Our CEO Kirsty Chessher-Brown interviewed Raynuha Sinnathamby, Managing Director of Springfield City Group on building communities for the future.
2021 hasn’t been the smooth ride we were all hoping for on a COVID front, but the property market has been a shining economic light. What are you seeing on the ground?
The very strong demand has been really exciting for the industry especially emerging out of this pandemic. Looking forward, there’s this great sense that there is something more, especially with the 2032 Olympics being announced it just presents a fabulous opportunity for Queensland to shine. So what we’re seeing on the ground, and really this has been the case since May 2020, there’s strong residential demand and it is primarily coming from locals. It’s across land as well as existing homes and, naturally, we’re now obviously seeing price growth.
Outside the residential space, we’ve seen quite strong activity within the retail and industrial sectors. We’ve seen builders move in, and as a result, building suppliers are looking for space to grow, and actively considering what their growth trajectory may be over the next few years. With that built activity from a retail front, there’s winners and losers. The winners that have benefited have done so as a result of people nesting during COVID, converting their homes into the best place it can be and have now the time to spend in the home and garden. So those retailers have been performing very strongly, and that continues, extending to furniture deliverable goods. Where there’s been a bit of pain is probably the food and beverage space, where there’s been that on and off rhythm as we’ve had the lockdowns. That’s been difficult for them, not just in terms of the stock they carry but how they manage their labour force. Again, probably the suburbs have done a little bit better than the CBD locations, primarily because people are back in their homes and still looking to dine out. And that’s helped them sort of tick along, but it’s tough.
For us, the office market is a great opportunity. I think businesses will always want their CBD location because they have been an important part of our cities for centuries and will continue to be strong. But I think there’s a role for the suburbs to play here, where we can be the suburban location or the regional office. We can be the hub that continues to operate when, for whatever reasons, it’s not convenient for people to go into the city, and with the 2032 Olympics and with everything that’s happening in Queensland, there’s just that growth and strong demand so why not look at these regional locations, which will also help staff have a better work/life balance.
While we’re not ‘post-COVID’ quite yet, what long lasting impacts do you think the pandemic will have on the way we deliver spaces, places and homes?
I think the lasting one of the lasting impacts we can expect is that the home office has taken on a whole new meaning, because it’s not just the parents using that space, it’s children as well. And not just school aged children I think university students are now realising they can do a lot more from home, and that need to be on campus has seemed to really disappear. I think people will still want that human contact, and there’s obviously courses that require that contact with the campus, but the ability to work from home and do things from home has definitely emerged. We’ve performed strongly in that space so schools, universities, and libraries have all stepped up to the challenge of providing online support. This allows the students to not only study, but also to balance study around their working arrangements. So, I think it just provides options and that are good for everyone moving forward.
What is the greatest challenge you are currently facing as a business in getting stock to market in Queensland?
I think the biggest challenge is predicting what’s next! What will happen next month, in the next six months or the next 12 months? We are a glass half full industry and we’d like to think that the current level of demand lasts a long time. However, it is difficult to assess how much product to bring online and plan for approvals. Those decisions that we make on a week-by-week basis are how we prepare for growth.
Thinking ahead to the next 12 months, what is your prediction on how the property market will perform and are there any potential showstoppers?
Look, I guess the glass half full of me says it will be very positive. I definitely think the local demand will continue and it’s definitely looking positive for the next six months. I do think that Queensland has been probably luckier than all the other states. We’ve been fortunate enough to have strong local demand and strong demand from the southern states and I feel that we will continue to see that over the next six months. And then of course I think beyond the six month horizon is when the borders open and the associated opportunities that may present so I do feel that we will have a continued strong demand based on the international borders reopening.
In terms of locational preferences, I think early on in 2020 the coastal areas of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts performed really strongly. In the last six months, we’ve seen this emerging demand in the suburbs so areas like Springfield, where people are considering as a location to move to from the south, sight unseen, and that’s across land product as well as existing homes.
With a Federal election likely on or before the first half of 2022, what are the critical issues from a property industry perspective that you’d like to see discussed during the campaign?
Firstly, the opening up of the borders in a safe way. We would love to see the safe return of Australians still wanting to come home and students, which are a big part of our industry, but doing that in a very safe way. And I think the other thing is, looking forward to the Olympic Games for Queensland, there’s a lot of work to be done. Even though it is 11 years away, that time will go quickly, and there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be planned and rolled out in a timely way, so that we’re not setting ourselves up for failure but doing it in an organised and disciplined way that we prepare not only the economy but also jobs and the availability of a workforce to take up those jobs.