From the sale of one of the largest rural properties in the Hunter Valley to advising on complex easement and development matters to expanding our residential conveyancing practice, 2015 was an extremely busy year for the Property team. Elizabeth McDonald analyses the trends she is observing in the local market.

For the property team, 2015 was the busiest year since the office opened in 2012.

Our most well publicised transaction was the sale of Glenrock Station – a 30,500 hectare cattle station in the Upper Hunter.  Comprising 200 freehold titles, a perpetual lease, 3 enclosure permits, a grazing licence and a water access licence, this property is one of the largest rural properties in the Hunter Valley. In a year which saw the largest ever investment in Australian beef properties by Chinese investors, this deal was the second highest grossing sale of its kind across the nation.

The changes in Australia’s foreign investment regime led to more property transactions being subject to Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval, but so far we have not observed any significant change in the approach, or time, taken by FIRB on these transactions. Despite this, we continue to recommend foreign investors allow some additional time and costs to ensure compliance with the new rules.

2015 saw us expand our core offering to incorporate residential conveyancing in response to client demand for a premium service in this area. With BIS Shrapnel forecasting 15% growth in Newcastle house prices over the next 3 years (compared to 2% in Sydney), we expect our conveyancing lawyer will continue to be kept extremely busy. We are looking forward to the rise of electronic conveyancing making some aspects of the conveyancing process more accessible and straightforward for our residential clients.

We have observed a steady increase in demand for our services from residential and commercial developers in the Hunter Valley. It is clear that low interest rates are making the economics stack up even on some challenging developments.  With our expertise in complex property, easements, development and structuring work, we are well placed to provide cost effective and strategic solutions to these challenges, including (where commercially appropriate) commencing action in the Land and Environment Court.

We regularly advise on strata title matters – from establishing strata schemes, acting in strata disputes through to assisting with termination of schemes. With changes to strata laws commencing in 2016, we expect an increase in demand for advice from our strata manager and developer clients.

Commercial and industrial sales and leasing continues to be the core of our practice, with clients valuing our ability to undertake this work quickly and to a high standard. 

In the coming months, we should hear more about UrbanGrowth’s planning proposal and concept plan for the Newcastle CBD following on from the release of its community engagement report last December. The proposal will include a preferred concept for the rail corridor, which will be open to public feedback later in the year.  Certainty and progress on this vision will no doubt yield property opportunities in Newcastle though it is clear from our clients and the construction already dotting the local skyline that local landowners are, in the meantime, taking the Newcastle revitalisation project into their own hands.

This article is not legal advice.  It is intended to provide commentary and general information only.  Access to this article does not entitle you to rely on it as legal advice.  You should obtain formal legal advice specific to your own situation.  Please contact us if you require advice on matters covered by this article.

Elizabeth McDonald

Elizabeth McDonald -

Principal

Property law specialist