BUILDING approvals are on the rise across the state and the Northern Rivers is no exception.
John Eggins, of Eggins Prestige Homes in Ballina, has been building homes in the Northern Rivers for 42 years.
"We've certainly seen an increase compared to what it was 12 months ago," he said.
"We had a slower year last year but the good signs are that it's picking up this year."
The surge in activity comes with a return to positive price growth across the region for the first time in about two years and as rising house prices in Sydney prompted market monitoring group RPData to tip median prices would hit $1 million in Australia's biggest city within three years.
Mr Eggins said more government security both state wide and federally and lower interest rates were probably to thank for the increase in building activity on the Northern Rivers. But he said conditions locally could hamper the number of homes being built.
"I think we're disadvantages for lack of developed land in this region," he said.
"Lismore has some land coming in the Northern plateau area, but Ballina needs to move faster to approve and develop home subdivisions."
Wayne Bird, from Wayne Bird building in Goonellabah, said he had also noticed an increase in business.
"We're finding it really busy," he said. "I'd say it's the best it's been for a long, long time."
Mr Bird said low interest rates were probably to thank for the boost, but he also said land availability could hamper growth.
"The North Coast is a high growth area but the availability of land is an issue."
Figures from Australian Property Monitors show much of the Northern Rivers also moving into positive price growth at the start of the year after a slump of two years or more.
Byron Bay, which recorded the deepest slump in the region with house price growth falling to about -18% in 2013 has now recorded the biggest surge, with price growth pushing 10%. Lennox Head is also now performing strongly with price growth at about 7.5% after a low in 2012 of -12%.
In Lismore, where growth of about 14% in 2011 crashed to -10% in 2012, price growth has recovered to about 2%, while Ballina, which had a less severe dip has also seen a lighter recovery, at about 1%. Casino, which saw a slower tumble from a high of 10% in 2010 has been trending up and, as of the start of the year, prices remained steady.
Kyogle had its high back in 2008 and had been on a long slide through until the start of last year when negative price growth began to slow. The town's home values are still trending up, but prices are yet to start increasing across the market. Housing approvals across the State grew 58% in March this year compared to the same time last year.
The growth has meant housing approvals in NSW have reached their highest level in a decade.
Minister for Planning Pru Goward said 51,000 new homes were approved in NSW in the 12 months to March 2014.
From February to March, NSW bucked the national trend by being the only mainland State to record an increase in housing approvals.
Number of building approvals in the nine months to March
- 2014: 103 new building approvals
- 2013: 58 new building approvals
- 2009: 47 new building approvals
- 2014: 92 new building approvals
- 2013: 79 new building approvals
- 2009: 71 new building approvals
- 2014: 19 new building approvals
- 2013: 12 new building approvals
- 2009: 14 new building approvals
- 2014: 28 new building approvals
- 2013: 18 new building approvals
- 2009: 17 new building approvals
- 2014: 45 new building approvals
- 2013: 71 new building approvals
- 2009: 24 new building approvals
More properties being sold on the Northern Rivers
BUILDING approvals are not the only housing market on the move, with recent figures showing the volume of house sales in the Northern Rivers is also on the rise.
Wal Murray First National Lismore residential sales agent Ben Conte said while house prices had remained steady this year, the amount of sales has increased significantly.
"The number of sales have definitely increased and we hope that's going to be a continuing trend," he said.
Mr Conte said lower interest rates and a decline in house prices since 2012 were putting confidence back into the market.
"If the turnover keeps going at a good rate we might see prices rise by the end of this year or the start of next year."
McGrath Ballina principal John Nicolson said good sales volumes over the last couple of months had bucked the downwards trend.
"We've had three years of really poor sales volumes so to get those sorts of increases has just shown the recovery in the market, back to where we should be," he said.
"We haven't really seen significant price rises in the Northern Rivers yet, where the major metropolitan markets have had significant increase, and it's reasonable to expect that to flow onto regional markets."
"People are probably more focused on lifestyle and recreation rather than the time and money required to maintain and refurbish a large home," he said.
"Lennox Head is probably the leader at the moment in terms of sales volumes with Byron not far behind."
Prices go down, sales go up
KYOGLE has continued the trend of growing property sales in the Northern Rivers with a recent report showing a marked increase in home buyers over the past 18 months.
PRD nationwide Research Analyst Augustine Conteh said figures from a recent PRD report showed that a 2.1% drop in median price for properties in Kyogle had increased demand from buyers in the area.
"We've seen a distinct rise in market share for properties in the $150,000 to $200,000 price bracket in Kyogle, which in turn, has enticed buyer and investors on restricted budgets into the area chasing affordable housing options," he said.
"As a result, sales transactions have boomed by 43 per cent for the 12 months to December 2013 and our first quarter figures for 2014 are showing a further 50% increase. Kyogle is definitely back on the radar for first time home buyers and savvy investors that place affordability as a high priority."
PRDnationwide Kyogle Principal Robert Horder agreed that the local market was on the move again.
"The last 3 months in particular we have seen a spike in sales volume and a noticeable improvement on enquiry within all price ranges and property types," Mr Horder said.
"The positive results seen in metropolitan markets are beginning to feed through to regional areas such as Kyogle."