Katherine has been named in a list of 40 regional centres across the country being eyed off as a site for retirement investment by the advance party of the huge Baby Boomer generation.
And while local property agents aren’t convinced we’re about to become the NT’s next retirement haven, they do say people can afford to have confidence in our strong and stable property market.
A new report says Baby Boomers are retiring with insufficient funds to support the lifestyle they want, and they are looking for options outside the main metropolitan centres.
Defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, this group makes up 20 per cent of the population, and the first of them are entering their retirement years now.
Managing director of forecaster Propertyology, Simon Pressley, said he expects there will be a surge in buyers seeking affordable homes in regional areas over the next 15 years.
He said for this group of retirees, who number over 4.45 million, it's all about options.
“Some are looking to downsize the family home and relocate to somewhere more affordable, and for some people, Katherine is one of those areas,” Mr Pressley said.
"A Baby Boomer who does choose Katherine is probably typically from Darwin. We tend not to fly too far from the nest.
"We’re talking about a whole generation. They’ve just started exiting the workforce. There are quite a few that have triggered pension age but have realised they have to keep working."
Mr Pressley said people who live in Katherine might be surprised at how attractive the area could be to retirees and investors.
He said when thinking long term, Katherine had a lot going for it.
"Katherine has really solid fundamentals and in terms of property investment, it ticks a lot of boxes.
Katherine has really solid fundamentals and in terms of property investment, it ticks a lot of boxesSimon Pressley, Propertyology
“It's smack bang in the middle of the beef region during an exciting time for this industry.
“This is the Asian century, and a lot of Asia has just discovered protein, and they want the good stuff, such as is produced in the Northern Territory.”
But local agents aren’t clicking their heels together just yet.
Wayne Nader of Katherine LJ Hooker said certainly at the moment interest was coming from older buyers rather than the younger people, who were struggling to afford to invest.
“It’s mainly people from Darwin who are looking, there’s not too many southerners,” Mr Nader said.
He said government cut backs on the first home buyer grants, which were particularly beneficial to young local people seeking to buy ex-defence housing, had hurt Katherine.
"Local people could afford that price range with the help of fairly generous government assistance,” he said.
He added that Katherine might be less attractive to Darwinites now that prices there had dropped.
"Before prices started dropping in Darwin, we were telling people you could by two houses in Katherine for the price of one in Darwin,” he said.
“You can get a newish home in Katherine for $500,000- $600,000 or pick up a nice second hand home for around $360,000 – $420,000.”
He said, however, that he felt the market at the moment was "very flat".
“There’s a little bit of movement, but for the last two years we've seen a world-wide tightening up of lending, what’s happen in Darwin and the mining downturn.”
He said though, with work planned for the RAAF base and the ambulance station things would start to look up.
All three local agents the Katherine Times spoke to agreed that rental return in Katherine was still excellent, with rental properties being highly sought after.
Jose Peirce of Katherine Real Estate said although housing might be cheaper in Katherine, the relatively high cost of living also had to be taken into account.
Her colleague, sales specialist Doris Baylis, said one area injecting life into the property market was that of older professionals who wanted one last job before retirement.
These workers were seeking to rent or to buy as a short term investment for a couple of years.
Ms Baylis said she believed Katherine should be promoted as a retreat for southerners, where people could come and live for six months in the dry season then go home for winter.
“I think this could be a growth area for Katherine,” she said.
And those buyers could come from the ranks of the grey nomads.
“The one thing we can’t change is our weather, so we need to work around that.”
She endorsed the research that identifies Katherine as having a very stable economy with a strong government presence which includes the RAAF.
Principal sales specialist at Elders, Katherine, Alison Ross said a big deterrent for older people was the weather.
“We’ve had vendors who get to about 60 plus who come to us and say they can’t handle the heat anymore,” Ms Ross said.
“It’s the weather, it’s cost of living and the distance from health services. Often these people look to sell up in Katherine and go to another regional area with a milder climate, like the Queensland coast.”
But, she agreed Katherine was a solid place to invest.
“We’re not dependent on one industry, like mining. Defence, education, police and health – these are our big drivers and they’re not going anywhere.”