April 21, 2020

Toowoomba’s Property Market During COVID-19

We may be a regional city but that doesn’t mean we’re immune from COVID-19 or its wide-ranging impacts.

Toowoomba council is installing buttonless pedestrian crossings on the town’s traffic lights, our local businesses are pivoting to manufacture PPE like masks, kids are home from school and we’re all now used to social distancing.

With all of this happening, the Toowoomba property market has been affected too.

We look at what’s happening in the real estate industry as a result of COVID-19.

The changes we’ve made for COVID-19

You can still buy, sell or rent a property during the COVID-19 crisis. One of the legitimate reasons you can leave your home is to “move to a new place of residence” or because you are “inspecting a new place of residence”.

However, like other industries, the real estate sector has had to make some practical changes to keep everyone safe.

Due to social distancing, we can no longer show properties through a traditional “open home” inspection, where everyone turns up at the same time to view a property we’re offering for rent or sale. We now need to run open homes privately, by appointment. We can also only take one person through the home at a time.

We’re also complementing these private viewings with technology that offers virtual inspections and online property videos.

Fortunately, restrictions on physical auctions aren’t impacting us too much because we sell most properties by private treaty. However, we’re looking at ways to further minimise social contact, including allowing e-signatures on sales or rental contracts and using apps and video for regular rental inspections.

At a time like this, marketing materials and online listings matter even more than ever. Online video tours combined with quality photos and descriptions can give a prospective buyer or renter a better sense of whether or not a property is for them, without having to be there in person.

What about rentals?

The Queensland Government announced a range of measures in April to support residential tenancies where renters face financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new measures include a six-month freeze on evictions due to rent arrears for tenants experiencing financial distress (such as loss of income) due to the impacts of COVID-19. In addition, tenants won’t be registered on a tenancy database where they’re experiencing hardship. There is also a cap on break lease penalties and help with utility bills

Tenants also have the right to refuse entry for “non-essential” reasons if they have concerns about COVID-19 and the government is offering increased support for domestic and family violence. Some tenants may also qualify for financial assistance as part of the Australian Government’s response to coronavirus.

Generally, the government is encouraging tenants, property owners and agents to work together to find workable solutions where COVID-19 affects a tenant’s capacity to pay.

Landlords or property owners who agree to provide rent relief could receive a three-month rebate of land tax for 2019-20 and a three-month deferral of land tax 2020-21. You can find out more at www.qld.gov.au/landtax.

What’s happening in the Toowoomba property market?

We recently sat down with mortgage broker Andrew Searle, Company Director at Searle Financial Group, to talk about the current lending environment and the Toowoomba property market.

Andrew pointed out that the main drivers for Toowoomba’s local economy are healthcare, education, agriculture and mining. These industries continued to do well during the GFC in 2008-2009 and he hopes the same will be true again.

Toowoomba prices held strong throughout 2019, with some areas such as Middle Ridge seeing growth, even as other parts of the country struggled.

Another area that performed strongly was Toowoomba’s suburb of Mount Lofty. At the end of March 2020, the median house price was $487,500 – a rise of $20,000 since November 2019, according to data from realestate.com.au. This represents a rise of $20,000 since the end of November last year and shows that 2020 got off to a flying start.

CoreLogic data also shows that 2020 started well in property markets across Queensland and Australia. CoreLogic’s national price index rose 1.1% over February. Prices in regional Queensland were up 2.9% over the last 12 months and 7.4% over the last five years.

Of course, these figures were released before COVID-19 caused business closures and job losses across the nation. There is now more uncertainty than normal and this has reduced confidence in the property market.

That said, we believe that once certainty returns to the market and the COVID-19 crisis resolves, we’ll see the property market take off again in Toowoomba, building on the great amenities, fundamentals and lifestyle in our area.

Need help?

Our state government has created a Residential Rental Hub at www.covid19.qld.gov.au/the-hub which is a good source of information for landlords and tenants.

If you need assistance as a result of COVID-19 read our info sheet here or call our team today.

Article by Katie Knight

Some may say real estate is in Katie’s blood having joined real estate following her father, Ian Knight, into the industry where he had pioneered the path of real estate in Toowoomba in the late ‘80s and opened the ninth regional RE/MAX office… View profile

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