Hyped Queensland property hotspot hit by headwinds: PRD Nationwide

Property prices and land prices in the Queensland mining town of Gladstone are expected to begin to ease once new and more affordable housing projects are completed, according to new analysis from PRDNationwide.

This easing will occur over time, with the biggest residential development project in the region – Devine’s $1.4 billion Riverstone Rise community – being completed in stages over the next 15 to 20 years.

However, the report for the March half-year warns of a number of headwinds facing investors including an expanding  fly-in, fly-out workforce, requiring investors to revise down rental expectations to secure tenants.

Gladstone ranked third in Your Investment Property magazine’s 2012 list of Top 100 suburbs and was ranked second last year. The town is home to the world’s biggest alumina refinery, Australia’s biggest aluminium smelter and the country’s largest cement operation.

There are currently $69 billion worth of projects currently in the early stages of construction, and projects worth a further $26 billion are expected to commence in the next few years.

The PRDnationwide report says that high rental yields can still be achieved in the current market, but warns investors to be diligent to not only buy at the right price, but to buy something that has competitive tenant appeal.

“Vacancy rates have been quiet turbulent during the first half of 2012, as investor demand grossly outstrips owner occupier demand,” says the report.

“Uncertainty surrounding rental vacancy is exacerbated by an ever expanding fly-in, fly-out workforce, with many workers vacating to mining/construction campsites.

“As a result, many investors are forced to make sizeable revisions to their rental price expectations in order to secure a tenant on a reasonable lease. Given the current median prices recorded across all markets, there is no doubt that some investors, particularly those who entered the market in 2012, paid a premium on their investment with a heightened expectation of strong cash-flow.”

PRDnationwide Queensland analyst Rob Matta, who compiled the Gladstone Region Highlight Report, says Devine’s project is likely to ease the housing shortage in the Gladstone region and alleviate price growth pressures.

Construction of stage one of Devine’s $1.4 billion Riverstone Rise community in Gladstone has commenced. The project which is expected to take 15 to 20 years to complete, has been approved for 2,900 homes, two shopping centres and a new school.

It is located in Benaraby, approximately 20 kilometres south of Gladstone City, the new community aims to provide an affordable and diverse alternative to the offerings within Gladstone City.

Stage one features 120 allotments ranging in size up to 740 square metres and prices starting from $165,000.

Matta says there are several projects are several other projects in the pipeline, but the problem remains that few of these projects are delivering stock at a realistic price point.

Currently, though, PRDnationwide says house and land prices in the Gladstone region continue to go “from strength to strength”, with a median house price of $479,750 and a median land price of $250,000 for the March 2012 half-year period.

More than 87% of Gladstone houses that sold over the March 2012 half-year sold for more than $400,000, compared with 67% that sold over this price point a year ago.

Giving an indication of just how rapidly house prices have shifted upwards in Gladstone over the past two years, in the March 2010 quarter, just over a third (37%) of houses sold above this price point.

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