In Focus – McGrath Southern Highlands
Like many of her buyers, Anne Stone, Principal of McGrath Southern Highlands, was drawn to the area 23 years ago, seeking a quieter life after Sydney.
But infrastructure improvements, including the Hume Motorway, have brought the bustle closer to Bowral and surrounding areas with parking in the town’s Bong Bong Street a prized commodity on weekend mornings.
Bowral, in particular, has had a significant injection of wealth into the town with boutique fashion, homewares and gourmet food providores scattered amongst the town’s retail centre.
“We’re now an hour and 45 minutes to Sydney,” said Mrs Stone. “Even before Covid, people in Sydney wanted rural property for relocation or a weekend retreat, but that appetite really picked-up during the pandemic.
“These buyers are all looking for something similar: a minimum 10 acres, pool, tennis court and house in which they can enjoy a manageable rural lifestyle that’s still in proximity to amenities that still have city stylings.”
Larger-scale transactions are fewer but still occurring, said Mrs Stone. She’s been engaged by a farming family from the New England area which is seeking 100 acres with two houses where an onsite farmhand can manage activities.
“Transactions at that level are around the $10m bracket, currently. Those properties are very tightly-held.
The dairy industry was one of the original agricultural activities in the area. It was underpinned by the region’s favourable climate and soil content, which combined to provide green, sunny pastures through the Southern Highlands.
However, like other regions, rising production costs, fluctuating milk prices and competition from larger dairy regions have led many farmers to either sell, or downsize alongside other agricultural pursuits.
"Many of those dairy operators have either sold or moved further out in recent times, where they’ve been able to capitalise on their values.”
Alongside the improved connectivity with Sydney, agri-tourism has blossomed in the region. Farmers have leveraged the Southern Highlands’ natural beauty and agricultural diversity to diversify their income streams by offering farm tours, educational experiences and farm-to-table dining.
Another emerging market has been the thoroughbred industry.
The topography and rich pastures have attracted a community of pre-training, agistment and broodmare farms. Again, road improvements mean bloodsotock can be moved between the region and Warwick Farm within an hour.
Additionally, you’ll find horticulture operations - fruit and vegetable cultivation, including berries, apples and cherries – dotted throughout the Highlands and a cool-climate wine industry.
“The diversity of the Southern Highlands’ agriculture industry really does add to the appeal of the rural lifestyle movement,” said Mrs Stone.
“The economy has matured and really strengthened on the back of the different land uses and is attracting a lot of varied buyers to the area.”