Queensland’s major regional centres—which were hit hard by the mining industry collapse and a downturn in tourism—are slowly heading back to housing market growth.   

House prices in some Queensland markets grew slightly toward the end of 2016, according to the Domain Group’s rental and house price report. However, house prices were still down year on year. Other Queensland markets recorded negative growth, though this eased in the final months of 2016.

While signs of growth are emerging in Rockhampton, Mackay, and Cairns, Suncorp’s senior economist Darryl Conroy said buyers and investors should regard these figures with caution.

“There’s some pretty sizeable negatives in front of them which is pretty alarming,” he said. “But [there are] some prospects in the wings.”


Rockhampton’s economy is diverse and remains fairly strong. House prices rose through the year from $315,000 to $320,000 in the September quarter, but fell in December to $318,000.

According to Dr Andrew Wilson, Domain Group’s chief economist, the Rockhampton Region had nearly recovered from the economic downturn. “There’s certainly signs of flattening out [and] Rockhampton has the appeal of being affordable,” he said.

In contrast, rentals didn’t perform well, falling 6.5% (from $310 to $290) in 2015-2016.


The east coast city of Mackay was one of the hardest hit cities when mining slowed. House prices took a dramatic tumble and have continued to fall.

The median house price was $344,000 in December 2015. This fell over a 12-month period to $328,500. House prices continued their steady decline in the first half of 2016, but that slowed in the last quarter of the year.

“We’re seeing early signs that [the] market is starting to flatten out,” Wilson said. He believes buyers would become more active this year as the area is now viewed as a bargain. “I think once we start getting close to $300,000 medians, we see perceptions of value kick in.”

The outlook for Mackay became more optimistic toward the end of last year, local agents said. “2016 was very two-paced; it started very slowly,” Ben Chick, principal of Explore Property Mackay, told the Domain Group. “The vacancy rate for rentals almost halved, which was a sign of people coming to town.”


Holiday haven Cairns has long outperformed other regional areas. The city’s housing market shrank the least in 2016, down just 0.7% from $415,000 to $412,250. Cairns also saw the highest quarterly growth, up 1.2% from September’s median house price of $407,500.

Many local agents believe Cairns is poised for a period of growth. “It’s our turn,” said Angela Capitanio, selling principal at Ray White Cairns Central. “Capital cities are always doing well for one reason or another.”

Conroy attributed Cairn’s growth during the December quarter to a revived tourist industry and a lower Australian dollar.

Year on year rents in Cairns are also steady after declining in 2016. They fell to $400 in September and bounced back to $410 by the end of the year.