If the owners of a 13.3-hectare holding near Mudgee that is scattered with four character holiday cottages are selling now, you might guess it’s because the long lockdown months have decimated the short-term rental market.
You’d likely surmise that the Ilkley Cottages conglomerate is a fire sale.
You’d be wrong.
As Mudgee is one of the regional centres that, between lockdowns, has been picking up tourism traction with Australians spending their international travel dollars domestically, the current staunching of the Sydney and interstate visitor stream has given the vendors a chance to open all the cottages for inspection at once.
“It’s an ideal time to get in inspections without having to coordinate multiple guests and cleaners,” said McGrath Central Tablelands agent Adam Woods.
“Right now, COVID is a plus for selling this property because it’s given the owners the chance to showcase it. Based on the last ending of lockdown, when Mudgee had 90 per cent occupation, the next rebound should be strong”.
In the first four days following the market launch of 664 Black Springs Road, Mudgee, late last week, Mr Woods’ agency fielded 50 enquiries mainly “from metro-based buyers in Sydney who are looking at the potential returns”.
“There’s a lot here,” he said. “It’s unique to find four cottages on the one property. Quite unique”.
Developed a couple of ownerships ago as rustic self-catering accommodation across the treed property 11 kilometres north of Mudgee, the Ilkley holding’s main house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and the capability – when the tourism industry is operating normally – to sleep 12 guests.
Otherwise, it could become the home of resident hosts who might be seeking a lifestyle change with an on-site business they could run and service themselves.
Then there’s Maggie’s Cottage, a mud-brick house with attic-style bedrooms that potentially sleeps 10.
Blackman’s Cottage is partly constructed from wood retrieved from an 1849 pioneer log house and sleeps five. Finally, the one-bedroom, one-couple, prettily shingled Calving Gully Cottage is promoted for honeymooners.
As such an obvious venue for big group visits – including weddings, corporate, conference and wellbeing retreats – for extended family gatherings or as discrete rentals for visitors attracted to the famous wine region, Mr Woods said he wasn’t surprised that, like the current vendors, locals who’ve been self-managing for several years and now want to step back, those looking into the deal are mostly investors.
As he points out, compared to putting the same suggested $2.6 million into a single Sydney property – which might buy a two-bedroom apartment in Bondi or a run-of-the-mill home in West Ryde or Killarney Heights – “this is not a big outlay but it offers a much better yield”.
Indeed, currently advertised with tariffs ranging from $200 to $500 per night depending on the capacity of the cottage, the package could be as hard-working as a small country hotel.
Like Orange, Mudgee’s real estate has been buoyant through 2020/2021. Relocating Sydney lifestyle buyers priced out of the Southern Highlands and the near coastal regions have been taking up almost any option in a town “with no traffic lights that still has that small town appeal”.
“There’s been an incredible appetite for people looking for the quiet life,” Mr Woods said. “Everyone seems to be looking for the next Byron Bay”.
However, possibly the strongest appeal of this obvious lifestyle property is to buyers who would prefer to act as remote landlords and possibly visit a couple of times a year.
While managing a property like Ilkley as an absentee operator suggests the juggling of services, Mr Woods said McGrath Central Tablelands had forged a local partnership with a holiday-home management company that took care of the whole package, from guest management to housekeeping and maintenance staff.
MadeComfy, which began in Sydney six years ago and which has since expanded to look after properties in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and parts of the NSW South Coast, has been closely watching the regions where they might also operate, said Daryl Smith, the company’s head of strategic partnerships.
“Especially since COVID, regional areas have grown, and Orange and Mudgee have become tourism hotspots,” he said.
Mr Smith said MadeComfy coordinated the management process “for pure investor types or those looking for flexible-use vacation homes”.
“It also engages local housekeepers, tradies, maintenance people and cleaning partners,” he added. “So we stimulate the local community as well”.
MadeComfy charges a commission on the property’s income and, although their services could be annexed to the sale, it isn’t a compulsory add on, Mr Woods said.
“A buyer may choose to run it themselves or engage a company like MadeComfy to make it a turnkey operation.”