Gosford Catching the Waves left in Sydney's Wake

2 June 2014 - Propertyobserver.com.au - Suburb Spotlights

Gosford is making waves in real estate. Or, more accurately, it’s catching the wave generated by Sydney.

Gosford, on the NSW Central Coast about 80 kilometres north of Sydney, has sparked to life after years of under-achievement. Partly it’s the ripple effect from the state capital’s strong market and partly it’s local infrastructure events.

The coastal city of 165,000 is a classic case study of why it’s the future that matters in hotspotting, while the past can be irrelevant.

No investor would buy in the Gosford area based on its track record. The market in the past decade has had with more periods of decline than times of rising values. Many locations throughout the City of Gosford have averaged just 1% per year in price growth. Some have negative growth averages.

But, Gosford and surrounds are coming into a period of strong growth, one that’s likely to last. Revised planning laws are expected to bring major construction projects and general revitalisation to Gosford, while the federal government decision to relocate 600 public servants there from Canberra will enliven the property market.

Gosford is another example of a local economy which has struggled because it’s primarily about tourism and retirement – but is now revitalising through a combination of government policy decisions and spending on infrastructure. Queensland is full of such places, including Cairns, the Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay, and Gosford has put itself of the list.

In February 2014, NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard announced rezoning approval for the old Gosford Public School site and the waterfront. The change will allow developments such as waterfront dining and shopping, hotel and conference facilities, a regional performing arts centre, conservatorium and public recreational areas, creating 2,000 jobs.

“Today marks the start of the future of Gosford,” Hazzard said. “This is great news for the rejuvenation of Gosford's waterfront and will boost the Central Coast’s economy by acting as a catalyst for the renewal of the Gosford CBD.”

In recent years, Gosford has been quietly gathering momentum.  Mantra Ettalong Beach Resort opened in 2005, while businessman John Singleton invested $16 million buying and refurbishing two properties, Pretty Beach House and The Bells at Killcare.

More recently, a retail precinct at Umina Beach saw Woolworths open and Coles expand in 2010, Aldi open in 2011 and Bunnings in 2013. Masters Hardware now has an outlet at West Gosford and the Central Coast Cancer Clinic opened in 2013.

The Kibbleplex development in the Gosford CBD will see a former shopping centre refurbished to create an education hub, which will be opened in 2015. The federal government and Gosford City Council will each contribute $7 million towards the project.

Perhaps the single biggest event in the future of Gosford is the announcement in May that the Australian Tax Office intends to relocate 600 public servants from Canberra to Gosford, as part of the cost-cutting outlined in the federal budget. Such a move would have a considerable impact on the residential property market in the area.

The residential market is already moving. While long-term growth rates (the average annual rise in median house prices in the past 10 years) are low across the region, significant growth has been experienced in numerous suburbs recently.

Many have recorded double-digit growth, including some suburbs with one-year growth above 20%. Given that this is median price data, which can produce some fairly wild aberrations, it’s wise not to take them too literally. But the pattern across 20 or so suburbs in the Gosford LGA is a consistent one – strong annual price growth.

This correlates with Hotspotting analysis of sales activity in the region, with a significant uplift in the number of dwelling sales in the second half of 2012.

But affordability, relative to Sydney, remains evident with 12 suburbs having median prices below $450,000.

Vacancy rates across Gosford have been consistently low, with most suburbs below 3% in the last five years. Currently, the vacancy rate in postcode 2251 (Avoca Beach, Copacabana, Green Point, Kincumber and Saratoga) is 1.8%, while vacancies in postcode 2250 (Erina, Gosford, Kariong, Lisarow, Narara, North Gosford, Point Clare, Point Frederick, Springfield, Tascott and Wyoming) are 1%.