If the way to a man’s heart is via his stomach, then perhaps the same could be said about the property market for the NSW township of Orange.
For this is no ordinary country town.
It’s a gastronomic heartland, where homegrown delights abound and award-winning and hatted restaurants, chic cafes and cellar doors constitute standard fare.
“It’s relaxed, the people are great, the food is great, and I think a lot of people are finding that,” agent Peter McCormack says about his hometown.
“Food is front of mind for Australians.
“People appreciate it and that type of environment sits very well in places like Orange and Millthorpe.”
But it’s not just the food people are travelling 254km west of Sydney for.
It’s also the schools, the hospital, the employment — not to mention the space and affordability.
The owner of Tonic, Millthorpe’s hatted fine-dining restaurant, Tony Worland, relocated to the small “non-existent” town 15 minutes drive from Orange 14 years ago.
Worland’s brother purchased 100 acres (about 40ha) near Orange, prompting Tony and his wife, Nicole, to ditch their plans of buying a renovator’s delight in Newtown in Sydney’s inner west for the same price in favour of the produce-heavy Central Tablelands.
Millthorpe has gone from obscure to hot property, with listings such as Caswell Park, a 40 acre country-style master-built home with paddocks and a spring-fed dam, selling for about $1.2 million.
Within 24 hours of the signboard going up, locals had made eight inquiries before the Sydneysiders started calling.
“Millthorpe feels very similar to Leura or Bowral in the Southern Highlands,” McCormack says.
“It’s quite unique to the Central West in that respect.
“You’ve got this tiny village but it’s got amazing food and cafes, the local school has a fantastic name and reputation, so there’s a real drive for people to go out there.”
Price growth in the region has been “dramatic”, McCormack says, and unlike anything the region has seen since its previous boom, which ran for two years from 2002-2004. Last year Australian Property Monitors ranked Orange third, behind the Tweed and Wollongong, as NSW’s best-performing regions, with prices increasing 8.6 per cent over 12 months.
There are no signs of interest slowing either, according to Benchmark Rural and Lifestyle prestige agent David Dent, who escaped the clutches of Sydney’s lower north shore 3.5 years ago.
“The market here is very strong and it’s all being driven by Sydney-based buyers who are fed up with traffic, congestion and property prices,” he says.
“We’ve got good employment, a diverse economy and it offers a wonderful lifestyle choice.
“You can leave Sydney and buy something for $1.5m to $2m and you are buying the best of the best.”
He estimates 80 per cent of his buyer inquiry in the past six months has come from Sydney, mostly from 30- and 40-somethings who have done their research, deciding Orange, with its cafes, wineries, restaurants, schools and value for money, ticked all their boxes.
A house on 5 acres in the heart of Orange, which settles on April 29, set a new record of $2.1m when a couple from Sydney’s Eastwood traded in their 600sq m block.
A couple from Killara paid a record $1.95m when they purchased Exeter, a 112 acre lifestyle property on the outskirts of Orange.
Sydney interest is hovering around the newly listed Gamboola Cabonne, a 1912-built country estate built on 29 acres of riverfront land, 15 minutes’s drive from Orange, seeking offers of more than $1.5m.
“It’s one of those properties that’s very impressive and for someone who doesn’t want to come out and retire, it has lots of potential to become a business opportunity,” Dent says.
“That’s what appeals to Sydney people.
“They’re not ready to slow down yet.
“They want to keep busy.”
Williams Machin agent Doone Grist agrees, describing the market as “gangbusters”, with many high end properties only lasting a few days on the market before being sold.
“It’s probably been the last six to eight months that it’s taken off,” she says.
“People can’t afford to buy in Sydney and with modern technology they can still work and afford to buy here.
“We’re getting a lot of people in their 30s, young professionals, with families, because we’ve got such fantastic schools and a great hospital.
“It sounds obvious but it’s a lovely place to raise children compared to the city.”
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