City buyers looking to invest or make a tree change are driving a near doubling of house prices in a small country New South Wales town, and some residents saying they are being forced out.
- Tumbarumba recorded NSW regional’s biggest growth in home values since COVID, according to CoreLogic
- The growth is driven by young families moving to the region, and a growing demand for Airbnbs
- One resident of 20 years says she was “booted out” by city buyers
Three years ago, real estate agent Mellisa Meli said homes she listed for sale in Tumbarumba, in the New South Wales’ Snowy Valleys, could easily take 365 days to sell.
Now, they are either gone before they hit the market or within a week of being listed, and are almost double the price.
According to data released by CoreLogic this week, the town of less than 2,000 people has recorded an 82 per cent increase in home values since COVID-19 began, the biggest jump in regional New South Wales.
The picturesque country town is nestled in the Snowy Valleys, surrounded by forests and mountains and is one end of the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail.
Ms Meli said the town’s natural attractions were largely behind the growth, drawing an influx of tree-changers from big cities during the pandemic.
“People have seen they can work remotely, from remote locations,” she said.
Jason and Robyn Foley relocated to Tumbarumba from Melbourne with their two young sons in January 2022.
They said they were drawn to the town’s sense of community and the still relatively lower prices — the town’s median house value sits around $330,000.
“We really liked the town, and we were able to be introduced to some parts of the community and everyone was just lovely,” Mr Foley said.
Town ‘buzzing’ since COVID-19
New arrivals like the Foleys have dramatically shifted the town’s demographic, and given businesses a boost.
Laura Fraumeni runs a popular cafe and cinema in town, and said the local customer base had increased, with most now young professionals with families.
“Since the pandemic and the town has a real buzz about it and a thriving economy,” she said.
Ms Meli said the town had become “a vibrant place”.
“We have a Fast5 netball competition, we didn’t have a Fast5 netball comp pre-COVID,” she said.
Locals squeezed out
But for other local residents there was a dark side to the boom.
Caroline Dwyer-Gray was given notice to vacate her flat of more than eight years early in 2022, after a city buyer purchased the building and decided to turn it into an Airbnb.
Ms Dwyer-Gray had lived in Tumbarumba for almost 20 years but had to move an hour north to Tumut, unable to find any rentals in the area.
She said leaving the community she knew was “distressing” and “stressful”.
“I planted roses,” she said.
“I was hoping to stay in that flat for the rest of my life.”
President of the Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce Maria Anderson said overall short-term accommodation had jumped significantly in the area.
“We’ve sort of gone from virtually no Airbnbs to almost 20 now,” she said.
“That’s tying up homes that people could be living in.”
Ms Dwyer-Gray said she felt she had been “booted out” of her home and the community by a lack of housing, and the new higher rental rates.
“Being a local person living in a small country town, there should be more accommodation available for people,” she said.
Ms Fraumeni said while her business had benefited from the housing shift, she wants to see more housing built to make sure more locals aren’t elbowed out.
“That’s a problem our community needs to address,” she said.
“We want to be a town full of people who live here, not just tourists.”