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Sales up as house prices fall

THE Queensland residential property market has made an impressive comeback over the September quarter with sales activity strengthening across the State, according to the Real Estate Institute of Queensland.

The REIQ September quarter median price report found the preliminary number of house sales was up a healthy 17 per cent in Queensland compared to the June quarter.

Some regions recorded substantial jumps in activity as buyers finally started to foray back into the market.

"What these figures show is that it appears it took about six months for our property market to begin to heal from the natural disasters earlier this year," REIQ chairman Pamela Bennett said.

"Activity in most areas improved markedly in the September quarter compared to the first six months of this year, but we mustn't get ahead of ourselves given sales activity is still about 20% below where we were this time last year."

While activity has strengthened, median house prices remain soft with only the Gold Coast and Cairns posting positive price growth over the period.

The announcement that the Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games will also provide much-needed stimulus to its economy and property market.

The market continues to make up some of the ground it lost earlier this year but the continuing patchy economic conditions means sales remain significantly below long-term historical averages.

Over the quarter, there was a 27% increase in sales below $350,000 as buyers sought out affordable property, especially in regional areas.

The median house price in Brisbane reduced 2% to an even $500,000 over the period.

Conversely, the number of preliminary house sales was up 13%.

The Gold Coast posted a rise of 2.2% to $ 469,950 with sales up 11%.

Demand for homes in Gladstone continues to be very strong with sales up more than 50% over the quarter.

However, there was a marked swing towards more affordable property which resulted in its median house price dropping marginally by 0.1% to $440,000 over the period.

The Fraser Coast, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Cairns also all recorded double-digit growth in the number of house sales over the quarter.

"We can certainly take some heart from these results which show that our market is on the mend after a very difficult year," REIQ managing director Dan Molloy said.

"While global conditions remain concerning, more sales activity locally shows that buyers have a little more confidence and are much more prepared to sign on the dotted line now than they were earlier this year.

"The recent interest rate cut will also help and we are hopeful of even more positive news and increased activity in the December quarter."

The Toowoomba median house price was down 7.3% to $275,000 with sales activity largely occurring at the affordable end of the market.

REIQ Toowoomba/Darling Downs zone chair Leon Carlile said buyers and vendors alike were cautious and taking a wait-and-see approach.

"The market is very quiet at the moment, with buyers being quite cautious and not committing to a purchase," he said.

"Only the affordable properties are moving, which is seeing suburbs such as Newtown and Harristown perform well."

Although the resources industry is well under way in the nearby Surat Basin, the property sales market is still yet to reap the benefits.

"It is unusually quiet given the growth of the resources industry however it is only a matter of time before we do see a flow onto the local property market."

Mr Carlile also said there had been an undersupply of land releases over the past few years which will put increased pressure on existing stock once demand from the resources industry comes into play.

And similar to the most of the state, investors and first home buyers are yet to re-emerge.

"There are some good buying opportunities to be had and given the current tight conditions in our rental market, with most investment properties taking no longer than a week to be tenanted, investors too are well placed to buy now," he said.

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