Regional QLD August 2018

The month in review: Regional QLD

By Herron Todd White
August 2018

Tweed Rental Market – Focus on Murwillumbah

The lack of rental accommodation in the Tweed region has been a real issue for some time now, however was exacerbated after the March and April 2017 Cyclone Debbie flooding hit the region severely. Many people became displaced and many sought temporary accommodation until the flood damage to their homes was repaired or sought new permanent rental accommodation. This put more pressure on the rental market and rents soared.

Murwillumbah and surrounding areas have had a few affordable housing options constructed over the past few years such as Horizon Housing in the Hundred Hills Estate and a couple of new townhouse and villa complexes. However, there have recently been some changes with the type of development applications with a few large unit complexes in Murwillumbah obtaining approval or in the process of being approved. This includes a proposal for a 72 unit complex with a mix of social and affordable housing at 26 George Street, Murwillumbah, mainly consisting of 1-bedroom units. The Precinct at Church Lane, Murwillumbah will comprise 26 2-bedroom units and the construction program should commence in the short term. There is also a current approved development application at 28-34 Riverview Street, Murwillumbah for 28 units with a mix of 3-, 2- and 1-bedroom units. All three sites are located within close proximity of Murwillumbah town centre.

Traditionally the Murwillumbah area has not favoured units, so it will be interesting to see how well these developments do and how this will affect the rental market over the long term. Will this attract more investors to an area that is traditionally owneroccupied? This is a wait and see scenario as the area evolves with higher density accommodation options.

Murwillumbah is a classic example of how the times have changed over the years, from the dwellings built in the early 1900s to the 1960s being within close proximity to town and comprising mainly timber construction. The further you go out, the more you will see the dwellings of the 1970s to the current times being of brick construction. As you venture further from town to the fringe locations, the housing becomes more modern, larger in living area size and lifestyle is the precursor for design. The newer housing is very popular, however older dwellings close to town that are well maintained and kept plenty of their original features are also popular with buyers.

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is considered to be relatively young when compared to other areas and especially when compared to capital cities and the historical townships of Queensland such as Toowoomba and Maryborough. The area was first settled in the 19th century with development progressing slowly until tourism became an important industry around the 1950s and 1960s. Since 1988, Herron Todd White Sunshine Coast has had the pleasure of witnessing the ever changing landscape as it progressed.

Years ago, the Sunshine Coast was a much more relaxed place. When looking at the changing building styles that have evolved over the years, we can see the influences that the faster paced lifestyle is having on property.

The oldest areas of the Sunshine Coast are the railway and hinterland townships located about 15 to 20 minutes from the coastline. The main reason why they were first settled is because of the access provided by the railway line heading north up the Queensland coast. Dwellings typically comprised of pre and post war homes, typically of timber construction which then evolved into the 1950s and 1960s fibro housing that many of us have seen around the country. The 1970s and 1980s gave rise to clay brick dwellings. These hinterland townships were mostly modest working class centres and dwellings reflected this. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that we stated to see larger, more expensive dwellings of higher quality.

The coastal areas of Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa Heads came to prevalence in the 1950s and 1960s. The rise of the holiday house or beach shack saw the Sunshine Coast grow into a favoured holiday destination. These homes were typically of fibro construction. They were modest but they absolutely served their purpose. Mirroring the railway townships, the 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of clay brick dwellings, however given that access to the coastline had improved greatly, more expansive dwellings were popping up well before they did in the railway and hinterland townships.

Throughout the 2000s, houses have definitely evolved into more contemporary designs with the use of architectural materials (lightweight cladding) and design features. Over recent years the rise of small lot housing has grown significantly to help the affordability issues surrounding home ownership.

Also multi occupancy properties have become increasingly popular for extended families.

The unit market has seen a significant evolution as well. Complexes throughout the 1970s were of a low rise or walk up nature up to say three levels. These were typically modest in nature and once again were catering for the holiday market. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, low rise unit complexes transformed into medium and high rise unit product providing all the services and amenities that you would find in a capital city and in some cases provided a permanent living alternative to a house. This continued throughout the 2000s with unit complexes providing high quality accommodation and significant amenities.

As you can see, the Sunshine Coast provides a diverse range of property types that caters for everyone. Whilst styles change, one thing remains constant – the Sunshine Coast is a great place to live.


Detached housing on small lots is growing in popularity throughout the Toowoomba area, particularly in the older areas close to the CBD. Many infill blocks have been sub-divided into smaller lots or have had unit complexes built on them.

Key development areas including the suburbs of Glenvale, Cotswold Hills, Torrington, Kleinton, Highfields, Cambooya and Westbrook are also seeing a concentration of small lots which could result in an oversupply of product as infrastructure projects come to a close and workers vacate.

This small lot product is still meeting some local market resistance with buyers often represented by absentee investors buying house and land packages.

The unit market has seen low sales volumes following the oversupply of unit product that became apparent throughout 2016. Land sale volumes steadily increased in the three years between 2012 and 2015, peaking at 1,063 sales in 2015. In 2016, 681 sales were recorded and 677 in 2017 suggesting a cultural shift towards unit living in the Toowoomba region.

The Toowoomba region has experienced strong and steady economic growth with an annual average increase of over 3% in the past decade. To cater for this growth, major infrastructure projects have recently been completed or are underway, including the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, QIC’s Grand Central Shopping Centre extension and Brisbane Wellcamp airport. Also in the pipeline benefiting the Toowoomba area will be the imminent Inland Rail Project.

Looking back, Centenary Heights, Rangeville, South Toowoomba and parts of Harristown would have been considered new suburbs in 1968, with the development of brick veneer homes featuring aluminium window frames and flooring being the most popular housing construction. Most homes of the era featured 3- or 4-bedrooms, 1-bathroom, one living area and single garages. These homes are now popular with first home buyers as they provide relatively affordable price points, say $300,000 to $400,000 and renovation potential.

By comparison, newly built dwellings in suburbs including Kearneys Spring, Middle Ridge and Glenvale feature 4-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms, two living areas and two car attached garages. New homes in these suburbs can be purchased in the $475,000 to $650,000 range.

Toowoomba is now the second largest inland city in Australia and has emerged as one of the most dynamic regional cities in the country in recent years. The property market has been driven by sound economic and population growth which has provided a blend of opportunity and stability. Combined with recent infrastructure and lifestyle enhancements, Toowoomba has cemented its position as the capital of the Darling Downs and south-west Queensland.


The face of residential property in Townsville has evolved over the past 50 years and will continue to evolve as new innovative designs, lifestyle changes and trend issues present to the market.

Construction in the 1970s was dominated by high set timber framed dwellings on traditional sized lots, typically within the suburbs eight to ten kilometres from the city centre.

The 1980s saw a shift to low set masonry block construction possibly due to cost of construction and changed consumer wants and needs. This style of home was typically 3-bedrooms,1-bathroom with single garage or carports on about 800 square metres. During this period multi unit development consisted of mostly smaller size masonry block complexes offering basic levels of on site amenity.

The 1990s saw the emergence of a number of new residential land estates within the eight to ten kilometre radius of the city centre with an expansion in house size and design taking off towards late 1990. This entailed larger slab on ground homes typically of 4-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms with double lock-up car accommodation. The late 1990s saw an increase in unit density, with overall amenity of new unit construction offering owner-occupiers an alternative to detached house living.

The early 2000s had rapid growth in new home construction along with a shift in lot size. There was a push for more low maintenance lot sizes within newer estates which offered good levels of amenity to counteract this reducing lot size. Average lot sizes over this decade reduced from 704 to 620 square metres. The unit market also expanded rapidly with new unit construction and benchmarks being set with regards to amenity and levels of fitout being offered.

Over the past ten years, our market has become more affordability driven on the back of a significantly slower market. In particular, the past four years has seen a decrease in land sales to low levels. Small lot estates have emerged and housing size has decreased to cater for affordability concerns along with more innovative designs to factor in technological and environmental changes. The unit market has also seen a reduction in unit size as the target market shifts to cater for mostly investors and meeting a price point. Over recent years, new unit construction has almost ground to a halt due to continued high holding costs, low levels of investor demand and a general low market sentiment.

As advances in technology, energy efficiencies and lifestyle trends continue to change, further evolution in our housing design will likely follow.

Rockhampton and Gladstone

Both the Rockhampton and Gladstone regions have seen similar trends with regard to housing design and planning changes to address a variety of issues which have influenced the marketplace.

Looking back to 1968 when Herron Todd White was founded in Rockhampton, new housing of the era looked very different to the new homes of today. For example, a new home in 1968 was a highset chamferboard home, typically around 100 square metres of living area with 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom living accommodation and car accommodation available under the dwelling. 600 square metre allotments were the norm. Areas of Frenchville and Park Avenue were the new suburbs of the time for Rockhampton. Gladstone had evolved to areas on the fringe of the CBD such as Barney Point.

This month’s topic prompted me to delve into some family history. My parents bought their first house in Wandal in 1971 (not quite 50 years ago) for $7,800. Their combined family income was in the order of about $4,000 per year. My grandfather’s commission as a real estate agent was in the order of $150 on a $3,000 home (Mum and Dad’s second house two years later). These were however, not new homes. A brand new home as described above in Frenchville was an option they considered at the time, however it was priced at $10,000 and considered unaffordable. Data shows the median house price for Rockhampton today is $275,000. What a difference 50 years makes!

Over the time Herron Todd White has been working in these areas, the modern home has certainly changed. Buyers’ requirements have changed from a humble 3-bedroom home to much more spacious homes accommodating all members of the family with space. 4-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms and often a minimum of two living areas (150 square metres plus) is now a typical new home. Car accommodation has also become much more sophisticated with family dynamics changing over the past 50 years from one car to now two car families (at a minimum), so 2018 sees double lock up garages expected.

Whilst owner-occupiers are looking for larger homes than they were 50 years ago, the investor market is going the other way, targeting maximisation of their estates by reducing lot sizes to 400 to 500 square metres and living areas accordingly.

Design of the internal layout is always changing, with a strong preference towards open plan living areas rather than having a kitchen tucked away in a corner out of view. Materials have also changed from the chamferboard or fibro of the 1960s to a preference for brick as a result of the lower maintenance. Some ultra-modern and prestige homes are adopting the use of lightweight cladding materials which is a happy medium between the appeals of a well presented timber home with less maintenance than the 1960s materials.

Modern housing estates are now often master planned to provide a point of difference and overall sense of functionality and convenience. 1968 would never have seen such a concept, with estates relying on existing facilities such as shopping and medical centres.

Strata titled units (as opposed to flats) were essentially non-existent 50 years ago regionally. This market sector is probably the one that has experienced the most evolution over the years. There is now a market developing in Rockhampton for modern units in the CBD to cater to young professionals seeking low maintenance and convenience factors as well as empty nesters. This has really only come about in the past ten years.

From a town planning perspective, Gladstone has seen the implementation of small lot estates such as Hill Close and Tannum Blue which were developed during a period of rapid growth of both population and capital values, making affordability a key focus within these areas which were both major challenges of the real estate market at the time.

Whilst the new suburbs of 1968 are still well regarded today and the style of home remains mostly functional (the sub floor height seems impractical at times), the buyer profile has altered somewhat from what would have been well off owner-occupiers to now be a solid investor area mixed in with first home buyers.

These design changes have addressed the issues arising in the real estate market over the years by way of natural progression to cater for population growth, changes to personal wealth and evolution of new building products coming to the market.


50 years ago, Bundaberg was a small sugar town community dominated by older style timber dwellings on larger sized allotments. Move forward into the 1980s and the town started to grow with the construction housing type at the time comprising lowset and highset 3-bedroom hardiplank and brick homes. Moving into the 1990s, larger homes of mostly brick veneer were being constructed. In the current decade, homes are large and most have a second bathroom, media room and accessible shed in the backyard. Construction type has started to incorporate lightweight, easy to handle cladding. The majority of homes are still lowset with allotment sizes getting bigger for families wanting a tree change and room for their growing families.


In the 50th year of Herron Todd White, we look back at the changes that have occurred in housing in Mackay over that period. The scary part is that 50 years ago is only 1968!!

Housing in Mackay was traditionally made up of highset and lowset timber clad Queenslanders on larger allotments located in suburbs close to the CBD. In 1968 (or slightly before) we started to see a change in construction methods, with homes being clad with chamferboard and fibro cement sheeting, with internal linings comprising hardboard or gyprock and lower 2.4 metre ceiling heights. We also saw the advent of a Mackay staple, the butter box or highset fibro clad dwelling. In 1968, you could buy a fairly modern, lowset 3-bedroom dwelling in North Mackay for around $10,000.

Fast forward into the 1970s and 1980s and we started to see lowset brick and masonry block dwellings make an appearance across the city. New suburbs and estates were being constructed further from the CBD. As mining started to take an ever increasing role in the Mackay economy in the 1990s, we saw new estates in Andergrove, Beaconsfield and Rural View start to open up with larger onground brick dwellings the home of choice.

Into the 2000s, we saw another significant shift in housing in Mackay on the back of the surging resource industry. Rendered masonry dwellings become all the rage, often much larger dwellings comprising at least 4-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms, multiple living areas and larger car accommodation.

Hervey Bay

Back in the 1970s, Hervey Bay was transitioning from being a number of small coastal villages to one location known as Hervey Bay. It was a holiday or weekender location with residents in Maryborough catching the train to visit the beach for the weekend. The weekender home was constructed of fibro or timber and generally comprised 2- to 3-bedrooms with 1-bathroom. The 1980s through to 2000 saw the urban envelope extend south from Boat Harbour Drive and new residential estates were developed with onground brick homes occupied by predominantly permanent residents. Most homes still comprised 3-bedrooms and 1-bathroom. Since 2000, homes have become larger with 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom accommodation now the norm and lot sizes becoming smaller. Construction includes lightweight cladding and imitation products such as Styrofoam and Weathertex. Some of the original weekender cottages remain, however these are slowly being renovated with modern fittings.


50 years ago, Emerald was a small railway town with timber home construction. Move forward into the 1970s and 1980s and the town started to grow with the construction of the third largest dam in Queensland and the beginning of coal mining. Housing types at the time comprised lowset and highset 3-bedroom hardiplank and fibro homes. Moving into the 1990s, larger homes of mostly brick veneer appeared. In the current decade, homes are large and most have a second bathroom, media room and accessible shed in the backyard. Construction type has changed to lightweight, easy to handle cladding and now in 2018, prefabricated steel frames that arrive on a truck and are erected in three days to lockup. Small lot sizes have been trialed in the Central Highlands region but are not popular in the market.


DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publishing and is subject to change. It is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, Smartline recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. Smartline recommends that you seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.