Tree-changer invasion

First National Real Estate CEO Ray Ellis caught up with local agent Steve Alford during a tour of the region.
First National Real Estate CEO Ray Ellis caught up with local agent Steve Alford during a tour of the region.

First National Real Estate CEO Ray Ellis is doing a quick tour this week of the New England outlets in the network’s 400 offices Australia-wide, seeing first-hand the different markets each outlet is serving.

While in the past he has touted Tamworth, for instance, as not being so far from Sydney in these days of improved telecommunications, Tenterfield appeals to a more mature market of retirees relocating to take advantage of a country lifestyle.

He said different towns have different facilities, and in Tenterfield the appeal is serenity, friendliness, and security, right along Tenterfield True brand lines. He said a promotion of this type can create a market.

Also to its advantage are lower property prices than those of the coastal markets buyers are coming from.

“I could sell a house in Ballina for $500,000, pay off the mortgage or put money in the bank and buy a home in Tenterfield for $230,000,” he said.

“Then I can come here and meet new friends, go to a new church and live the Australian dream.”

He said there’s no need for Tenterfield to compete with other markets offering different facilities, and he doesn’t see a concern that the town is attracting an older population.

“”Sixty is the new 30,” he said.

“A retiree at 65 is not moving here to die, they’re moving here for the next phase of their life. New challenges keep us young and healthy, and Tenterfield has all that.”

He’s not surprised that the town’s younger residents tend to leave, but said some will eventually return.

“Young people want excitement. But they’ll have children and come back, wanting to be near family and let their children have what they had growing up.”

He said love of family and lifestyle will being past residents back to the the area they love and know.

During his stopover First National CEO Ray Ellis (second from right) caught up with the full Alford and Duff team (from left) Katrina Chisholm, Helen Crotty, Kerry Hickey, Laurie Stenzel and Steve Alford.

During his stopover First National CEO Ray Ellis (second from right) caught up with the full Alford and Duff team (from left) Katrina Chisholm, Helen Crotty, Kerry Hickey, Laurie Stenzel and Steve Alford.

Running out of properties to sell

First National Alford and Duff’s Steve Alford said the local real estate market was very busy throughout 2016 and into the early part of this year, when properties available for sale became limited. He said the surge was across the board, for vacant blocks, residential and rural listings.

Mr Alford said there was a slight increase in prices, given the strong demand. Most of the purchasers are tree-changers coming from the NSW North Coast, from the Lismore, Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay and Tweed Heads areas, whereas in the past the majority were coming out of Brisbane.

He said the mostly self-funded retirees are seeking Tenterfield’s safe environment, low crime rate and its climate.

“They’re finding the coast too busy,” Mr Alford said.

“They’re more comfortable in this environment.”

Quality rural grazing land and hobby farms are in demand, particularly given the strong cattle and sheep markets. 

Mr Alford said rental market demand is solid, with occupancy rates currently around 95 per cent and always in excess of 90 per cent.

Ray Ellis (on right) said the Tenterfield True branding can sell the lifestyle dream. He's pictured here at the Tenterfield Saddler with Steve Alford and Tenterfield mayor Peter Petty.

Ray Ellis (on right) said the Tenterfield True branding can sell the lifestyle dream. He's pictured here at the Tenterfield Saddler with Steve Alford and Tenterfield mayor Peter Petty.

Bypass a boon

While having concerns in the past about the impact a bypass would have on the town, Mr Alford said he fully supports it now and sees the advantages of having heavy vehicles out of Rouse St.

Mr Ellis is also convinced it will be a boon for the community.

“You go into Victoria via Albury and you don’t hit a traffic light until you’re five kilometres from the (Melbourne) CBD,” he said.

Mr Ellis said the towns along the route continue to thrive, becoming a destination with less traffic.

Take advantage of low interest rates

Local properties may be scarce but Mr Ellis advised people to take advantage of the historically-low interest rates Australia is currently enjoying.

“Interest rates are the lowest they’ve been since 1964,” he said.

“They’ve been low for two years, and I expect them to be low for another two years, in a margin around where they are now.”

He urged people to take advantage of the situation by growing their capital through investments in real estate or shares, and to reduce their debt.

“If your regular mortgage payment is $600, pay $800,” he said.

“Don’t spend all your disposable income on disposables. Take advantage of the low interest rates.”

Home away from home

Mr Ellis is in the district this week to see off the Ronald McDonald House Ride for Sick Kids from Inverell, from where the ride will wind its way southwards via Armidale.

First National Real Estate is a major sponsor and Mr Ellis said it’s a great cause.

“If your five-year-old ends up in Newcastle Hospital and you’ve got to work out where to stay, Ronald McDonald House can take a weight off your shoulders,” he said.

Mr Ellis said juggling family commitments can be one of the hardest parts of supporting a sick child. He tells the story of a mother caring for her sick son (who has since passed away), but her daughters were left behind and one day asked why she didn’t love them anymore, as all her focus was on their brother.

Having access to a Ronald McDonald House allowed the family to reunite towards the end, having some semblance of a normal family life.

He sees real estate having a pivotal role in a local community, not only selling houses but selling dreams, and is happy to support a charity that provides temporary homes for those in crisis.