HOUSE PRICES RISE

By ALEX EASTON

REAL estate prices continue to climb on the Northern Rivers, even as the number of sales fall, local agents have said.

Lismore LJ Hooker agent and Real Estate Institute of NSW board member, Paul Deegan, has released figures on price increases across the Northern Rivers of between 5 per cent and 32 per cent between February 2004 and February 2005.

But, despite the continued push on house prices, many agents, including Mr Deegan, said the number of people wanting to buy properties was falling.

The exception to the rule was Ballina, where Elders co-director, Glenn Mills, said sales figures remained strong.

"October, November, December last year were some of the worst months I have seen.

"But since then it has been consistently good," Mr Mills said.

However, the investor market remained strong in Ballina, he said, but it has been harder work to get good listings.

At Casino, Elders residential sales agent Mark Formaggin said Casino and Lismore remained popular with buyers because they were affordable, but properties were not selling at the rate they had been.

"You have the baby-boomers coming up, but not all of them can afford a big place at East Ballina or Ocean Shores or the Gold Coast, and Casino and Lismore are close large areas where you can buy a nice fourbedroom, two-bathroom place on two acres for between $300,000 and $350,000," Mr Formaggin said.

"There's plenty of work for most agents that want to chase it, but it's not as easy as it was 12 months ago when you just had to stand in the office and let the buyers knock you over."

Mr Deegan said last month's 0.25 per cent jump in interest rates had been clearly felt in the local market and he applauded the Reserve Bank's decision last week to not raise them again ?- despite widespread expectation of a second rate rise. However, he said the last rate increase had little long-term impact on the market.

"Whether it's one per cent or a quarter of a per cent, people have a knee-jerk reaction and then, a few months later, say 'OK, it's not that bad'," he said.

"It's more of the fact that there is a rate rise ?- it's not quantitative."

However, he said a second rise last week, coming on top of the March rate hike, would have had a stronger impact.

LJ Hooker Evans Head principal Brian O'Farrell agreed.

Mr O'Farrell said there were fewer investment buyers now in the Evans Head housing market, even though prices continued to grow.

However, he said issues such as stamp duty, land tax and the State Government's unpopular exit tax were a bigger prob- lem than interest rates.

n What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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