The migration of city slickers away from the big smoke is not a new trend for this Victorian agency owner — despite the pandemic offering up new opportunities for his business.
The director of Belle Property Daylesford, Will Walton, has told REB that he has witnessed a steady increase in regional relocations for several years now.
“Regional offers a strong sense of community and peaceful environment,” he commented.
“Our neighbouring metro residents are feeling the pinch of overcrowding and lack of affordability and liveability that are on offer in the metro areas, which drives them to our region.”
Located in the Hepburn region, Mr Walton said the Daylesford area benefits from its proximity to award-winning restaurants, cafés and wineries.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the director noted his agency as being affected by the “property market freeze”.
But, with regional locations able to offer wide, open spaces, Mr Walton considered the first lockdown as “much easier” than the harsh lockdown experience felt by many metropolitan residents.
It proved a positive for his agency — the flexibility granted to regional residents “allowed the opportunity for the local market able to view the properties with ease” — and led to a dramatic increase in regional transactions.
He also explained that, during this time, his agency “still received numerous enquiries from metro residents — particularly with an increase in demand for facetime property inspections”.
According to Mr Walton, he and his team had to ensure that they were ahead of the game and versatile with their market approach, and it’s an attitude that has paid off in spades for the director, who has even managed to open a second office in neighbouring Trentham in the midst of all the uncertainty.
The director explained that his team had been fielding more initial enquiries from consumers wanting to move into the region as a result of COVID-19, which helped cement the idea of opening a new office.
“With Trentham being a niche community, it tied in well with our boutique agency,” he reflected.
Since rebranding to Belle Property, Mr Walton said his agency had reaped the benefits of the brand’s national reach and its particular success in premium and lifestyle locations, “so expanding into [the] Central Highlands area and Trentham was a natural fit to the Belle Property brand”.
With a number of real estate portals and websites still experiencing a 20 per cent increase in the number of views for regional properties, and scaled-back opportunities for Australians to head overseas, Mr Walton is anticipating his offices to continue benefiting from the recent popularity of regional living.
He’s also cited the expansion of tourism and permanent residencies in regional areas as having a flow-on impact on job opportunities, highlighting the 54,000 new jobs available regionally in October as “well above the same time last year”.
“COVID-19 has made people appreciate the way of a more simple, self-sufficient and fulfilling lifestyle,” he stated.
“This has led to the idea of more country living — growing and purchasing of local produce and connecting more with neighbours and community.”
But the biggest change the director has seen this year is in the attitude of young people towards regional investments who previously would have waited until later in life to make such a move prior to the pandemic’s onset.
With enticingly low interest rates and more reliable internet and services now on offer, he has observed many making the change much earlier.
Enormous interest in the Central Highlands and an exceptional trade commencement has already meant Mr Walton is looking to expand operations in the Trentham office, across both sales and property management departments.
Praising a strong community welcome and growth, the director said “the locals have embraced the change with open arms and in return it has allowed us to trade exceptionally well!”