Buyers surging back into beach side housing markets- Tim Lawless

Lifestyle markets have been hit hard by a housing market downturn but it looks like some life is now starting to be breathed back into the coastal regions which are often synonymous with holiday homes, short term rentals and sea change migrants.

I’m noticing the trend first hand; I own a house on the Sunshine Coast and watch the housing market there with a great deal of interest.

More properties are being listed for sale as vendor confidence resurfaces and more homes are selling as buyer confidence improves as well.

A quick look at two of the most iconic lifestyle markets where home values have been hit hard, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in Queensland, shows the trend quite clearly from a volume of transactions perspective:

Gold Coast sales

Estimated transaction numbers for houses are 60% higher on the Gold Coast compared with a year ago and unit sales are 54% higher.

Sunshine coast sales

Sunshine Coast sales have seen a similar improvement with the estimated number of house sales 45% higher over the year and unit sales up nearly 60%.

Clearly the improvement in buyer demand is moving higher from a very low base, however the rising number of sales indicates that these markets have well and truly moved through the bottom of the cycle and are back on the path to what is likely to be a long recovery, considering values across most lifestyle markets remain substantially lower than when they peaked.

It’s not just the number of sales that is rising; the higher buyer demand is starting to push prices higher as well, however the upwards pressure is mostly confined to detached homes.

[sam id=38 codes=’true’]Once again focussing on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast for now, the Gold Coast median house price has moved 3.2% higher over the year while unit prices are down a further 4.2%.

Sunshine Coast house prices are 1.3% higher over the year while unit prices were virtually stable with a 0.1% fall.

As you can see from the series of lifestyle region graphs below, it has been (and still is to some extent) unit markets as opposed to detached housing markets where the most distress has been recorded.

The reason for the more acute weakness in unit markets can likely be attributed to a couple of factors.

  • Pre-GFC many lifestyle markets had seen a substantial amount of unit development so there may potentially be supply issues in some markets.  Additionally, with some high profile post-GFC settlements that resulted in substantial capital losses (referring specifically to the Gold Coast), the public attitude towards unit developments in these locations may still be tainted.
  • Unit dwellings are more often owned by investors.  Rental demand from both a short term tenancy (ie holiday rentals) and long term tenancy (ie permanent rentals) perspective remains sluggish in many lifestyle markets which implies less consistency in cash flow and uncertainty around yield.

The graphs below cover some of the key lifestyle markets along the Eastern Seaboard and generally the trends are quite similar: rising volumes, some growth in house prices but unit prices remaining stubbornly sedate.

In a market like Cairns where tourism is the primary economic pillar, housing market conditions are becoming healthier but the volume of home sales remain just less than half of what was being recorded pre-GFC.

Unit prices have worn the brunt of the downturn, having fallen about 25% over the past five years.


The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast offer a great deal more economic diversity than Cairns which is probably one of the reasons why transaction numbers have held more firmly that what was recorded in Far North markets.

Conditions are warming up with transaction numbers 24% higher than a year ago for houses and 27% more unit sales compared with last year.

There hasn’t been a great deal of price growth just yet but with sales rising and vendor metrics improving we would expect the Sunshine Coast to continue along an upwards trajectory for prices and sales.

Sunshine Coast

The Gold Coast has been the poster child for distressed unit settlements over the past few years with high profile projects such as Soul, the Hilton and the Oracle making headlines for all the wrong reasons at settlement time.

It seems that buyer demand is flowing back to the Gold Coast now, with transaction numbers rising and prices showing some upwards movement as well.

The unit market on the Gold Coast is still seeing prices taper over the past year but I wouldn’t be surprised if this annual trend has already turned around over a more recent time period.

Gold Coast

The Tweed council area which lies directly south of the Gold Coast is seeing a similar dynamic with rising buyer demand and a glimmer of price growth in the detached housing sector.

Selling conditions are improving, as demonstrated by the vendor metrics below; homes are selling slightly faster and vendors are slowing gaining some leverage with discounting levels tightening.


The Byron Council region is showing a slightly different trend.  Volumes are rising and selling conditions are improving, but the key difference is the fact that unit prices haven’t fallen away to as large an extent.

Potentially the resilience in the unit market can be drawn back to the opposition to new housing development that has historically been the case across the Byron Shire.




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Tim heads up the Core Logic RP Data research and analytics team, analysing real estate markets, demographics and economic trends across Australia. Visit

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