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The next big thing in property presents sun, sand – and investment opportunities

Why everyone is going bananas for this north coast holiday destination

By Kirsten Craze
Thu, Mar 16, 2023 8:30amGrey Clock 4 min

F or anyone who has experienced family road trips along the Pacific Highway, The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour is a memorable landmark. When Australia’s first “big thing” was built almost 50 years ago, it literally represented the fruits of the labour for a parochial town sitting halfway between Sydney and Brisbane.

But what a difference half a century makes. 

Soon that local icon, now a family amusement park, will be bypassed with a 14km $2.2 billion highway upgrade, transforming the coastal city into a destination ripe for the picking.

For most visitors, the Big Banana is a a must-see attraction when in Coffs Harbour

Going bananas 

The 2021 Census named health care and social assistance as the leading employer in Coffs Harbour followed by retail, education, plus accommodation and food services. These in-demand employment sectors, as well as a significant amount of infrastructure already in the pipeline, continue to attract newcomers to the area.

For more stories like these, order your copy of the autumn edition of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here.

Coffs Harbour recently welcomed a $194 million expansion to the local hospital and continues to introduce more carriers to the airport with daily direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne. It has a growing tertiary education campus with TAFE and University of Southern Cross courses, and an international sports stadium that hosts star-studded events.

Culture is also high on the agenda. In June 2022 Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe, who owns a farm in nearby Nana Glen, announced his intention to back a $438 million world-class film studio for Coffs Harbour.

Mountains meet the sea

The Coffs Coast is on the land of the Gumbaynggirr people and encompasses a collection of suburbs and townships including Nambucca, Urunga, Bellingen, Sawtell, Coramba, Moonee Beach, Sapphire Beach and Woolgoolga.

Often described as the place “where the mountains meet the sea” the sub tropical region, which is home to 78,759 people (and forecast to hit 100,000 by 2041 according to council estimates), is the meeting point of the Great Dividing Range and the Pacific Ocean. Due to its unique topography, Coffs ticks plenty of coastal boxes, but also offers leafy acreages and hinterland estates with ocean views. However, it’s this landscape which presents challenges for residential development and the supply of new housing.

Slow and steady

Homebuyer demand and prices in greater Coffs Harbour skyrocketed in 2021 but spent much of 2022 slowly declining as interest rates climbed. However, limited supply is likely to prevent significant price falls. 

“Based on the current peak in the cash rate expected for early 2023 and a lagged response in the property market, we could see a floor in price falls across Northern NSW lifestyle markets in the second half of this year,” says Eliza Owen, head of residential research Australia at CoreLogic.

According to CoreLogic the median house price in Coffs Harbour is $815,000, although there are some coveted suburbs such as Sapphire Beach to the north with a median of $1.39 million. 

“Values [in the Coffs Harbour region] have fallen a relatively mild -5.0 percent from a peak in August,” she says. This follows an upswing of 56.3 percent, so overall values are still up 47.9 percent. While COVID no doubt unlocked some value in Coffs Harbour that couldn’t be realised before remote work was so normalised, there are some headwinds for the purchasing market.”

New kids on the block

A pipeline of investment in Coffs Harbour caught the eye of residential developer Third.i. Late last year the group launched Sable at the Jetty, a medium-density development of 35 apartments.

“Part of the reason we wanted to target Coffs was because we believe there’s an undersupply of the style of apartments we create; a luxury lifestyle, or a larger downsizer product,” says Third.i director of sales marketing, Luke Berry.

“Coffs Harbour ticks so many boxes. I used to holiday there as a kid and I love the region. It’s only going to become more desirable as workers continue to turn to remote working and the ageing population seeks out appropriate areas to retire to. 

“Coffs is high on the list for anyone looking at a strategic investment or secure retirement,” he says.

Martin Wells, principal of McGrath Real Estate Coffs Harbour, says demand in the area has picked up significantly since the start of the year

Martin Wells, principal of McGrath Real Estate Coffs Harbour, says despite a slow finish to 2022, the forces of supply and demand kickstarted 2023.

“By mid January we noticed our online buyer inquiries had doubled compared with those softer episodes of last year,” Wells says. 

“The supply shortage is still the dominant driver of prices holding and I’d expect they’ll continue to climb again throughout 2023.” 

Top end prices, locally considered to be above the $1.5 million dollar mark, have “corrected”. However, Wells suggests the trough could have already passed. 

“We’re probably seeing about 5 to 10 percent off the price of top end properties,” he says. “But I think that’s probably the last of it because demand is coming back into that price point.

“Traditionally, around 30 percent of our inquiry might’ve been from Melbourne or Sydney purchasers, now it’s probably closer to 50 per cent. 

“So there’s still a large amount of money around.”

David Malvern, regional manager at McDonald Jones Homes says the limited land available meant any price decreases were unlikely to linger.

“If there was a larger supply I’ve no doubt new home sales would increase significantly,” he says.

“Either customers can’t find land, or when they do, often the topography is really not ideal for an affordable home. 

“They might find themselves having to spend $100,000 on earthworks just to get a block ready.”

He says while the supply of land  is the greatest challenge for buyers in the area today, it ultimately translates to a positive for anyone holding property for the long haul.

“You’ve got such a high demand for housing and a limited supply that if you’re an investor, or looking to move into Coffs Harbour, you’re going to benefit,” Malvern says. “I simply can’t see the market producing the amount of land and housing that’s actually needed to meet demand.”


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The Strongest Protection for Your Online Accounts? This Little Key

Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense

Mon, Mar 27, 2023 4 min

Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.

Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.

I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.

Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.

Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?

I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.

Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.

Which security key should I use?

Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:

  • YubiKey 5C NFC ($US55) if you have a USB-C laptop or tablet
  • YubiKey 5 NFC ($US50) for devices with older USB ports

Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.

Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.

How do security keys work?

To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.

Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.

Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.

Why are they so secure?

Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.

Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.

Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.

You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.

In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.

What happens if you lose your key?

The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).

“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”

If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.

Where can you use a security key?

Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.

When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.

What comes after security keys?

Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.

You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.

Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.


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