More than $40 million worth of hotel assets have been sold in the NSW New England region in the past month, with more sales to be announced in the coming weeks - and the appetite for regional property is not limited to pubs, local realtors say.
Libby Sharpe from Ray White in Tenterfield has been in the local real estate industry for more than 20 years.
"I have never seen a market like it," she said. "The median house price in 2019 was $242,000, and it is now $290,000 with an 18 per cent increase in the last 12 months."
Rural land sales are also booming, with a signature agricultural property selling at auction recently for $6.25 million to a city-based family with interests in the Tenterfield region.
Ms Sharpe said there were rumours a couple of Tenterfield commercial properties that had been on the market for a very long time have sold, and city people were also buying heritage homes and restoring them.
"Enquiries are very strong, but we haven't got a lot of stock," she said.
"One big change between the current market and the last boom in 2003 is that people are viewing and buying online."
Ms Sharpe said the sale in June of a 'rustic' hut and 479 acres on Tenterfield Creek site-unseen to a buyer as a 'playground' for his Brisbane based family was a good example of this.
"Two of the digital auction bidders had never done a site inspection, and the buyer still has not seen the property," she said.
HTL Property is a national operator specialising in the hotel industry, and managing director Andrew Jolliffe said there had been an 'extraordinary increase' in the number of metro-based investors prepared to invest regionally with the current COVID-19 pandemic pushing these markets into the spotlight.
"I think the domestic market has looked a bit inwards because borders have been closed, and people have been travelling to regional areas for recreation and reconnected with these areas," Mr Jolliffe said.
"It's given them some confidence to turn those recreational thoughts into commercial investment thoughts. So we think the paths that have been well worn over this past 18 months will retain interest regionally."
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Glen Curry, the director of the local family-run Harold Curry Real Estate, says he agrees with Mr Jolliffe's view.
"Tenterfield has always been attractive to the metro based market but certainly more so since COVID-19," Mr Curry said.
"Demand for all property types has been at a level I have never before experienced in my 36 years in the local market, with our stock levels at an all-time low.
"The overall market has seen a significant increase in value. In my opinion, the properties with a point of difference or the very sought-after creek or river frontage have been the biggest beneficiaries."
Mr Joliffe said other factors as well as 'highly desirable yields' of investments in regional areas were driving sales.
"Increased regional migration, regional infrastructure spending, a lower susceptibility to COVID-19 related lockdown measures; and a robust agriculture-led rural economy are all major drivers of positive sentiment," he said.