All about lifestyle: How opening the hard borders might affect rental availability in regional WA

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
The latest stats from property analysts Domain shows Geraldton rents increased 12.9 per cent in 2021.
Camera IconThe latest stats from property analysts Domain shows Geraldton rents increased 12.9 per cent in 2021. Credit: TierraMallorca/Pixabay

The fall of WA’s hard border on February 5 could intensify the rental crisis being experienced in regional cities like Geraldton if city dwellers opt for the less crowded surroundings of country areas, according to real estate experts.

Vacancy rates in the port city have been hovering at just over one per cent since October, with the average Geraldton property setting renters back $350 a week.

Stats released last week from property analysts Domain shows Geraldton rents increased 12.9 per cent in 2021.

Domain’s chief of research and economics Dr Nicola Powell said remote coastal cities like Geraldton continue to be an attractive proposition during the pandemic.

“Australia-wide we’ve seen lifestyle locations doing well,” she said.

“The pandemic has made us prioritise the important things in life.

“That’s why we’ve seen people shift to places that offer a better quality of life.”

Domain chief of research and economics Dr Nicola Powell.
Camera IconDomain chief of research and economics Dr Nicola Powell. Credit: Supplied

Opening WA’s border interstate and internationally could boost demand further, according to Ms Powell.

“When international borders re-open we will likely see more of those Australians who have wanted to come back,” she said.

“People have made life-changing decisions during this pandemic.”

While it’s hard to predict what kind of effect open borders will have on the booming property market, Elders Geraldton senior property manager Shannon Wegert believes people will want to relocate to areas that seem “safer”.

“I’m guessing people will want to move into areas that are less of a risk, lower-population areas,” she said.

“I’ve had inquiries from over east who are wanting to get into country areas and get away from a large population of people.

“That is going to keep going.”

Ms Wegert said rising rents were putting plenty of pressure on tenants.

“There’s lots of displacement,” she said.

“We’ve seen tenants having to move into lower-socio economic areas because they can’t afford their rental any more.”

Elders Geraldton senior property manager Shannon Wegert.
Camera IconElders Geraldton senior property manager Shannon Wegert. Credit: Supplied

Although Geraldton rents have shot up dramatically, they aren’t at record levels.

A run-of-the-mill rental cost $390 a week back in 2012 at the peak of the mining boom.

Regional landlords have also enjoyed huge increases on the value of their property.

Outpacing the Perth market, home values in regional WA jumped 15 per cent last year, according to Corelogic.

Activewest principal licensee Phil Sorgiovanni said that momentum was likely to continue in 2022 unless the State Government introduced harsh restrictions which hurt the economy.

“It will be interesting to see what happens when the borders open,” he said.

“It’s probably more about whether Mark McGowan makes adjustments that hurt businesses

“That’s a bigger concern from an agency perspective. How does it look if he starts to break up regions again and people aren’t allowed to move around?”

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