The strength of Albury-Wodonga's record-breaking 2021 property market was unprecedented, but agents expect 2022 will be just as strong.
The year saw a dramatic increase in the number of auctions held on Saturdays and even into the week, as vendors sought to capitalise on fierce competition for homes.
Online auctions might have started as a necessary COVID pivot, but 2021 saw auctioneers embrace technology and keep up the online habit well after COVID restrictions eased, to allow capital city buyers to be part of the action.
House values across the board grew, with many properties selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they did just a few years ago and the amount of $1 million home sales skyrocketing.
McGrath Real Estate director Philip Bell has been in the game since 1983 and said he's never seen anything like the 2021 Albury-Wodonga market.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a market as strong as it's been this year," he said.
"I worked in Sydney in the late '80s, that's probably the last time I had a market like this."
Mr Bell said McGrath was finishing the year with a clearance rate of close to 100 per cent and believes 2021's strength will carry over into 2022, despite signs the capital city markets might be slowing.
"I think the capital cities are softening a bit because there's an increase in supply," he said.
"We react a lot more slowly to market forces than Sydney and Melbourne.
"I imagine we're going to see a good strong market for 2022.
"There's still a lack of supply in lots of parts of the market and we also offer much better yields than capital cities do, so city investors will still be coming to towns like Albury-Wodonga."
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Despite the strength of the market and increasing house prices, Mr Bell believes sellers in the region have remained reasonable.
"Everything that has come on the market has pretty much sold in a reasonable time frame, I think we're very fortunate here, we haven't seen the level of greed from vendors some cities have," he said.
The year saw a number of high end properties sell for big bucks, with five properties selling at auction for more than a million each in one day in December.
One of the best disclosed auction results of the year was the sale of 678 Banff Avenue, Albury, by Stean Nicholls which sold for an eyewatering $2.3 million after a short but heated bidding war between two interested parties.
Stean Nicholls agent Nicholas Clark said a shortage in land has ended the building boom and seen people divert their attention to buying established homes.
Mr Clark said the market was seeing movement in all directions with families upsizing, retirees downsizing and city folk embracing regional areas. He believes the Border area is just being discovered.
"I think [the market] will continue to remain quite strong as we see more and more people from capital cities moving to the area," he said.
"Albury-Wodonga has been a bit of a hidden secret for quite a long time and now, I think the secret's out."
Grahame Gould, of Chapman Gould and May, believes Border properties are finally getting the money they deserve.
"What's happened is we've really got to the point where we deserve to be price wise," he said. "I've always thought we've been undervalued but now we've reached values where I think we should be.
"I think people have to get used to paying these prices."
Mr Gould said interest rates would play a major part in whether the market continues strongly, goes backwards or plateaus.
"I think it will [stay strong] if anything, I don't think it will go back, I think we could plateau out but prices will stay strong," he said.
William Bonnici, of First National Real Estate Bonnici and Associates, said an exceptional market in 2021 saw substantial price increases in the region.
The agency broke Wodonga's sale price record when it sold 6 Caernarvon Court, Wodonga in October for $2 million.
Already Mr Bonnici is looking to break the new record with 2 McGaffins Road, West Wodonga, listed for sale with a price guide between $2.5 million and $2.7 million.
"It's been an exceptional market for the past 12 months and we've seen some substantial increases in prices across Albury and Wodonga and surrounds," he said.
"In some case we've seen increases of 20 per cent which is unheard of in our market.
"I don't see [prices] going down anytime soon."
Mr Bonnici expects supply will increase soon as people realise how good prices are and place more houses on the market.
However he does not believe prices will go backwards.
"I've been selling real estate here for the past 17 years and we're certainly seeing a maturing of the market," he said. "It might plateau but certainly I don't believe it will regress."
Ray White Albury North's Andrea Lever said 2021 was the year of the auction.
The agency moved to online auctions when COVID restrictions were introduced, but continued them long after restrictions eased.
The move saw people buying homes from interstate and even from the work carpark.
"We've auctioned a lot more than normal, in last few months it's all we have done because you can't cap a price," she said.
"Auctions are very good for owners because when it sells it's an unconditional contract unlike private treaty... I like it for purchasers as well because it's transparent, everything is out in open, you can see what others are bidding."
The agency is sitting at a 97 per cent clearance rate with 36 of 37 properties having sold at auction in the last three months.
"It's been incredibly competitive, we've seen more buyers than ever before," she said.
PJ Murphy's agent Drew Turnbull thinks it is unlikely the property market will slump in 2022.
"It will plateau at one stage but I don't know when that stage will be," he said.
"The cities go up and down a lot but rural areas like Albury-Wodonga they tend to just sort of hit the peak and stay there, and then something else might happen along the way and they go back up."
Mr Turnbull said while a few properties had been passed in at auction, most had sold after the fact.
In the commercial sphere multi-million dollar sales continued throughout the year with the Officeworks building on 423 Smollett Street selling for $10.95 million, 1156 Padman Drive selling for $4.185 million and 7 Thomas Mitchell Drive selling for $5.665 million
One of the biggest sales of the year was the Harris Farms and Amart Furniture shopping complex on Young Street, offered by JLL Retail Investments, which sold for $29.5 million.
Andrew Dixon, of L.J Colquhoun Dixon Commercial Real Estate, said COVID and lockdowns had driven people from cities into the region and seen businesses embrace Albury-Wodonga.
"[The market] has been as strong as I've seen in my 35 years selling commercial real estate in Albury-Wodonga and there's no reason for it to slow down," he said.
"It has been an amazing year.
"I think the critical thing is Albury-Wodonga is a major regional centre.
"We've reached critical mass and there's a large number of different types of businesses wishing to relocate to places like Albury-Wodonga and as a region we've benefited."
Mr Dixon believes the "momentum will keep rolling" into 2022.
Outside Albury and Wodonga, the property market has also thrived with strong commodity prices helping drive bumper rural land sales across the North East and Southern Riverina.
Corcoran Parker's John Honeychurch said he was looking forward to another strong year in 2022.
"It's been an outstanding year in the rural sector, right across board from livestock prices to rural properties," he said.
"Everything that has been auctioned has exceeded the reserve price and we've seen some record prices set on land values in North East Victoria."
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