The suburb with the cheapest units in Australia: sunny Cairns for less than $180,000

From our Property Partner Domain

More often than not, Australia’s cheapest real estate is found in some of its remotest corners; dusty, isolated and hours from a major regional centre or capital city, the towns are tight-knit communities small on population and on property prices.

Coober Pedy, a desert town in outback South Australia, is the cheapest place in which to buy a house in the nation – the median price is just $76,500 – but it’s so hot many of its residents live underground in dugouts that look like caves. It’s also 890 kilometres north of Adelaide and 680 kilometres south of Alice Springs.

Kambalda West, a small mining town in rural Western Australia, Charleville, a 747-kilometre drive west from Brisbane, and Broken Hill, in the western outback of NSW, all have some of the lowest median house prices in Australia but sit hours inland from the coast.

But the place with the cheapest units in Australia right now couldn’t be much further from the red dust of the outback. A suburb of Cairns – that gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and tropical Far North Queensland beauty – has a median price of just $179,500.

The latest data from Domain’s House Price Report has revealed Manunda, a seven-minute drive from Cairns’ esplanade waterfront, has the most affordable unit prices in the nation.

“I’m blown away by this news,” says Luke Bantoft of First National Cairns Central/Cairns Beaches. “Manunda used to be an area that you’d avoid but as years have gone by and property has become more expensive, people who have been locked out of higher-end suburbs have moved into areas like this. Gone are the days where Manunda is an area where no one wants to buy.”

Bantoft recently sold a one-bedroom renovated loft apartment at Manunda for $190,000. The new owner has since rented it out for $330 a week.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out the return on investment versus the purchase price. It’s amazing,” Bantoft says.

“What we’re seeing is people coming in and buying units here, purchasing purely on rent return. I think, in this economic climate, investors are looking to be neutrally-geared, as opposed to negatively-geared. They’re not gaining profit so to speak, but their outgoings are being covered. Properties like this are set and forget – they looks after themselves.”

Bantoft says the toughest part of the Manunda unit market is the lack of stock for sale. He had six offers on the table for the loft unit at Cannon Street.

“Since COVID, our entire market has just gone berserk and that includes suburbs like Manunda,” he says. “I’m blown away that it’s so cheap compared to everywhere else but prices are going up. There’s a momentum at the moment, especially because there’s so little stock available.”

Marcusse Ball of Team Solomon Estate Agents is a Brisbane-based agent who sells property all over Queensland and says Mununda’s extremely cheap price point is a major drawcard, particularly for interstate investors.

“The area has many great attributes and offers a lot to potential investors or owner-occupiers, especially first-time homebuyers,” he says.

“Despite some streets not sharing the same curb appeal as others, you’ll find pockets that exude that distinct tropical charm of Cairns. For entry-level investment purposes, these are great properties to buy,” he says.

The median price for a house in Cairns has risen by 32.5 per cent over the past five years to $550,000.

Ball is currently marketing a one-bedroom unit in Birch Street, taking offers over $135,000.

“This is really cheap real estate. If it wasn’t my product I’d be buying it myself. $300 a week rent on a $135,000 mortgage? You’re covered.

“It’s fantastic entry level stock. If you don’t own, it’s fantastic because you can own something cheaper than you can rent.”


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