The rise of the lifestyle town

Ahead of Opteon’s NSW Market Outlook Webinar (register to attend here), National Residential Director Scott O’Dell looks at the impact of the 2020 pandemic on the property market in Sydney, as the shift toward working from home opens up a plethora of possibilities.

Scott O’Dell, National Director – Residential

There is no doubt COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in many ways, and we are all waiting with bated breath to see how quickly the vaccine will be rolled out, and with it, a return to the way things once were.

However, if there is one thing that I feel is here to stay, and one thing that a lot of people consider a silver lining, it is the flexibility of being able to work from home. There is even an acronym in common use – WFH – which means it is here to stay.

With this newfound flexibility comes the chance to realise that dream you always had, but never really thought you could achieve while chained to the dreaded peak hour commutes to and from work every day. I am referring to the fantasy of a sea change or tree change, where you find yourself browsing or Domain looking for beachside shacks or imagining a laid-back lifestyle on a luscious acreage.

As a national valuation firm with strong coverage in regional areas, Opteon is currently witnessing house prices and markets turned upside down as regional towns emerge as desirable options, no longer the poor cousins of their metro counterparts.

A few recent results as well as our anecdotal evidence from our valuers has me wondering if this is the start of a new world order for Australian property prices. We are already seeing house prices decoupling from apartment prices in most major cities; with house prices rising significantly over the last quarter, apartments located in the inner-city ring are still experiencing a hangover due to rental price pressures and lack of immigration/overseas students.

Then there is the rise of the regional ‘lifestyle’ towns, which are showing as strong results as I have ever seen.

The Coalcliff property that broke the record book

House prices benefit from working from home arrangements

26 Paterson Road, Coalcliff. Source:

Last month, a Northern Illawarra house in the beachside suburb of Coalcliff, New South Wales (approximately 75km and a two-hour peak-hour drive to the Sydney CBD) went up for auction with strong interest from a predominately Sydney-based buying group.

Coalcliff is a suburb that historically has a mix of permanent residents and holiday home owners from Sydney. It was originally a coal mining town, although the Illawarra Cokeworks closed down in 2013.

The house for sale at 26 Paterson Rd, Coalcliff previously sold for $3.305M in mid-2017, in a similar overall condition as presented for sale this year. The agent initially suggested a buyer’s guide between $3.0M to $3.5M. Following strong interest in the property, that figure was upgraded to the $3.7M, possibly even $4M.

The house transacted for $4.715M, a terrific result for the vendors and an area record for a single residential dwelling.

House prices benefit from working from home arrangements

26 Paterson Road, Coalcliff. Source:

This property is the poster child (among many others) for a market where buyers are clambering over each other to reap the benefits of this new opportunity to live their dream lifestyle away from major cities and work remotely from the comfort of their own home.

This is one of many current examples in regional towns where the old way of thinking about the limits on house prices in regional areas is being smashed. Traditionally, these limits directly correlate to the distance from a major city.

Don’t get me wrong – we are witnessing very strong results in major cities as well. However, there is evidence of an underperforming sector: apartments in high density, inner ring suburbs surrounding major cities.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

There has become a clear decoupling in the rates of growth between houses and units, evident in the graph below which represents Sydney historical House/Unit prices.

With demand currently far outstripping supply for dwellings, I am of the opinion that the divergent performance of house prices versus unit prices will continue well into the year ahead.

To hear more in relation to the trends we are witnessing on the ground, please contact us or join us at our Opteon Market Outlook Webinar on Wednesday 24 March at 11am. Click here to register.

Opteon launches a zero-contact full property valuation solution

Australia and New Zealand’s largest independent property advisory firm Opteon has responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic, launching a zero-contact virtual property valuation solution for the Australian market that enables lenders to fully meet regulatory requirements for the security of their lending portfolios.

The solution is a new Virtual Valuation that uses a combination of visual verification aides and a guided interview to provide the valuer with key information about the property and its current state, which can be used to create a full valuation report.

Augmented with insights from Opteon’s team of experienced valuers, the Virtual Valuation comprises the same quality of data and accuracy as the onsite valuation that lenders are required to obtain to manage risk to their portfolios.

Opteon has commenced discussions regarding the Virtual Valuation solution with major lending partners who are equally ready to embrace the change, particularly as Opteon’s Virtual Valuation can be relied upon with the same confidence as existing onsite valuations and does not impact the lender liability position.

Opteon is acutely aware of its role in helping to keep the property industry thriving during this period of global uncertainty. Opteon’s CEO Chris Knight said:

“Opteon wants to enable lenders to keep operating as normally as possible, and we know we can help them manage their risk profile with this solution. Lenders can be assured that this solution meets all regulatory requirements so that they can continue to approve mortgages with confidence.”

Knight points out that this solution has been a part of Opteon’s roadmap for some time, as the market-leading firm sought innovative ways to provide property valuations and advice.

“Opteon has always played a key part in the evolution of the valuation industry. While the current environment has accelerated the implementation of this solution, we have long known that a virtual solution is the way forward for the industry.

“Additionally, we take the safety of our customers and our people very seriously. We’ve acted quickly with this solution because the health of every individual in our community is paramount in these challenging times,” said Knight.

Innovation is a key element in the ongoing success of Opteon, which has grown substantially over the past five years and offers commercial, agribusiness, residential and government property valuation, advisory and specialist property services with coverage in over 94% of Australian postcodes.

“We’re proud that we’ve been able to bring a zero-contact valuation solution to the market so quickly, and that we’re able to fully support our customers and the broader property industry through this pandemic,” said Knight.

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COVID-19/Coronavirus: An update for our customers

Current status: At this stage, there is no impact or disruption to service levels. Opteon is providing valuation reports to our customers as per normal operations.

As we’re learning more about the global impact of the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic, Opteon has established a Pandemic Response Team to develop, monitor and execute on agreed strategic and operational actions in response to this situation. Daily, we are reviewing contingency and support plans, including our Business Continuity Plan, to ensure we are best placed to continue to deliver services in the event the situation escalates quickly.

Importantly, at this stage, there is no impact or disruption to service levels. The key priority for Opteon is to maintain the safety of our people, customers and community. In line with Australian Property Institute and World Health Organisation recommendations, we have put in place several measures to protect the health and safety of our customers and people, which are outlined below.

We are continuing to monitor information and advice from international and local authorities and will communicate with you our response to the latest developments.

If you have any questions regarding our services, please do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 40 50 60.

Additional information required when booking appointments:

As of 11 March 2020, and in line with the API’s recommendation to its members, we have been asking an additional question of customers when booking appointments: if anyone the valuer will be meeting at the inspection is the subject of a quarantine order by a health authority or a self-isolation/self-quarantine scenario.

If the answer is affirmative, the dates of self-isolation/self-quarantine are obtained. The appointment will be booked for a date that is at least an additional two days after the person’s quarantine period ends.

Additional information required when valuer arrives onsite:

As of 11 March 2020, and in line with the API’s recommendation to its members, all valuers arriving onsite will ask the customer to confirm if anyone present at the inspection is the subject of a quarantine order by a health authority or a self-isolation/self-quarantine scenario.

If the answer is affirmative, the customer will be informed that the valuer is unable to complete the inspection whilst the quarantine order or self-isolation period is in place. At the end of the quarantine period, the customer will be contacted to set a date for the inspection.

As per normal operating procedures, if a valuer does not feel safe at an inspection for any reason, they are instructed to leave immediately and report the circumstances to their manager who will be in contact with the relevant client.

Staff management:

Opteon has adopted the following strategies in line with government advice:

  • Immediate international company travel ban
  • Restriction on domestic company travel for work-related purposes
  • Mandatory reporting and monitoring of personal travel, and observation of the recommended isolation period
  • Implementation of best-practice social distancing

If you have any questions regarding our services, please do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 40 50 60.