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Strong-arming the market: the ‘Hemsworth effect’

The picturesque towns of Northern NSW have had a sprinkling of celebrity stardust over the past years – while it’s shone the international and national spotlight onto our beautiful region, are we now paying A-list property prices?

Known locally as the ‘Hemsworth effect’, the increase of celebrity visitors and new residents such as Matt Damon, Zac Efron and Thor’s own family has impacted property prices within Byron Bay and its surrounds.

While it’s wonderful that the rest of the world is discovering and exploring the natural beauty of this area – something long-term locals have known for years – it’s not just the number of gym memberships that have increased since the arrival of the Hemsworth’s.

Like many residents along the Northern Rivers coast and area, the Hemsworths were drawn to the unique lifestyle of the area, keen to raise their family amongst the beautiful beaches and unspoilt natural surroundings. Not to mention the affordable housing, and relaxed and accessible social environment. These appealing factors are a key driver for growth in the region, as it increasingly brings in sun seekers who love the climate, as well as younger families seeking ‘sea change’ opportunities.

We have also seen a significant number of ‘tree changers’ who have moved to the region to take advantage of alternative lifestyle opportunities afforded by our excellent climate and fertile soils. Even Hollywood wants a piece of the action, with Netflix currently in discussion with prominent Byron locals to create a reality TV-based series.

Our population has grown by over 20,000 in the last decade alone. This enormous growth brings with it a demand for better infrastructure (such as houses, schools, shopping malls, roads, health services, government services and other community services). It also provides improved employment opportunities for locals. And it drives up investment, but not just in property.

Our fabulous corner of the world is now much more accessible to the outside world. Partly due to investment by the Queensland and NSW governments in the connecting highway network, but also the improved internet connection by providers. The recent pandemic saw an increase in Northern Rivers-based residents working from home, something that is now a viable option for many.

The health care sector and social assistance industry is the region’s biggest employer, a statistic which shows that our demographic is still largely skewed towards people aged 50 and older.  While younger families are moving into the area, we still have a large number of independently-wealthy retirees or part-retirees moving here. This, rather than Thor and his brothers, is the most likely contributing factor towards the increase in construction within the area; the industry is now the most significant contributor to the region’s economic output (which is basically the value of the goods and services provided by each industry).

However, the appeal of our celebrity residents has a dollar value and impact too. Tourism contributes around $825 million dollars a year to the Northern Rivers economy. It is entirely probable that the chance of bumping into Chris, Zac or Matt has had a positive impact on the number of visitors, and their tourism dollars, to our towns. However, increased tourism often drives up the price of rental properties, hotels and other holiday options such as AirBnB. The Covid-related closing of international and state and territory borders means residents of Australia’s most populous state (NSW) have had to look locally for their holidays. This has driven and increased demand across the state, not just here in the Northern Rivers. However, our sunny climate and beautiful natural environment ensures our unspoilt paradise remains in high demand above almost everywhere else in the state.

So what’s next for the Northern Rivers? As more and more people discover the relaxed and enticing life-work balance possible here, we need to ensure that it’s not ‘Endgame’ for the area. With careful planning, improved facilities and affordable homes, we look forward to seeing the next chapter of Northern Rivers unfold.

We love that the Hemsworth’s have discovered the beauty of our region and encourage everyone to respect their privacy when they’re out and about. With so much to discover and enjoy here, all you need to do is sip some locally-grown coffee, chill out and catch some waves on our beautiful beaches.

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