The new Clermont Apartment development site, at which most of the units have been snapped up by mining companies.
The new Clermont Apartment development site, at which most of the units have been snapped up by mining companies.

House price whirlwind is spinning out of control

THE bond on a Moranbah house could buy you a brand new car.

With skyrocketing rents throughout the Bowen Basin in the midst of the resource boom, housing prices are spiralling out of control.

And it's the average families that are feeling the whopping blow in their household budgets, unless they are mine employees and the company subsidises the exorbitant rents which have reached anywhere up to $3000 per week for a five bedroom, two bathroom home.

The bond is $12,000, which Moranbah Real Estate principal Bella Exposito said was the standard four-weeks figure.

"It's a matter of supply and demand," Ms Exposito said.

"I've seen lots of ups and downs in the market, but this is the best it has ever been."

With a waiting list of more than 80 people looking to rent, Ms Exposito, who has worked in real estate in the town for the past 24 years, said it was a very different story a decade ago.

When the BMA-owned Peak Downs and Goonyella Riverside mines made more than 400 workers redundant as a result of the 1998 global market downturn, about 300 rental properties suddenly sprang onto the market with no takers.

They were asking for rent of only $150 per week, and those same properties are now renting for anywhere up to $3000.

In 1998, Moranbah Real Estate put a basic three bedroom ex-housing commission to auction with a reserve of $26,000.

With no buyers, it returned to the then-stagnant market until just recently. It sold for more than $550,000, with no refurbishments or renovations.

One bedroom units that were then renting for $80 a week now have tenants that pay $900 per week, because the scarcity of rental and investment properties can push prices that high.

In 2008, Ms Exposito had a waiting list of more than 200 people, and she still struggled to find available housing.

"If there is nothing at all to rent, people will purchase," Ms Exposito said. "That's the reality of the supply and demand problems, and in Moranbah, there isn't the supply to meet that demand."

That is with a decade of mining development in between, and Ms Exposito said the dramatic property increase has been instantaneous in the past three months.

"We're looking at a $200,000 on top of last year's property market values," she said.

"There has been an instant jump of about 100-150% in the past three months.

"A house that was $800 per week then is now renting for $1800."


Just 110km west of the town, the real estate picture is very different in Clermont.

Although it too has seen a rise in rental prices, it is modest in comparison where tenants have been hit with a $40-$60 per week increase.

The town, too, has new development, most of which has been leased by mining companies under two-year contracts, and the waiting list for a rental property in Clermont grows by about two applicants a day.

With an estimated 20 people waiting for housing, Clermont has the same supply and demand issue as Moranbah, and according to Hoch and Wilkinson principal John Wilkinson, no properties are coming available.

"More people are coming to town with their families and work in the mines and live in the town, but there's nothing available and no development for them," he said.

Mr Wilkinson said property prices were "nowhere near that of Dysart and Blackwater", but the town's location and its general living affordability would make it a place for families if supply and demand could be addressed.

A four bedroom, two bathroom house in Clermont rents for about $600 per week, and the lowest rent on a property is around $250 per week for an older style property with no refurbishment.


LIKE Moranbah, Dysart's property market has never been better, according to Vision Real Estate principal John Drew.

For the past four years, Mr Drew has observed the market trends in the small mining town, and he said investors were seeing double-digit returns on their investments.

"They are reaping the benefits, for sure, in terms of sales and rentals," he said.

A $1500 per week rental property was "not out of the question" in the town, but he said it hasn't been an instant boom like that seen in Moranbah.

"A few months ago it was increasing, but it's really coming home now," Mr Drew said.

"What's happening in Moranbah is just crazy."

The same supply and demand issue exists in Dysart too, and it is directly linked to the mining boom. Of the 150 rental properties in town, Vision Real Estate has the majority, and Mr Drew said they were swiftly leased by mining companies.

A house that enters the buyers market lasts less than a week before it is purchased for an average price of $400,000, indicating big market movement and qualifies the supply and demand issue crippling the Bowen Basin.

New units are being developed, and BMA has installed a number of transportable accommodation units throughout the town, and in some cases, has resorted to demolishing old houses and replacing them entirely.

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