The Nambucca Valley is in the middle of the largest real estate boom in living memory.
According to Pam Pearse of Nambucca Heads' oldest business - Roberts Real Estate - the last boom was 15 years ago in 2003-04, but the market quickly slumped again the following year.
The one previous to that was in the late eighties.
But Pam said this one trumps all others.
"I've never seen it like this before," she said.
Everything's sold - it's crazy. Sellers are putting unbelievable prices on their properties and they're getting them.
Valla Real Estate's Glenn Mitcham and Margie O'Brien said they'd both sold a number of properties sight unseen since the first lockdown occurred in March last year.
"Valla has been a popular place for a while - it's always a tight market. But this is very unusual," Margie said.
She said it's currently rare to have a property still on the market after three weeks, with most selling in one to two weeks.
Nambucca Valley Property's David Winton said a Scotts Head home he'd listed online yesterday had already attracted a dozen emails overnight in addition to the six enquiries he'd received since the 'For Sale' sign went up a couple of days ago.
"I've had six to eight offers on that property in the last 48 hours," he said, noting that Scotts Head was a particularly hot market, with a limited supply of properties for sale.
"But demand is also good in Macksville, Nambucca, all over the Valley really. It's the strongest market I've seen since the early 2000s."
He said Macksville properties that were in the $280K-$290K price range before 2017 were comfortably worth over $400K now.
And while the completed bypass certainly put upward pressure on house prices in the district during that time, David is under no illusion about what has catalysed the latest boom.
"Demand has increased exponentially since COVID hit," he said.
"We're seeing a lot of demand from people in Sydney, the Central Coast, and some from Melbourne."
It's the same story throughout the region, with COVID refugees snaffling properties up and down the North Coast.
"At the moment everyone's trying to get out of the cities," Pam said.
"Everywhere's had a boom, but Nambucca's had a boost on top. I think we've been found. Nambucca is on the map.
"Most of the land in Nambucca has gone too because of the Government's Homebuilder Grant."
David said the interest in the Nambucca is a positive sign for our area, with new people injecting new life into the Valley.
And Glenn said the change could increase the diversity of the make-up of our towns.
"We've always had people moving here in retirement for our climate, our beautiful beaches, our lifestyle," Glenn said.
"But people from a broader age range are coming here now.
COVID has created a new flexibility for people to work from home. And this has made moving to regional areas more achievable. Now you can work remotely and have a better quality of life. Why wouldn't you want to move here?
The statistics match the anecdotal evidence collected from our local real estate agents.
Real Estate Australia (REA) Insights reported there'd been a 75.4 per cent increase in suburb searches for the NSW Mid North Coast region on realestate.com.au in August 2020.
"While search in regional Australia started accelerating soon after the first lockdown began in mid-March, it has taken some time to work out whether it was just people locked down, looking for something to do, or alternatively, active purchasers, with strong intent to buy," REA Insights Regional Australia Report 2020 author Nerida Conisbee said.
"Price growth data now available is starting to confirm that the search activity we were seeing on realestate.com.au was from genuine buyers looking to make the move to beachside areas, far from capital cities.
"The preference for lifestyle locations becomes particularly apparent in the list of New South Wales regional areas seeing the strongest growth. The coastal areas from the Mid North Coast up to the Queensland border have been experiencing strong growth post the pandemic, likely driven by strong interest from people located in capital cities, particularly Sydney."
According to the report's data, topping the list of areas with the strongest regional property price growth in NSW is Grafton/Coffs Harbour, followed closely by the Mid North Coast, with 8.3 per cent growth in the three months to September 2020.
The only area in Australia that has outperformed these two, is the wheat belt of Western Australia.
A seller's market, and a renter's nightmare
For any locals thinking of selling their properties, the consensus from agents is that the time is now to get an appraisal and get the ball rolling.
But while the boom is great news for property owners in the Nambucca Valley, not so for the hordes of applicants competing for virtually non-existent rentals.
"This is the first time ever that our office has had no rental listings," Pam said.
She said on top of the 10 hopefuls that walk in with rental applications daily, they are nearly doubled by the number of online applications they're currently receiving - a total of up to 30 per day.
Pam said that she has one person processing rental applications all day long.
Other agents have a similar story: "We had no rentals last week, and this week we have two, and we've been absolutely inundated with applications," David said.
Property Manager for Valla Real Estate Jodi Young said she has only one rental available right now and applications covering her desk.
"We've been having up to 20 people submitting applications per rental property, where we'd usually have five or six," Margie said.
So a lot of people are stuck without a place to live and you really feel for them.
Jodi said many of the rental applications are also from people joining the exodus from the cities.
"There's just more people wanting to move here - they want what we've all got. Everyone wants a slice of it," she said.
"And no one's leaving the area. Everyone wants to stay here. So there's just nothing available."
Pam said many of those who are missing out would be ideal tenants.
"There are qualified professionals looking for accommodation that can't find any," she said.
"It's just that stock in all agencies is limited."
She predicts that the current pressure will gradually increase the price of rentals in the Nambucca Valley.
For the Housing Matters Action Group - a lobby group of volunteers addressing housing affordability in the Bellinger and Nambucca Valleys - this is a housing crisis.
"The housing affordability gap is so great that local working families can no longer afford to live in many parts of the region. Rentals have dried up and real estate prices are skyrocketing as COVID refugees flee the cities," Housing Matters' Kerry Pearce said.
"The influx of workers for the Coffs Bypass is only going to put more pressure on the local housing system. Where are people going to live?
"We need thoughtful, open dialogue and creative local responses as well as government policy action to find a way through this."
The group will host a screening of a short film short film Home Matters, which will be followed by a Q&A tomorrow (January 13), from 5.30-7.30pm at the Bellingen Memorial Hall.
"We know that housing stress is very real for many people in our region. We want to reignite the discussion started in our first affordable housing forum three years ago and fast track momentum for change," Kerry Pearse said.
Tickets: Free, but registrations are essential to ensure the event is COVID safe. https://events.humanitix.com/home-matters