Celebrities and cashed-up city folk flocking to Byron Bay have forced up house prices 36 per cent in just a year as locals struggle to find a home.
The once-sleepy hippie haven on the New South Wales far north coast used to be lined with plenty of affordable shacks near the beach.
But in recent years, those fibro houses have been bulldozed and replaced with water view mansions, some taking up three blocks.
Movie stars like Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron also moved into the town that was once renowned for its barefoot artists, surfers and rainbow bus tours to Nimbin.
Celebrities and cashed-up Sydneysiders have wrecked Byron Bay with house prices surging by 36 per cent in just one year as renters struggle to find a home. Movie stars like Zac Efron (pictured) have also moved into the town, once renowned for its local artists and surfers
Wealthy Sydneysiders and Melburnians, fed up with congestion and Covid lockdowns, have also flocked to the former whaling town, famous for having a lighthouse at Australia’s most easterly point.
Adam Gilchrist, who co-founded F45 Training, splashed out on a new pad in 2020 in the area. He already owns at $18.85million property in the region, and reportedly has rejected offers to rent the home at $100,000 a week.
JB Hi-Fi former chief executive Richard Uechtritz is also demolishing two blocks to create his dream mega-mansion.
Little wonder Byron Bay’s median house price surged by 36 per cent in 2020 to $1.87million, REA Group data showed.
The idyllic town a short drive from the Gold Coast is now more expensive to live in than even Sydney’s Northern Beaches, an upmarket area of Australia’s priciest capital city.
Byron Bay’s mid-point price is nothing compared with the $22million recruitment company boss Geoff Morgan reaped last year when he sold a Wategos Beach mansion to Melbourne-based Rip Curl founder Brian Singer after just five days on the market.
Byron Shire councillor Jeannette Martin told Daily Mail Australia expensive housing costs were causing locals to leave as wealthy people from Sydney and Melbourne, who could work from home, moved in.
‘They sell their houses for big dollars in the city and they come up here and they can offer more for the houses that are available and that happens,’ she said.
Little wonder Byron Bay’s median house price surged by 36 per cent in 2020 to $1.87million, REA Group data showed. Pictured is a seven-bedroom house selling for $5.25million
Where house prices surged in 2020
Kelmscott, Perth south-east: up 39 per cent to $375,000
Byron Bay: up 36 per cent to $1.87million
Woollahra, Sydney eastern suburbs: up 35 per cent to $3.7million
Killara, Sydney North Shore: up 31 per cent to $3.275million
Wyong, NSW Central Coast: up 30 per cent to $662,500
Coodanup, Mandurah in WA: up 30 per cent to $302,500
Port Noarlunga, Adelaide south: up 27 per cent to $511,000
West Albury, southern NSW: up 27 per cent to $425,000
Dodges Ferry, Hobart east: up 26 per cent to $440,000
Port Hedland, WA Pilbara: up 26 per cent to $515,000
Source: REA Group data for the year to December 2020 based on sales figures from the Valuer-General and real estate agents
‘A lot of locals are having to move away and it’s very, very hard for people who have children in school and those who have jobs. What do you do?’
Nerida Conisbee, the chief economist of realestate.com.au and the author of the REA Insights Property Outlook Report 2021, said movie stars were a draw card for cashed-up buyers last year.
‘It was the perfect combination of people moving to regional areas, popularity of premium and beachside locations, remote working, growing demand for holiday homes and of course the accelerating celebrity appeal,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Americans are also particularly keen on Byron Bay, with US searches for Australian property on realestate.com.au last year surging by 57 per cent during a presidential election year marred by half a million Covid deaths and political unrest.
‘Byron Bay is now one of the top locations searched for by US-based property seekers,’ Ms Conisbee said.
‘There is no doubt that the large number of celebrities moving to the area, whether permanently or for the short term, has been a driver of this.
‘Overseas property seekers rarely searched Byron Bay for property prior to 2019 but it now regularly appears in the top lists.’
Wealthy buyers are also out in force with the REA Group speculating about expatriate buyers being ‘one driver of the accelerating luxury market’.
Making things worse for average-income earners, Byron Bay’s rental vacancy rate plunged to just 0.4 per cent in November, although in January it edged up to 0.9 per cent, SQM Research data showed.
On the REA Group’s website, views per listing in regional Australia surged by 44 per cent in the second half of 2020 compared with 16 per cent in the capital cities and this trend was expected to continue in 2021.
Byron Bay has transformed from a laid-back coastal town to a Hollywood-style mecca as successful businessmen and celebrities flood the region. Pictured: The original Byron Bay surf club
Nerida Conisbee, the chief economist of realestate.com.au and the author of the REA Insights Property Outlook Report 2021, said movie stars were a draw card for cashed-up buyers last year. Pictured is Chris Hemsworth with his wife Elsa Pataky
The dark side of Byron Bay’s fame
Exorbitant displays of wealth are a stark contrast to what locals believe Byron Bay stands for.
Some say that as they continue to move further inland, or further south, the enclave will lose the charm that drew so many to the region in the first place.
Local comedian and long-term resident, Mandy Nolan, told Daily Mail Australia the heart and soul of Byron Bay – the ‘artists, musicians, crystal healers and dope dealers’ – deserve to keep the ‘s**tty little shacks’ they call home.
‘If you want in on what we’ve spent decades creating… take care of the many who are being squeezed out,’ she said.
Television presenter and radio host Carrie Bickmore owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay
‘It would be a sad day if our artists and musicians, our crystal healers and dope dealers can no longer afford a s**tty shack somewhere.’
Families who have called northern New South Wales home for generations have found themselves sleeping in cars or caravans and eventually moving away from the eclectic community they helped to build.
At $450 a week, traffic controller Steph Rouillon and her two children have been living in a one-bedroom ‘bush shack’, which is well-and-truly falling to bits.
The dirt road leading to the room has destroyed her small car, the water pump is ‘temperamental’ at best and she often finds herself unable to shower or cook at ‘the most inconvenient of times’.
Her 14-year-old and 11-year-old boys have converted the lounge room into their bedroom, and they eat dinner as a family standing up each night.
While the quality of life is ‘questionable’, she says, at least she has a roof over their heads.
Mother-of-two Steph Rouillon said she and her children have been struggling to find a new home within her budget as a result of the influx of new people
Adam Gilchrist, who co-founded F45 Training, splashed out on a new pad in 2020 in the area. He already owns at $18.85million property in the region, and reportedly has rejected offers to rent the home at $100,000 per week
Just weeks out from Christmas she was told to find somewhere else to live.
‘This is the modern poverty line,’ she said. ‘Living week-to-week on a single mother’s income. I wake up, stand on a hot road, pay my rent, sleep, repeat.’
Steph, like many others within the community, blames the crisis on ‘newbie cashed-up city folk Byron wannabes buying up properties’ only to turn them into AirBnB businesses.
She said what people from Melbourne and Sydney don’t realise is that their bigger budgets are pricing out locals – the very people who ‘inspired them to move here in the first place’.
‘We’re full,’ the traffic controller said. ‘This is our home. We’ve been here for 10 years.’
Based on the current market, Steph said she’s looking at having to spend upwards of $850 per week on a home – and will be competing with hundreds of other tenants in the exact same position as her.
‘Women like me, who don’t mind leading a simple life, surf and wear bare feet don’t want to live in another whitewashed version of Bondi. We left for a reason,’ she said.
Still, Sydney was expected to be the standout big city market this year.
‘Sydney is on a fast trajectory for growth with particular strength in outer suburban areas, Northern Beaches and Central Coast,’ Ms Conisbee said.
Upmarket postcodes had some of Australia’s biggest increases in 2020, with median house prices at Woollahra, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, up by 35 per cent to $3.7million.
Prices at Killara, on Sydney’s North Shore, increased by 31 per cent to $3.275million.
Much less upmarket areas, nonetheless, dominated the national top ten with Kelmscott in Perth’s south east having Australia’s strongest price growth of 39 per cent last year, taking median house prices to a still-affordable $375,000.
Matt Damon previously stayed in this Byron Bay mansion while visiting the region on a vacation with his family
Americans are also particularly keen on Byron Bay, with US searches for Australian property on realestate.com.au last year surged by 57 per cent during a presidential election year marred by surging Covid deaths and political unrest
Wyong, on the NSW Central Coast an hour’s drive north of Sydney, took out fifth place with mid-point house prices rising by 30 per cent to $662,500.
While some outer suburbs did well, there were some losers in the affordable category.
Median house prices at Austral in Sydney’s outer south-west last year plunged by 59 per cent to $650,000 while mid-point apartment prices at North Ryde, in the city’s north-west, fell by 14 per cent to $661,660.
Despite Adelaide being a strong market, mid-point house prices at Unley fell by 24 per cent to $903,000 while median unit values at beachside Glenelg dropped by 21 per cent to $426,250.
THE ‘WHO’S WHO’ OF BYRON BAY
While several big name stars call Byron Bay home permanently, the trendy seaside suburb has also become somewhat of a revolving door, with an endless stream of A-listers and local celebs spotted in the region.
The Hemsworth Clan:
Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky arguably started the ‘Hollywood 2.0’ craze.
The 37-year-old Thor star relocated to the area from Los Angeles in 2014 with his wife of 10 years, Elsa Pataky, and their three young children.
They now reside in a $20million mega-mansion in the area, situated on 4.2 hectares. The home boasts six bedrooms, a game room, gym, steam room, media room and a 50-metre rooftop infinity pool.
Chris’ younger brother Liam soon made the leap as well, dividing his time between Byron and Malibu during his marriage to Miley Cyrus before making the move more permanent in 2020.
Matt Damon is thought to own a holiday home in Byron Bay.
The actor says he is thrilled to be spending time Down Under as he joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder.
‘I’m so excited that my family and I will be able to call Australia home for the next few months,’ Damon, 50, said.
Efron hunkered down in Byron during the global coronavirus crisis.
The Hollywood hunk started dating a local waitress, who he has reportedly since separated from.
While he is currently filming a movie in South Australia, it is presumed that he will return to his ‘second home’ in Byron Bay when the project is completed.
The 32-year-old actor reportedly has no plans to return to Los Angeles any time soon, after extending his tourist visa from three months to a year, and shopping around for property in the area.
Nicole Kidman, 53, has been living in Byron Bay on-and-off with her husband Keith Urban and their two daughters since filming for her new show began earlier this year.
Nine Perfect Strangers is based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same name.
It stars several A-listers including Melissa McCarthy, Samara Weaving, Luke Evans and Bobby Cannavale.
In July, Nicole told the Daily Telegraph she’s ‘thrilled’ to be able to bring the $100 million production and hundreds of jobs to the local film industry after it was sent crashing down by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘It is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community that nurtured me through so much of my career,’ she said.
Elyse Knowles bought a $2.3million beach house in Byron Bay in early 2020 after more than a year of renting in the coastal town with her boyfriend, Josh Barker.
Their new 1960s built property is located in the old part of Byron Bay town, just a short walk from the main beach and surrounded by tranquil greenery.
Last year, Elyse told Daily Mail Australia that the couple moved to Byron Bay from Melbourne while chasing a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves.
‘Everyone always smiles and always say hello. That was one of the first things I noticed living [in Byron].’
‘The community is more environmentally conscious. It is conversations that people have every single day… talking about the ocean and the marine life.
The couple are now expecting their first child.
The television presenter and radio host owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay.
She recently took her daughter to the holiday town to celebrate the new year.
Isabel Lucas first purchased a home in Byron Bay in 2016, but the Australian actress has lived on-and-off in the region for the better part of a decade.
She has been spotted at protests against 5G towers in the area and has contributed to the belief that Byron Bay is the ‘anti vax’ capital of Australia.
While filming her feature film Bosch & Rockit in Byron Bay earlier this year, she ‘opted out’ of Covid testing, after previously admitting she ‘doesn’t trust’ the past of vaccination.
Hollywood actress Natalie Portman was spotted on several occasions holidaying in Byron Bay ahead of filming Thor: Love and Thunder.
She seemed to relish ‘living like the locals’ for her short stay, visiting the beaches and buying clothes from local stores.