REAL estate agents are expressing surprise, and joy, at the strength of the property market in Mount Martha.
While it seemed mid-2020 that a downturn was on the cards thanks to a COVID-induced melancholy, that feeling was quickly replaced by a rising sense of optimism, and then delight, as buyers came knocking and sales began to exceed expectations.
But one of the biggest surprises is the number of buyers moving from Sorrento and Portsea to Mount Martha.
The convenience of being 40 minutes or so closer to Melbourne and nightmare-inducing summer traffic flows on the southern peninsula are some of the reasons being given by those making the move.
Agents say the market is the “hottest” it’s been in decades thanks to a combination of record low interest rates, the ability to work remotely and travel restrictions.
There has also been a strong level of inquiry from interstate buyers and expats who see Mount Martha as having the best of both worlds: a relaxed seaside town ideal for raising a family or retiring in comfort with shopping, beaches and golf courses nearby, and within easy striking distance of the CBD.
The ability to live there and work from home, thanks to improved technology, a trend kick started by COVID, is now common.
Official figures show 283 properties sold in Mount Martha over the six months 1 October 2020 to 26 March 2021 – up from 248 in the previous 12 months. At the same time the median house price rose from $1.050 million to $1.292 million.
Amanda Haimona, of Bonaccorde Property Services, has “never seen the market like it”.
“The challenge for us is that there is an oversupply of buyers and an under supply of sellers at the moment,” she said.
“There is a scarcity of properties for sale in every price bracket and most properties are being sold under competition.”
Ms Haimona said potential buyers were having to increase their budgets – perhaps by 30 per cent or more – just to stay in the hunt.
However, that was being made easier with the ready availability of finance and record low interest rates.
“The market started heating up post-COVID in October and that caught us by surprise,” Ms Haimona said, recalling how as a housebound agent she had only been able to speak to clients by phone with no “open-for-inspections” allowed.
“The moment we were able to open up we were busy.
“We had a backlog of buyers – some who had sold pre-COVID and were keen to get back into the rising market.”
The strength of that market meant frantic clients were rushing to buy after only one inspection, or unconditionally, and pressing for 45-60-day settlements.
Another feature had been the “hardly anything goes to market”, with potential buyers offering top prices to clinch a sale.
“People are nervous about missing out,” Ms Haimona said.
“Clients who sold six months ago have seen prices soar and now they are finding it hard to get back in.”
Sam Danckert, of Danckert Real Estate, said: “The local property market is strongly favouring sellers with an immense level of buyer depth and limited numbers of properties for sale.
“The pandemic has caused a shift in high income earners working from home. Retirees who can’t travel are also seeking quality lifestyle settings to reside or holiday close to home, and low interest rates have increased housing affordability dramatically.
“We are seeing multiple written offers on most listings from $1 to $4.5 million and some keen interest in the top end of the market from luxury holiday house buyers.”