Australia Coronavirus a major impact on Tasmania's real estate market, but not necessarily bad
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Lisa and Peter Stodart are about to move into a house they've never seen in person.
The Sydney couple has just bought a house in the Hobart suburb of Howrah, 1,500km away.
Like a growing number of people, they've been motivated by a new entrant to the property market: COVID-19.
Unable to travel to Tasmania to inspect the property because of border restrictions, they took advantage of technology to make the purchase.
They saw the Howrah townhouse online one Friday night in September and using live streaming were able to do a virtual walk-through with the agent the next day.
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By the following day they had bought it.
"We just went with our gut feeling rather than logic," Ms Stodart said.
"At our age we've lived in enough houses to know and we both really loved it, it ticked all the boxes.
"It was wild but it just felt right."
Real Estate experts say they are seeing a rise in mainland clients like the Stodarts, who want buy in Tasmania.
Many are even willing to make the sale without inspecting in person.
New Figures from the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania (REIT) suggest this is expected to rise after the borders open later this month.
Both of Australia's major real estate websites are reporting that Tasmanian property had the highest number of views of any state in Australia during the September quarter.
"This suggests we could have an influx of people looking to migrate or invest here," said REIT president Mandy Welling.
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Agents were also telling her they had more calls than usual from potential interstate buyers.
"The rest of the country is looking at us as being a safe haven," she said.
"I think we're going to see a considerable increase from those buyers."
COVID prompts exodus from rat race
Ms Stodart said she and her husband had been planning a move somewhere out of the "Sydney rat race" as they headed towards retirement but said COVID-19 forced them to hit fast forward.
For the Stodarts, the COVID factor was not so much about escaping restrictive lockdowns or the threat of the virus on the mainland.
Rather it was the fresh perspective it gave them on life.
"COVID really made us stop and think, life's too short," Ms Stodart said.
"We were looking to move in five years but COVID really accelerated that. My mum passed away, I have a daughter in Melbourne, a son living in Canberra.
"It makes you stop and think what you want out of life. Anything can happen at any moment so we thought 'let's just do it'."
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But it won't be until the borders open later this month whether agents will know if the growing interest in Tasmanian will translate into sales.
"It will be very interesting to see what happens to our statistics after that," Ms Welling said.
Renewed interest after bumper quarter
The renewed interest in the island state comes after a bumper September quarter for the Tasmanian real estate market.
Between June and September there were nearly 3,000 property sales.
The number of house sales increased 32 per cent, unit and townhouse sales increased 39.1 per cent and land sales jumped 70.1 per cent.
The increases happened at both ends of the market, with first home buyer sales up nearly 50 per cent and acquisitions by investors also up.
The amount of properties that sold for more than $1 million were up 24 per cent.
It was driven largely by locals, with Tasmanians making 90 per cent of all transactions.
Ms Welling said it defied expectations of all market experts.
"The market's just gone forward in leaps and bounds, it's quite remarkable," she said.
"We're almost back to pre-COVID statistics — it really has gone well outside where all the experts assumed we'd be."
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The demand is pushing up median house prices with Greater Hobart's now at $545,000.
In Launceston it is $383,500 and in the north-west centres it's $330,000.
On the flip side, it continues the bad news for renters, with median rents also rising statewide.
For a three-bedroom home it's $450 a week in Hobart, $360 in Launceston and $310 in the north-west.
Real estate prices still attractive to interstate buyers
Hobart's healthy real estate prices are not deterring mainland buyers.
The Stodarts chose Tasmania for its mix of natural wonders, clean air and slower pace.
"Hobart has all the advantages of a city, with the artsy side, the culture, and also felt to us like a big country town," Ms Stodart said.
"We couldn't believe what we could afford in Hobart for what we would get in Sydney.
"Our little terrace [in inner-western Sydney] sold for more than what we paid for a brand new house with views."
The Stodarts are hoping to move down south by the end of the year.
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