Top 10 suburbs for coastal Queensland apartments

Rental vacancy rates could fall to record lows as Australia finally reopens.

Unprecedented dynamics

Rental vacancies are set to fall to tight levels as the international borders reopen. We are in a very unusual situation, with a backlog of arrivals waiting to enter Australia after two years of border closures, and in turn, there is an opportunity for investors seeking both capital growth and rental returns, leading to strong total returns for landlords.

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There have been a number of factors driving the looming rental shortage. We no longer have high volumes of investors from mainland China to drive the construction of new high-rise units, which has dampened the supply of new apartments.

We also have a very strong population pyramid in Australia which is driving a surge in household formation. A substantial number of young renters have entered the rental market, as the lockdowns encouraged more renters to find their own space at the earliest available opportunity.

Figure 1 – Australia population pyramid
Figure 1 – Australia population pyramid

Now the borders are reopening further from February 21 and given that we have a backlog of two years’ worth of arrivals wanting to come to Australia, we can expect the snap-back in rental demand to be strong.

Indeed, SQM Research reported a sharp drop to a 16-year low in the rental vacancy rate, driven by sudden sharp declines in Sydney and Melbourne in January. People are returning to work now, and this tightening trend has continued in February for both Sydney and Melbourne.

With interstate migration to Queensland the highest in over 15 years, rental vacancies are already tight across the coastal regions, and we expect this to continue as the borders reopen.

Interstate migration to Queensland is the highest in over 15 years and rental vacancies are already tight across the coastal regions.

We can expect to see national rental price growth rising into the 10 to 20 per cent range forthwith, with most rental markets around the country already experiencing tight conditions.

Figure 2 – Rental vacancy rates in January 2022

Opportunities for investors

Increased demand for lifestyle and flexible or remote working has been a factor in the tightening rental markets. Some households have required office space to work from home, while wealthier households have taken the opportunity to buy second homes, which has depleted the available rental stock.

Others are simply taking the opportunity to live in Queensland’s popular coastal markets, which offer an exceptional combination of lifestyle, climate, and relative affordability.

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We are now seeing some opportunities in certain markets for investors in apartments to experience capital growth and increasing rents, leading to strong total returns. The unit to house price ratio is at record lows, reflecting that affordability for houses is becoming a challenge for many investors.

The rental supply is unlikely to respond quickly enough to the surge in demand for rentals, particularly in an election year when there is inevitably going to be a level of uncertainty created by a potential change in government.

Opportunity hotspots for coastal QLD apartment investors

Some of the trends created by the unprecedented border closures and pandemic restrictions will be transitory, and therefore investors should look through short-term noise to focus on long-term fundamentals.

Our analysis shows that there are some strong opportunities for investors in coastal Queensland with a wide range of budgets.

Suburb SA4 region Postcode Number of properties Median unit price ($) 12-month price growth (%) 
Mooloolaba Sunshine Coast 4557 4,390 $702,963 35 
Coolum Beach Sunshine Coast 4573 1,753 $738,762 35 
Port Douglas Cairns 4877 3,512 $282,262 10 
Trinity Beach Cairns 4879 1,557 $304,317 20 
Palm Cove Cairns 4879 1,482 $356,426 19 
Palm Beach Gold Coast 4221 4,370 $736,253 35 
Miami Gold Coast 4220 2,447 $718,095 35 
Tugun Gold Coast 4224 1,715 $761,476 35 
Airlie Beach Whitsundays 4802 1,094 $366,430 21 
Bowen Whitsundays 4805 782 $260,584 13 
Figure 3 – Top 10 suburbs for coastal QLD apartment investors

Investors seeking long-term capital growth and strengthening rental returns should focus on certain opportunities as rents get set to rise.

In the unit market, there are solid opportunities in many of the coastal markets of Queensland, both on the Sunshine Coast and at the Gold Coast, and further north for those with a different budget level.

Generally speaking, we look for boutique unit developments with reasonable strata levies, and if the budget permits, look for family-friendly units with owner-occupier appeal, in those popular suburbs where the supply is somewhat capped.

Reserve Bank of Australia research has previously shown that new migrants and arrivals to Australia tend to have only a limited impact on the housing turnover rate, because most new arrivals are renters initially, especially international students.

That means a lot more demand for rentals is coming in 2022. As the border reopens many parts of Australia may experience chronically tight rental markets…including coastal Queensland.

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