SW property makes a comeback

The South West property market is regaining traction, with December-quarter data showing median house prices climbing - with the exception of Bunbury.

Figures from the Real Estate Institute of Australia also show sale volumes returning to their long-term average levels after falling steeply in the lean years that followed the global financial crisis.

REIWA data for the December quarter shows median house prices rose 3 to 4 per cent in Mandurah-Murray and 3 per cent in Busselton compared with the September quarter.

Because of the likely inclusion of more expensive home sales, median house prices were up 12 to 15 per cent in Augusta-Margaret River and 5 per cent in Dunsborough in the quarter.

Stewart Darby, REIWA's executive manager for research and policy, said excess pricing could still be washing through some sectors. "The lower and middle sectors of the market may see some price growth but in the higher end, there is still likely to be some overpriced property and some more discounting," Mr Darby said.

Low interest rates - and lower holding costs - have provided some relief.

Compared with December 2012, REIWA estimates median prices are up 7 per cent in Mandurah and Murray to $405,000, 5 per cent in Dunsborough to $585,000, 4 per cent in Bunbury to $380,000 and 3 per cent in Busselton to $437,000.

Buyers who sat on the sidelines and waited out the falling market now seem to be back.

REIWA's data also shows the number of sales have increased year-on-year by 22 per cent in Busselton, 20 per cent in Augusta-Margaret River, 19 per cent in Bunbury and 15 per cent in Dunsborough.

Acton South West sales executive Lance Hart said last financial year was the best since the GFC. Holiday and permanent homes priced at less than $1 million had sold well and homes for less than $500,000 were being snapped up almost immediately.

"Busselton has experienced a strong first-homebuyers' market but investors, and fly-in, fly-out demand has been strong in Dunsborough, Margaret River and Busselton," Mr Hart said.

"In a lot of cases, particularly Busselton, it is now more cost effective to buy than rent."

Mr Hart said land developers were also active and, with subdivisions selling well, new stages would be released soon.

In Mandurah, where supply far outweighed demand, the market plunge was particularly severe.

Mandurah Estate Agency principal Kent Murphy said the market was recovering from its big bust but price growth in the lower sector of the market was expected to take some time to flow into the prestige end.

In one case, in Mandurah's boom years of 2005 and 2006, the cost of changing from a marina to a canal home was $1.2 million but now the changeover would cost $500,000, Mr Murphy said.

Professionals Southern Districts Real Estate Agency licensee Drew Cary said Bunbury had its best boost in five years.

"In a down market you get the tyre-kickers and the bargain-hunters but now we have a good volume of genuine buyers who are prepared to pay the right price," he said.

The West Australian

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