From the country to the coast
Buyers are falling in love with the many charms of Mollymook
Buyers are falling in love with the many charms of Mollymook
Mollymook is a small town cooking up a huge reputation. Although its permanent population sits at about 3,500, thousands more descend on the coastal patch and surrounding villages each year for a slice of its laidback lifestyle and five star culinary offerings.
Like its beachside peers across the country, Mollymook on NSW’s South Coast turned heads during the pandemic years. City slickers narrowed in on the space, serenity and affordability of the region transforming the sleepy holiday town into a desirable destination among more permanent buyers.
In 2020, the median house prices in Mollymook Beach and Mollymook were $785,000 and $750,000 respectively.
By the time the property cycle hit its peak in 2021 those figures
had almost doubled. Domain data reported that Mollymook Beach clocked up the highest house price growth of any suburb in Australia over the five years to July 2022, registering an incredible 106 per cent price hike.
Today, however, the extraordinary flight to the country has eased with
interest rate rises pouring water on boiling house prices.
While down 2.4 percent from peak prices, Mollymook’s house median is still $1.22 million while Mollymook Beach sits at $1.05 million, down a significant 21.3 per cent over the same period according to REA Group data.
Andrea Tucker, principal of McGrath Estate Agents Mollymook said the region has travelled through a price adjustment and is coming out the other side.
“We’re still ahead if you round those figures up,” she says. We’re really trading back in a normal market after quite a bullish time.
“There’s a little caution from buyers now, but they’re still quite active in the market. They’re
just sitting back waiting for opportunities, particularly if they’re looking for investment properties.”
Tucker adds that when it comes to home prices, Mollymook has several sweet spots.
“If you can pick up anything in Mollymook under $1 million, you’ll have people all over it,” she says. “Then you go up in gradients but once it gets over $2 million the buyer pool starts to thin out.”
Local agents place the luxury market in excess of $3 million, however in the heady days of 2021, a beachfront house in Mollymook sold for $10 million via online auction. Just five years prior, the same four-bedroom house at 15 Shipton Crescent was bought for $2.26 million.
In addition to its popular surf beach, Mollymook has a large natural rock pool known as the Bogey Hole and Mollymook Golf Club maintains two prized golf courses; an 18-hole championship course known as the Hilltop and a smaller 9-hole beachside course.
“One of the beautiful things about living here is you’re less than 10 minutes from the beach or the countryside. We’re really blessed,” Tucker says. “Not to mention we’re quite spoilt for fantastic restaurants.”
In 2009, English celebrity chef Rick Stein put Mollymook on the national food map when he opened his first Australian restaurant, Rick Stein at Bannisters. Other high-profile restaurants include the Asian-inspired Gwylo and The Beachside Bistro with nearby fine dining spots such as Cupitts Estate and Small Town are also attracting the tourist trade.
With the food scene flourishing, the accommodation landscape is developing in Mollymook too. Earlier this year, Motel Molly became the latest in a string of revived retro motels across the country. Following the multi- million-dollar refurbishment of a former beachside motel by Knox Developments and Richards Stanisich — also responsible for refitting historic Sydney joints Hotel Rose Bay as well as The Woollahra Hotel.
Sensing its saleability, developers are also waking up to Mollymook. Peniche, a four-storey luxury development of eight three- bedroom apartments, was given the green light by Shoalhaven Council in early 2023. The
project at 1 Buchan Street is currently being marketed through McGrath Mollymook and is set for completion in late 2024.
Its perks will include a shared pool, views to the ocean as well as Mollymook golf course with prices starting at $1.75 million.
Local buyer’s agent, Matt Knight of Precium, says while investors making the most of the tourism trade had stepped back after a flurry of activity post-COVID, there still is a holiday home market in Mollymook.
“While we’ve seen a softening in tourist numbers, they’re still very large tourist numbers. When international borders were shut there was a captive audience of tourists with nowhere to go except for where they could drive to. As a result, we had a very high hotel and holiday home occupancy rates and a subsequent massive spike in prices,” he said.
Airdna, which analyses the performance of short-term rental properties listed on Stayz and Airbnb, revealed that by December 2022, demand for Mollymook Beach holiday rentals was down 27 percent for January compared to
the previous summer. As Australians began venturing abroad once again, owners invested in the short term rental market started rethinking their strategies according to Knight.
“The Airbnb occupancy rate has dropped a little and some of those properties have come back to a more normal holiday vacancy rate,” he says. “A few people may have decided in response to pull their property off the holiday let market and put in a permanent tenant, particularly in the light of all the interest rate rises. So that’s caused a bit of an easing in the long term rental market.”
House hunters turning to Mollymook cover a wide cross section, Tucker explains, but the hottest properties are four-bedroom houses with retirees, investors and families all in the mix.
“I get really excited about the young professionals still moving here,” Tucker says. “We had a lot come through COVID, and although some have had their corporate companies claw them back into the office, they’re still coming.
“They’ve had their eyes opened. They realise they can take up surfing, there are smaller class sizes for their kids, they’re not spending so much time in traffic.
“There’s still a lot of enticement for young professionals to move here.” Knight agrees the stream of buyers is a mixed bag from expats hoping to return Down Under, to retirees and digital nomads.
“There’s still a small number of people leaving the cities because they can work from home. I’d say the volume has gone down, but it’s still there and people are making real estate choices based on that,” he says, adding that Mollymook and its surrounds has something not all quiet coastal towns can offer.
“It’s really become a place where a sophisticated buyer, who wants the beach but also the mod cons of life, can have it all. Whereas some of the more remote beaches are beautiful, but they just have a little general store.”
Ultimately, Mollymook’s “critical mass” offers something for almost everyone according to Knight.
“I left Sydney more than 15 years ago and raised four children down here. It’s actually a viable area with schooling options and an economy that’s holding its own. It’s not just a one-club town for retirees, it certainly appeals to a wider age demographic and a wider set of expectations.”
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch
Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.
When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.
“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.
With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.
Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lots, dealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.
“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”
Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.
Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.
“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.
A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.
A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”
At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.
Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.
“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.
While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.
The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.
“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.
There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.
Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.
Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.
Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”
Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”
Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.
“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.
Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.
Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.
While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.
“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.
It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.
“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’