised concerns that a removed proposal allowing renters to make minor modifications would affect the community, while the Queensland Council of Social Service criticised the bill for not including air and ventilation requirements in the minimum standards.

Greens South Brisbane MP Amy MacMahon, who introduced her own private member’s bill this month seeking to also cap rent increases to once every two years by no more than CPI and ban rental bidding, said the government had sided with property owners and the real estate lobby.

Ms Enoch said the Greens’ bill would have made it less likely for an owner to rent our their property, and what was needed was a “strong, balanced” approach to encourage market growth and stability while also protecting the rights of both tenants and owners.

Rental vacancy rates remain low across the state, with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland recently reporting the tightest vacancies in Anstead (0.5 per cent), Birkdale (0.3 per cent) and Capalaba (0.2 per cent).

Institute chief executive Antonia Mercorella praised what she described as a fair outcome for tenancy laws in need of modernisation.

The government first flagged the reforms in 2018 with a consultation process that drew more than 135,000 responses. A second stage was expected to look at inspections, rental bonds and longer-term leases.


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Sunshine Beach trophy home sets $34 million Queensland house price record

Sunshine Coast

A Sunshine Coast mansion has obliterated the Queensland property price record after it sold for $34 million in a deal shrouded in secrecy.

The colossal coastal home, on a 2015-square-metre block at 17 Webb Road, Sunshine Beach, is the first house outside the Gold Coast or Brisbane to claim the state’s highest sale title, knocking two palatial palaces in Mermaid Beach off the throne.

According to Domain and Pricefinder data, the previous records were held by 2 Heron Avenue – which sold in February this year for $25 million – and the nearby 45-51 Albatross Avenue, which also fetched $25 million in 2016.

Sunshine Coast

2 Heron Avenue, Mermaid Beach, which sold for $25 million. Photo: Supplied

The record has also blown Brisbane’s highest house sale of $18.48 million out of the water, which was achieved for 1 Leopold Street, Kangaroo Point, in March 2017.

Mere metres from the sand on a battle-axe block and featuring crisp white exteriors ensconced in lush greenery, the sprawling Sunshine Beach estate, dubbed “Webb House”, has set a precedent for the suburb’s prestige sector. Here, large sales have become par for the course.

Sunshine Coast

17 Webb Road, Sunshine Beach, by architect Peter Conley. Photo: Damien Davidson Builders

In the sun-drenched pocket – right next to Noosa – median house prices have shot up by 95 per cent over the past five years to $1,802,500, according to Domain’s latest House Price Report.

The report also revealed the Sunshine Coast was one of the state’s top property performers over the past year.

Although the Sunshine Coast and its top-performing suburbs have long attracted cashed-up buyers (including former tennis star Pat Rafter, who sold his Sunshine Beach mansion for $17 million last year) property experts have attributed the Sunshine Coast’s booming prestige market to record-high levels of interstate migration fuelled by the COVID pandemic.

The Webb Street home is one of a handful of palaces dotted along the sandy strip and is a picture of sophistication after Peter Conley, of PCA Architects, and Damien Davidson Builders performed an extreme makeover that the owners described in a testimonial on the building company website as their most ambitious.

The owners, Margie and Murray Charlton, reportedly had the property renovated from a holiday house that had just four bedrooms.

“Webb House” is believed to have been sold by Noosa prestige property specialist Tom Offermann, of Tom Offermann Real Estate, who declined to comment on any aspect of the sale.

Domain records reveal the land value for 17 Webb Road was estimated to be $4.8 million in 2019.

Sunshine Coast

The sensational $34 million ‘Webb House’. Photo: Damien Davidson Builders

The mansion is understood to be Mr Offermann’s second record-setting transaction in just a few years, after he collected a then unprecedented $22 million for the nearby 21-23 Webb Road in 2018.

Mr Offermann also sold the nearby 2 Belmore Terrace, Sunshine Beach, for $14 million at the end of 2018, which was rumoured to have transacted again for $22 million.


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