ARARAT - Despite many investors taking a negative attitude towards real estate following the global financial crisis, Ararat's property market appears alive and well.
First National Real Estate Ararat has just recorded the highest selling property in the firm's history, and perhaps one of the highest Ararat's CBD has seen.
The property, located on the corner of King and High streets, houses the Centrelink offices and was purchased by private Melbourne investor Vic Murray and his son-in-law for more than $1 million.
Mr Murray would not disclose the exact amount of the purchase but said he hoped the big investment would be long term.
"We were happy with the price we got it for, we offered less than what they were asking (reserve price of $1.75 million), this is a fairly big investment for us, I do have some other property in Melbourne, factories and shops and stuff like that, and hopefully this is going to be another long term asset," he said.
Mr Murray became interested in buying in the area after seeing a story about the town on the ABC.
"We've been looking around for an investment together and I saw a story on the 7.30 Report where they were talking about Ararat and the issues going on with the council, and they mentioned the jail being extended and that an extra 100 jobs would be created," Mr Murray said.
"I'd seen what happened in Wonthaggi with the desalination plant, and that town just grew. With around 100 new jobs at the prison, if you extrapolate that out to included wives and kids it means more schools and more services of every kind, then Ararat is going to grow too.
"I came up here and had a look around and saw that Aldi had just built a new store and I thought well they're not going to invest in a town unless they think that something is happening around the place.
"Just driving down the main street, all the car parks are full, there are people everywhere, and I thought yeah the town's humming along, the new police station, the hospital has been extended it looks like a great place to invest."
Mr Murray contacted First National Real Estate's Ararat director Phil Clark, who showed the investors available properties around the region.
"Vic felt that it was a good return, and that's why people from the city are investing in regional areas of Victoria and in Ararat, because they feel like they get a good return," Mr Clark said.
"They've got a good tenant in Centrelink, a government tenant, and a fairly new building."
Construction of the building was completed in early 2009, after being purpose built to house Centrelink offices. The same Mildura developer also constructed a Centrelink building in Stawell three years ago, which is yet to be sold.
Mr Murray said if Centrelink decided not to renew their lease in 2015 the property's modern facilities and prime location made it a great attraction for any business.
"If they (Centrelink) were to move out in four years' time a building like that could become a major retail outlet for a Harvey Norman or something like that, but we want Centrelink to stay here, absolutely," he said.
"We are planning a few improvements for the building already, we are going to try and make it a bit more energy efficient and coat the roof in a reflective paint that reduces the energy of the air conditioning by about 20 percent, and I am about to investigate putting solar power in, I've got a few things in mind because it is a long term investment."
Mr Clark said from a real estate perspective it is a good sign that Melbourne investors can see the town is growing and that they are supporting the community by purchasing property.
"It shows that the property market in Ararat is strong, and people are investing here which is good. It's very positive and there are a lot of job prospects with the prison development, and I guess that is another good reason to invest in the town now," he said.