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Opportunities for investment in coastal towns?

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Every year between November and January, tiny coastal towns throughout Australia are flooded with interstate tourists who are keen to soak up the sun and unwind in relaxing surroundings. If you’ve ever found yourself holidaying at a lovely coastal town, thinking, “I could really see myself living here one day...” then it might be time to investigate whether a seaside property investment stacks up?
With the warmer climates of summer approaching, it’s only natural for investors to begin looking at coastal property markets for potential investment opportunities.
Rpdata.com research analyst Cameron Kusher says beachside properties have routinely performed well in the past. 
“For the past 10 years, house prices in coastal markets have typically seen strong levels of growth,” Kusher says. “Over the last 12 months, however, the performance has been much less impressive.”
In the majority of coastal locations, house prices have recorded annual growth of less than 10% over the last year, according to the RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index results for June 2010.
The largest falls occurred in key tourism and sea change markets, such as Cairns (down 2.7%), The Whitsundays (down 2.5%) and the Fraser Coast (down 1.6%).
While this isn’t the best news for those who already own property in those markets, it does provide plenty of opportunities for investors to get into the market.
You need to go in with your eyes wide open, however. Investing in coastal property is a long-term proposition, as short-term capital growth is likely to remain sluggish. As well as a decline in the number of retirees and sea-changers moving to coastal areas – thanks to the impacts of the GFC – the strong Aussie dollar is also deterring overseas visitors from coming to Australia, while also making holidaying abroad significantly more appealing for Australians.
“Unfortunately, a flow-on effect from this is that slower tourism markets tend to lead to a lack of employment in coastal regions,” Kusher says.
“This then makes it difficult for owners of investment properties, as they are ultimately less likely to be able to find tenants.”
It’s also important to note that rental yields have remained stagnant in these areas.
“Nationally, rental growth has been minimal since the onset of the GFC and most of the coastal markets have reflected this,” Kusher says.
“The majority of suburbs detailed have recorded growth in rents of less than 5% over the year, and a number of regions have even recorded declines in median rents.”
Looking forward, Kusher believes that most coastal markets throughout Australia appear to have reached their lows, and are now on the increase, although growth will be slow in some areas.
“Any significant recovery will likely be slow, if an expected increase in interest rates becomes imminent,” he says.
“The softness in the tourism sector will also dampen the prospects of significant improvements in most of these markets. Coastal markets with more diversified economies or those linked with the resources sector are likely to have the strongest capital growth prospects over the coming year.”

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