In the midst of a flailing Byron Bay property market, Hollywood hunks Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron have fired the starting gun on a celebrity exodus from Australia’s boujeest town… But will their departure make Byron property prices fall even further?
We all know the story: rents are on the up, property prices are falling, and there’s little we can do but suck it up and wait for the storm to pass. Unless, of course, you live in Byron Bay.
Until recently, the New South Wales town was riding a localised property boom, partly thanks to the so-called “Hemsworth effect” – a term coined by James Weir’s book of the same name – where the popularity of Byron Bay among celebrities (as well as just wealthy Australians more broadly) at the height of the COVID crisis drove up property prices and made it harder than ever for locals to afford a place there.
However, with national housing prices down just over 9% from their most recent peak, forecasters at major banks reckon the downturn as being only about halfway through.
AMP Chief Economist Shane Oliver told ABC News that rising unemployment, further rate rises, and the roll-off of fixed-rate mortgages onto more expensive variable rates will trigger another leg down for property prices.
This is why Byron Bay, which has long been a go-to for A-list celebrities, could be in for a run of bad luck, with local trends set to change for the worse. According to property valuer Herron Todd White, the region has suffered a double-digit drop in value, and the firm has forecasted further price declines in the area.
This, coupled with the exodus of Hollywood celebrities such as the Hemsworth brothers and Zac Efron, has sparked speculation that the area may become a buyer’s market.
In 2021, Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky were rumoured to be selling their $20 million Byron compound after moving to Sydney, while Liam Hemsworth left Byron to move to LA with his girlfriend Gabriella Brooks.
Zac Efron, who had rented a $22 million mansion in Byron Bay in 2020, also left the town after purchasing a 128-hectare estate north of Byron for $2 million. He is now living out of a van, according to various media reports. (Now that’s getting into the Byron spirit!)
This exodus, coupled with inflationary pressures and interest rate hikes, has led to a 15-20% decline in property values across the Byron Shire in 2022, according to Mark Lackey, the author of Herron Todd White’s report.
Lackey said that while the region may experience further declines, the slowdown could be good news for local buyers previously priced out of the market.
“We have just ticked over into the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, but maybe 2023 will turn out to be the year of the buyer in the Byron Shire,” Lackey quipped.
“Last year there were six properties listed below $700,000 across the shire’s main towns and villages. I foresee that in July 2023, there will be considerably better pickings for Byron Shire buyers in this price range.”Mark Lackey
While the Hemsworth effect may have reversed, it remains to be seen how the Byron Bay property market will evolve in the coming months. Nevertheless, it appears that the tide may be turning in favour of local buyers who were previously priced out of the market.
So, if you’ve got a few dollars to spare, a flower crown at the ready and surfing on your mind, it might just be time to take the plunge and make your mark on Byron.