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Property Sales in Airlie Beach

Property sales, land, apartments and house sales in Airlie Beach, tourist town, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

Introduction

Airlie Beach has some very good things going for it as a place to invest in property. Airlie Beach is on the seacoast, of course. Much of Pioneer Bay is such that many sea views are to the north. I happen to think sea views to the north are perfect for property on Australia's east coast, however there simply are not that many bays so placed.

Airlie Beach has a fair amount of flat land right on the waterfront, and it is here that the main street business centre in Shute Harbour Road has developed. Surrounding this like a semicircular ampitheatre are the low hills of the Conway Ranges, which almost completely enclose the town area.

Basically, you get your views by being right on the waterfront, or by being up a hill. There isn't a lot of waterfront land (which is why the developers keep trying to make more of it). If you are up a hill, you might have a decent walk into town, or you might have to walk up way too steep a hill. Gravity sucks!

There are only 24 streets in Airlie Beach, which in 2006 contained 953 property titles, only 181 of which were for house lots. Apartments dominate, and most of these are in resorts. House prices are high, with a median of $775,000 in 2005, up from $255,000 in 2001. This is twice the Whitsunday shire average, and three times the price in Townsville. Airlie Beach is one of only a few country areas in the top 20 property price areas of Queensland.

Description of Airlie Beach Seaside

To be right near the waterfront, you need to be on the seaward side of Shute Harbour Road. There are only two or three street blocks in Airlie Beach in this position. To the west, the road cuts a little inland to bypass a hill. To the east, overlooking Muddy Bay (the real estate people call it Boathaven Bay, but you will soon learn why Muddy Bay is more appropriate - hint, all photos are taken at high tide) the seaward land is too narrow to develop.

Despite this, plans for a marina are pressing ahead. I suspect this is mainly so land can be reclaimed and developed from the ecologically sensitive mangrove area. This marina has been talked about for over a decade. Note that any construction will involve incredibly extensive dredging, will cause considerable noise through the entire town (I can tell that from the sample drillings). There is considerable local opposition to this construction. You should also note that the bay floor is like quicksand. I have some nice photos of a small caterpillar tread excavator sinking into the mud (they got it out eventually).

Peter Marshall, Managing Director of developer Transtate Ltd. in his presentation said the main difference from the original concept is that there is now no need for a quarry at Jubilee Pocket. "Our scientist has developed a process to mix a chemical with the dredged black mud that turns it into a useable fill. The dredge that would otherwise be unusable for some years in other operations would be turned into a solid fill retained by vertical concrete walls. This new process makes the requirement for substantial amounts of rock and therefore a quarry operation redundant." Mr Marshall said.

The time frame for the Port of Airlie development depends on dealings with nineteen government departments and council, but could take until the end of this year. Then would follow a period of public consultation leading to final government approvals and further design work. It is possible that the first berths could be in place by August 2002. It is now mid 2005, no construction done.

From the emergence of tourism in the Whitsundays in the 1930s jetty facilities had been constructed in the Cannonvale and Abell Point area but these suffered badly from exposure to northerly winds and cyclones and in the 1950s pressures arose from business groups in Proserpine for the development of Shute Harbour as a better site.

The Windward Airlie Beach syndicate, comprising Meridien and the Whitsunday Sailing Club have development approval at the Muddy Bay site formerly known as Port of Airlie.

The proposed $400 million marina development would include 300 marina berths, 350 residential apartments, a 120-room four star hotel, eleven residential oceanfront blocks, a retail and commercial centre and a ferry and cruise terminal and a Marine Academy facility.

A 250m beach, picnic area, town square, boardwalk, car park and bus and boat terminal would make up the public amenity component of the project.

The environmental impact statement was signed off on the basis that the proponents of the development, Windward AB Pty Ltd, and the Whitsunday Sailing Club, adhere to specific conditions and requirements. The proposal includes: 240 berth marina ferry terminal 3 lane public boat ramp public and private car parks pedestrian mall/village square public open space retail and commercial space 140 resort apartments 356 residential apartments up to 14 detached homes

It also includes infrastructure worth about $20 million for the benefit of local residents such as landscaped parklands and a 250 metre, all-tide beach. The State Government has committed funding towards this common-user infrastructure.

The plan for the site, once earmarked by the late Christopher Skase for a Mirage resort development, includes about 365 apartments, a 140-room hotel and 15 ocean-front housing lots. The long-awaited project will also focus retail and dining activities along the main waterfront strip.

From the seaward side of Shute Harbour Road you have a view across public parkland to either the beach or the lagoon. The beach at the eastern end has sand trucked in after major storms, and slopes gently to a muddy bottom. Because Airlie is in a north facing bay, and the entire region is protected by the Great Barrier Reef, there are normally no waves at the beach. In summer, when the prevailing winds may swing from the south east to the north east, you may get minor waves on the beach. I've never seen more than about 20 centimetre of wave on the beach. If surfing is your thing, try 1000 km further south.

Bisecting the town is Airlie Creek. This is carried under Shute Harbour Road by very large pipes. The boardwalk at Magnums hides it on the side of the street away from the sea, so most people really don't notice it. The creek is tidal and has been faced with rocks on the seaward outlet, so at high tide it looks very pretty, with fish swimming about. At low tide the bottom looks like a muddy pile of rocks. King tides occur during the wet season (summer). If you have a very heavy rainfall and a king tide, I would expect flooding would be possible in the commercial centre of town.

There are plans to put a four floor Outrigger hotel in the centre of town, in the carpark on the waterfront beside Airlie Creek, and partly occupying public land. You should note that in general, commercial development along the coast can not be higher than 12 metres. Naturally there is considerable opposition to having a four floor building in a street where most buildings are two floors high. Protests in late 2004 included petitions and street marches.

The lagoon at the western end next to the sea is a very large, ornamental and popular swimming pool with an artificial beach. Well, the seagulls and ducks seem to think it is fine. It is set in flat parkland, with stone seawalls, on land artificially extended where the other cusp of the beach once was.

There is still a small stretch of beach, protected by seawalls, at the far western end opposite the western car park.

There are two establishments with absolute waterfront. On the point to the east along The Esplanade is the Whitsunday Sailing Club, with their boat ramp and seawall. Their bar overlooks the water and has a magnificent sunset view. Food quality can be very variable, ranging from our favourite place to take visitors, to I'm not going back until the cook changes (which happens frequently). To the far west, Coral Sea Resort is also on the other point. Rooms with absolute waterfront, and a couple of fine, although not cheap, restaurants, one on the jetty, the other by the pool.

Description of Airlie Beach Hillsides

The low hill on the eastern end of Airlie was one of the first to be developed. In the early 1980's, and Whitsunday Terraces went up, on the seaward side of Golden Orchid Drive, a block behind the main street. The six building of this resort had around 144 rental units. It didn't make the returns the developers wanted, and the units were sold off to individuals, with the resort continuing on behalf of individual owners. Most new resorts use the same strata title like plan, and the developers and builders are rarely involved in resort management, the rights to which are also sold off.

From around 1996 to 2003, the high side of Golden Orchid Drive had about a half dozen resorts built, mostly by the same developer. These basically ranged from about three and a half to four and a half star, mostly with improvements in the interior fittings in each new one. Concrete block construction was used, as has pretty much been the case for any resort development in the area. You do not want timber on the ground. Termites infest the tropics.

Inland at the eastern side of Airlie Beach, the new developers loop road provided access to more of the hillside, and also the flat land by Airlie Creek.

There are several projects next to Airlie Creek accessed from the large roundabout on Watersun Road. I think you can pretty much assume a bit of bush view, and at best sea glimpses. Moving inland from the roundabout, first is Hazelwood, a backpacker resort on 6800 square metres of land. This was the first development failure in this project. This backpacker development was cancelled mid 2004, apparently before anything was done. Then the 32 apartment Blue Pearl 1 holiday complex from Guerrilla Property Group of the Gold Coast on 4600 square metres of land. Even deeper inland is Blue Pearl 2, 40 apartments on 4800 square metres of land. These all come off the start of Horizons Way, or off Raintree Place.

From the same large roundabout, the Stonehaven development (3.978 hectares) along Stonehaven Court runs parallel to the loop road back towards the sea, and offers 29 home sites on both sides of the road. The road comes to a dead end at the back of Waters Edge Resort. Most sites offer fair to excellent sea views, and good town views. They will probably be exposed to noise from the backpacker bars, so check around midnight to 2 a.m some Saturday evening. Many sites are also so steep that site costs will probably be high. Consult a builder before buying. Two building in place by the end of 2004, one of them a duplex for sale.

Also coming from the large roundabout, and above Stonehaven Court, is Horizons Way, which will have a roundabout on a flat area overlooking the sea, and will also terminate in a dead end. This leads to Double Cone Views, about 9300 square metres at around 90 metres. Expected to have about 40 apartments, with settlement not expected until June 2005. Horizons, about 1.8 hectare, much of it now fairly flat, is like DoubleCone behind the resorts on Golden Orchid Drive. Horizons has had a lot of earthworks and bulk fill, with soilnailing and shotcreting, plus retaining walls planned.

Contrary to statements about ecological sensitivity, the relatively level section on the hill was clear felled by developer DMHP in October 2004, and left looking like a potato field as the wet season approached. I expect the wet season to delay construction and lead to land slippage. As you enter Airlie it is the visual disaster straight ahead.

Even higher up the hill, on a very steep road, is Satinwood. I walked up this 105 to 170 metre high track while it was still a dirt track, and found it a real struggle in places, especially at some of the sharper corners. I note the corner block isn't listed as a residential block - probably too steep to be able to build on it. Satinwood's 1.9 hectares has 16 home sites of about 1000 square metres on both sides of the road. I think there will be some stunning sea views from there, but unless really fit, I'd forget about walking back from town. I'm pretty sure Satinwood backs onto Conway National Park, but I'd check exactly what covenants are in place.

Electricity Supply

While long power outages are infrequent, and repair services excellent, very short outages (under a second) have in our experience been very frequent in the past (yes, I do have lists). If operating a computer or similar sensitive equipment, we suggest and use power line protection using a UPS.

The $1.7M power upgrade in 2004 included some cyclone protection for Cannonvale, addition of a third high-voltage feeder, and underground power in some tourist areas. Ergon generally do an excellent (and almost invisible) job in this area. However the number of large pad mounted transformers on footpaths make me suspect the electricity infrastructure is being pushed fairly hard.

Parking

Street parking is very limited by the two block length of the main street. Parking is for limited (one or two hours) periods only, and considerable space is taken up by driveways, bus stops, an inadequate taxi area (there are 14 taxis in the fleet), and by standing only spaces. Most businesses in town either have no parking, or parking only for (some) staff.

The car park at the western end of town next to the lagoon generally has (half day and day paid) space. The midtown parking lot (which will be built on by Outrigger Hotel) near Airlie Creek has around 100 spaces, however this will drop to around 40 underground public (paid) car spaces if the hotel is built. Parking will not be available during construction.

There is a somewhat rough carpark at the eastern end of the town, by Muddy Bay. If a marina is built, I would expect this would be lost during construction.

There is ample parking for patrons and guests at the Airlie Beach hotel at the eastern end of town, however this is not a public car park.

Parking at Airlie Village, behind the Post Office, is almost always full from early morning, and is not a public space. Spaces are provided for customers of the shops in this complex.

It seems to me very likely that parking spaces will be a serious problem as the population increases. While we walk everywhere, anyone who builds up on a hillside will probably find the distance to the shopping street (or the climb back) excessive. So if planning to use such a location, do your own survey of parking availability at places you need to visit.

Council has done a survey of parking in late 2004. This survey has been criticised by Greg Lange, chairman of Whitsunday Chamber of Commerce car parking committee. See Whitsunday Times November 4-10, 2004 page 4. My own count of actual parking spaces in the main street fall well short of claims. I count 41 parking spots on the landward side of Shute Harbour Road, and a mere 22 on the seaward size, with some 10 minute commercial loading zones. I count 6 in what was Harper Street (now called Waterson Way), leading out of town on the loop road. I count 16 in Golden Orchid Drive (which is very steep).

Schools

There are no schools in the Airlie Beach township area. The nearest high school is at Proserpine. See my schools page for brief descriptions.

Public Housing

Seven to nine year wait for public housing in the Whitsundays claimed Barb Adamson of Whitsunday Housing Association. Vacancy rates in Proserpine, where low income renters have moved from Airlie Beach, were nil in late 2004. Vacancy rates in Whitsunday coastal areas were 1.5% to 2%. I realise not everyone thinking of a million dollar home cares about this, but if there is no low rent housing anywhere in the area, where do staff working at supermarkets, shops and other places live? It is not like they can travel from Mackay or Townsville. Whitsunday Times Nov 11, 2004 page 4.

The region waiting list for accommodation included 128 people in December 2004. Donna Miller of Tenant Advice and Advocacy said welfare agencies had exhausted available resources. Whitsunday Times Dec 2, 2004 page 1,3

Transportation

My travel to Airlie page briefly describes transport, which for train, bus and taxi is generally good.

Note however that council are reputed to have in hand arrangements to sell the airport, so there may no longer be an commercial flight airport within the shire on the mainland. Naturally there are protests about this also, however I don't get any sense that anyone knows exactly what arrangements are in place regarding the airport.

The only road through Airlie Beach is Shute Harbour Road. As population increases this will become increasingly crowded and difficult to traverse. There are relatively few potential ways to bypass this bottleneck, and all can be expected to lead to protests by residents.

Water and Sewerage

Water quality is such that we always filter all drinking water. Some people do not feel this is needed. From time to time, undrinkable brown and murky water is supplied to tourist areas, leaving stains in any clothes washed during these periods. If you see council workers at stopcocks letting water gush into the road, they are attempting to clear out the water supply. The problem is caused by a mineral build-up of manganese in the pipes. See the front page of The Whitsunday Times Nov 4-10, 2004. While the quantities involved are claimed to be harmless, excess manganese is a known health hazard, which affects the central nervous system.

A $5M water treatment plant and daily water quality test facility at the Mount Julian water reservoir is planed by council (60%) and state government (40%), with a 40 week construction period to end mid 2005. Pipes from the plant will also have to be scoured when the new plant comes into operation.

I imagine there is a good reason the sewer outlet at the western side of Pioneer Bay is known locally to outriggers as the Stink Pole.

Things to Check Before Buying

Is your loan covering full purchase price, stamp duty, legal fees, loan set-up fees? As if! How much of your own money is invested? It is rarely just the deposit. Gearing makes a big difference to your profits if planning a resale.

Property bank valuation is equal or higher than the selling price. Why buy something for more than it is worth? Think real carefully about what you are doing if the sale price exceeds the valuation, and never buy without a valuation. Check previous sale prices. In small towns, valuations may be influenced by prices developers have obtained under special circumstances. Sales off the plan in particular leave many opportunities for manipulation of the sale prices over the period of the development, with steadily rising prices ending up well documented. I personally wouldn't trust any prices arising from off the plan sales, although I acknowledge some people may have done very well out of such purchases.

Cash flow is positive, after tax. Check rates, body corporate fees which need to include a realistic sinking fund figure, property management fees, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, etc. Figures from real estate agents tend to be very optimistic on the income side, and incomplete or unrealistic on the cost side. You can do a quick calculation from weekly rental multiplied by 5200, divided by the purchase price to get a gross return. About 3% of your gross return rate will be eaten by costs, so you need more than that figure plus your interest rate to get cash flow positive.

Check council statistics, tourism statistics, depreciation schedules, income streams.

Remember that land appreciates in value (at least when there is a limited supply), whereas buildings depreciate (or cost you maintenance).

Selecting Apartments

High land value
That probably means sea views, which means hillside. Flat land lacks the views, and you may end up with a mosquito ridden swamp outside during the wet season.
Amenities
Needs to be close to amenities and have streetscaping, close to the main street and its shops, cafes and transport. Preferably easy walking distance. The top of a hill is great for the view, and terrible for walking. I regard having to use a car to get to shops as a guarantee that you won't walk enough to avoid health problems. In addition, parking spaces are in very short supply in the business centre. If you have children, note there are no schools in Airlie (primary school at Cannonvale is not within walking distance).
Avoid main road
Traffic noise is high on the main road, Shute Harbour Road, and entry and exit via car may be difficult. You want to be shielded from the ever increasing main road noise (although city dwellers may not find it a problem).
Off Street parking
All recent apartments should have it, but check on it. May be inadequate in older apartments. For example, and Whitsunday Terraces has about one space per twin key apartment, which means 14 car spaces for each 24 rentable units.
Balcony or courtyard
Outdoor living is part of of the tropical lifestyle. You need one or preferably both of these outdoor areas.
Owner Occupied
Far fewer problems with owner occupiers in most units. Second best is remote owners renting units in a resort out to day visitors, via a good on-site management. Remember however that you will get above average noise on heavily promoted holiday weekends. By far the worst is medium to long term rental via main street estate agents. Estate agents here generally don't inform tenants of body corporate conditions, don't respond to complaints, and don't throw out bad tenants the way on-site management will.
Structurally sound
Goes without saying. Get an engineer report. Footings on buildings on hillsides may not meet current standards for cyclone proof construction.
Low rise
Small number of apartments in the building. Monolithic buildings with more than say 24 apartments can be irritating, so go for a small number of apartments rather than a large number.

Capital Gains

Sale price
Less agents fees and legal costs
Net sales proceeds

Less total acquisition costs of
Purchase price
plus Stamp Duty
plus Legal Costs
gives Capital Gain

less any carried forward capital losses
less 50% discount (if held more than 12 months)
gives net assessable capital gain

You can also use the indexation method for working out capital gains for taxation purposes.

Property Statistics

House sales for 1999 were 119 (down from 135 in 1998), with average price A$157,000 (down from A$170,000 in 1998). Unit sales were 181 in 1999 (up from 176 in 1998), with increased average prices of A$167,000 (up from A$148,000 in 1998). There have been a substantial number of new luxury units built in the past few years, with many on the market for 2000 at over $200,000.

PRD tell me the Airlie Beach property market contains 775 properties (953 by 2006), with over 300 bought by locals, 150 by other Queenslanders, and about 100 from NSW and slightly less from Victoria. The types of properties are 63% strata uniits, 24% houses (around 200), 8% vacant land, 3% commercial, and 2% multi residential dwellings.

PRD say in the last half of 2000, 18% of houses were under $100,000, 36% up to $150,000, 23% up to $200,000, 10% up to $250,000, 8% to %350,000, and there were 4% over $450,000. Land prices had 80% under $100,000, and 13% to $150,000. Unit prices were 43% under $100,000, 20% to $150,000, 15% to $200,000, 3% to $250,000, 13% to $350,000, and 6% over $350,000. Land sales went from 100 in 1992, peaked around 250 in 1994 is now down to 60 or so (probably reflecting a decline in available land). Prices went from averages of under $60,000 to closer to $80,000 to $100,000. House sales edged up from 100 to around 140, and prices from $140,000 to around $180,000. Unit sales went from 40 to around 100, and prices from under $100,000 to over $200,000. This probably reflects the large number of new luxury units developed over the last few years.

March 2002 figures from the Council showed building approvals for 62 houses and 20 units in the previous six months.

Over the period 1995 to 2006, about 12 homes sold per year, although since 2005 it has been more like 8. Median prices started around $200,000 in 1995, and are now around $750,000 after peaking at $950,000 in 2005. However prices are highly variable.

It is possible that the Translator Hill area (Summit Estate overlooking the marina) could eventually have another 600 units. The area behind Airlie Beach where the loop road is going, and the hills behind Golden Orchid Drive could also have about 500 units eventually, but with a fair amount of green space left. Airlie Beach CBD prices in 2006 included $2.45m for Colonial Court and $1.75 for Oceania Dive building, both on corners of Broadwater and Shute Harbour Road.

Prices

In the 12 months to 30 June 2003, Proserpine (the council seat 20 km inland from Airlie Beach) recorded a median house price of $110,000, and capital growth of -0.25% on 86 sales. These figures from residex.com.au If you want to pay them money, I'm sure they will provide figures for Airlie Beach.

Disclaimer

Please don't consider anything here authoritative or tested. I am not an estate agent, a land developer, nor am I involved in the building trade. These are just off the cuff observations.

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