While home ownership remains out of reach for many Australians, it is a considerably more affordable choice in this small Northern Territory town – even if you don’t expect to stay long.
The disparity between rent and purchase pricing has resulted in a housing bubble in this town.
Things were, however, very different just a few years ago. Residents in Katherine could scarcely sell their homes despite successive interest rate decreases and loosened lending regulations, which resulted in soaring property values across the country.
But now, in a highly transient community where it’s nearly impossible to get a rental, a quick and abrupt turnaround has resulted in an odd phenomena.
“We don’t have wonderful golden beaches and such,” said Wayne Nayda, principal director of real estate firm LJ Hooker.
“Usually, people come up for two to three years and just want to rent, but now they’re buying,” says one resident. Mr Nayder said the property turnaround was exceptional in an isolated and distant town where it is normally difficult to attract and keep young professionals such as teachers and GPs.
“Katherine is in the midst of a housing boom,” he explained.
Vacancy rates have decreased from around 10% to far below 0.1 percent, according to agencies, pushing rental prices up by around 30% in the last 18 months.
For the majority of January, real estate websites offered fewer than 15 rentals and a slew of homes for sale ranging from $200,000 to $500,000.
Stewart Crowley had only four rental options six months ago, all of which were comparable to what he was paying in bayside Melbourne.
“Buying a house was essentially the only other alternative… We calculated that buying a house in Katherine was less expensive than continuing to rent.”
He had no intention of buying a property or establishing long-term roots when he relocated with his wife and two children for a high school teaching position. “Our government rental subsidy ran out, and the rent was too high,” he explained.