STAWELL - 'Steady she goes' that is the picture being painted by three of Stawell's real estate agencies with growing interest in the local property market.
Terry Monaghan from Monaghans Real Estate said the strongest driving factors for any potential buyers are jobs, family, lifestyle and contacts.
"The Stawell market is holding well with our average sale price for 2012-13 up 17.5 percent and total sales increasing by 10 percent on the 2011-12 period," he said.
Mr Monaghan said rentals remained extremely strong and still are with constant demand and very low vacancy rates in all price ranges.
Barham Real Estate Principal Rodney Baxendale said he has found the Stawell market to be unexpectedly active for this time of year.
"We've had increased enquiry from buyers when traditionally winter is flatter."
Mr Baxendale said prices had eased marginally due to the volume of sales and investor interest had grown on the back of there being nothing to rent, an area of the market that is always tight.
Landmark Harcourts Property Manager Bruce McIlvride described market activity as reasonable, but said that buyer enquiries could be better.
Mr McIlvride said with a good season in farm land he expects the rural and home sector to kick-on in the year ahead.
Mr Monaghan reported increased activity in Halls Gap with Pomonal and Great Western both still very popular while Mr McIlvride said Halls Gap had been slow.
"People who bought into the market in the boom of 04/05 and 05/06 have struggled to get what they paid for with the area still trying to find its feet after natural disasters including fire and flood."
Mr Monaghan and Mr McIlvride agreed that greater freedom for building on lifestyle blocks was needed.
"Recent changes to Victorian building regulations and overlays mean they are now more onerous and it would be good to see a more proactive approach from regulatory bodies to assist those looking to build in the area. In the meantime established properties by default have become even more appealing," Mr Monaghan said.
"Council need to take a good look at simplifying the process," Mr McIlvride said.
"Our main concern from potential buyers of rural blocks is the hurdles put in place by state government and council."
For those looking to build, the main concern according to Mr Baxendale is the availability of land.
"We really need another residential development area, we don't have enough new areas or building blocks to stimulate the market," he said.
Uncertainty surrounding the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project is the biggest impact on buyer interest in homes in the vicinity of the proposal.
"A decision will be good, because either way the market will be accepting of the fact," Mr Baxendale said.
Mr McIlvride said the proximity of Big Hill to the town centre was the biggest factor limiting the areas where some people wanted to buy.
"For some people it is just the house, they will buy regardless of the area, but for others it is the social and economic impacts," he said.
Mr Monaghan said recent job losses, particularly at Stawell Gold Mine had no outstanding effect on the market.
"Increased sales indicate that the controlled reduction in the numbers employed at the gold mine has not had a direct effect on the local market, with Stawell and district still representing excellent value for money by comparison."
Mr Baxendale said Stawell doesn't experience the peaks and troughs of a boom and bust atmosphere, instead remaining steady.
"That is the really good thing about Stawell, we have a steady property market which is firm and that is an advantage."
Mr Baxendale said people need to start paying more attention to the positives the district has going for it.
"People need to start focusing more on the positives in the town - because there are a lot of them.
"Stawell has got all the services we need. A lot of people who went to school here retire back to Stawell because of exactly that."
All three agreed that having younger people leave was typical of any country town, but there are many benefits they leave behind that are taken for granted every day.
"We pay nothing for parking, no traffic lights, less road stress, get to work in a couple of minutes, no tolls and we are ideally located 2.5 hours from Melbourne, the coast and the Murray," Mr McIlvride said.
"With our relaxed lifestyle, excellent sporting, community, health and educational facilities, easy access to the mountains and lakes, it is no surprise Stawell and district is still a popular choice," Mr Monaghan said.