LAND to build in Bendigo is so scarce agents say they are selling blocks a year away from receiving the title, because buyers are so keen.
Agents have attributed the demand to low interest rates, high rents, and the COVID-19 crisis driving people away from Melbourne.
It comes with calls on the City of Greater Bendigo to rezone more land, to allow for subdivision and development.
City planners say they are working to bring forward its growth strategies to deliver new blocks earlier.
Read more: Demand through the roof during HomeBuild
Janelle Stevens Property sales agent Mitch Kenny said many people were struggling to find blocks of land across Australia, with no signs of the market slowing down.
His agency had only two or three blocks of land on the market, neither of which were standard residential.
Mr Kenny said most of what was available wouldn't get its title for months, meaning it couldn't be built on immediately.
He attributed the demand to low interest rates, meaning it was often cheaper to pay a mortgage than rent.
Mr Kenny said first home buyers made up the bigger percentage of the agency's clients, but quite a few buyers were also looking to upsize.
He said the market was so busy the agency had sold a block in Epsom the morning after it posted information on Facebook, without even a photo.
But Mr Kenny said the end of JobKeeper had introduced uncertainty about the next 12 months, saying it could affect public attitude to buying and building.
Villawood Property regional manager Julian Perez said it was vital that a lack of land didn't stall the economic momentum in development and construction after the COVID-19 crisis.
Read more: Bendigo property demand prompts quick sales
Mr Perez said Bendigo was desperate for rezoned land, with most of the supply already purchased.
He said Villawood Property itself was now running out of stock, with plenty of subdivisions but no land that he could deliver in the next 12 months.
Mr Perez warned scarcity was likely to drive up house prices.
He said COVID-19 had meant more people were leaving metropolitan Melbourne, a trend he expected to see continue.
Mr Perez urged the City of Greater Bendigo to rezone areas where people wanted to live, such as the Melbourne side of town.
City of Greater Bendigo Regional Sustainable Development acting manager Chris Duckett said a strategy to manage growth was a high priority for council, but rezoning land was a complex and time-consuming process.
But Mr Duckett said council was building towards being able to meet demands for land in Greater Bendigo, working closely with the Victorian Planning Authority, to hopefully bring land releases forward.
He said the soaring demand had been an unexpected effect of the COVID-19 crisis, saying no solid data tied the two together but anecdotally it seemed they were linked.
Mr Duckett said areas like Maiden Gully, Huntly and Marong had been flagged for future growth, with land releases likely.
But he said despite concerns about the land shortage, 660 hectares of land were zoned residential across Greater Bendigo, but not yet subdivided by developers.
Bendigo Real Estate director Paul Byrne said the land market was frenzied.
He likened it to the boom property market of the early 2000s, but driven even further by migration from Melbourne, the First Home Buyer Grant, HomeBuilder and the lowest interest rates in history.
Mr Byrne said his agency sold 322 blocks of land in 2020, an increase of about 180 per cent.
"It's been like a perfect storm of factors that have helped lead to this amazing growth in our median house pricing," he said.
Mr Byrne said the lack of titled land was the biggest driving factor, meaning the only blocks available had a settlement date of six to 10 months away.
He warned the shortage was driving up prices, because demand well exceeded supply.
Mr Byrne said this exacerbated the city's rental shortage, meaning there wasn't the rental stock for tenants.
He urged the council to make more land available for developers to subdivide, by rezoning.
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