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Outsiders cash in on building boom

Emerald has secured an enduring housing supply.
Emerald has secured an enduring housing supply. Claudia Baxter

EMERALD has secured an enduring housing supply with the approval of the 1000-lot Highfields Estate on the growing southern side of town.

But local builders say they won't get a piece of the action because the market is monopolised and controlled by the 'big boys'.

The Central Highlands Council's approval of the estate has been touted as a solution to the town's housing woes and its staged development will ensure a steady flow of product to the community.

But the reality of the market dictates that only the big players can afford to play now.

Smaller local builders, who have been operating in the region for decades, say they are forced to quote against general renovators and take on much lighter work.

"I'm not in a position to go and buy even three of the blocks - not at the price they are now going for," said one builder, who wished to remain anonymous.

"I'd rather go broke at home than go broke slaving away in the hot sun.

"It's pretty much all pre-sale and we can't get a chop at it.

"We're smothered by the bigger boys.

"On the coast you get prices at $900 per sq m, but we can't even get materials on site for less than $1200 a sq m, and that's at cost."

Brisbane-based Echelon Property Management has signed a contract to purchase the Highfields development, which is going through the final stages of operational approval.

Echelon chief operating manager Shane Reynolds said he hoped to have turned the keys on the bulldozers before the end of December.

The CHRC approved the master plan on August 8.

Echelon chief executive Gary Radcliffe said it would undoubtedly be a successful development that capitalised on the mining development in the region.

"While coal prices have recently come off the boil a little, there is still plenty of demand for coal around the world, particularly in China, and the life expectation for the mines around Emerald is around 30 to 40 years," Mr Radcliffe said.

"More people will be moving to Emerald to work in the new and expanding mines.

"That means there is growing housing demand, in respect of which Highfields Estate can take advantage of."

Council approval has been obtained for stage one of the project, which will consist of 103 lots.

The 10-stage project has preliminary approval.

The company said house and land packages in Emerald were currently priced at about $490,000 to $530,000.

Rents in the area range from $700 to $1000 per week.

Emerald Real Estate has been appointed as the exclusive agent.

Principal Jason Campbell said the benefits for the town would be huge.

"Interest is coming from both your mum-and-dad buyers and then of course the larger building companies, which are looking to purchase the land to offer their land and housing packages," Mr Campbell said.

He said expressions of interest were being welcomed by the Emerald Real Estate staff as of yesterday.


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