ARARAT - An air of collective optimism hangs over the Ararat property market with three of the city's four leading real estate agencies describing current conditions as buoyant.
Interest and investment in the town is being heavily influenced by projects including the Hopkins Correctional Centre development, construction of the Ararat Wind Farm and the future Western Highway bypass.
Landmark Ararat's managing director, Greg Kerr said it had been a buoyant year.
"There are a fair few people looking for a tree change," he said.
"We have clients from Melbourne and surrounding districts showing their interest because Ararat provides very good facilities and is ideal for the early retiree."
Mr Kerr said he believed convenience played a big part in Ararat as a location of choice.
"People can sell out at a reasonable price and come to Ararat which has all the services and everything at your fingertips."
Average sale prices for properties in Ararat are ranging from between $130,000 and $230,000.
Elders Real Estate manager, Garry Todd said he viewed the Ararat market as ok without being buoyant.
"This year has probably been quieter than last year but in the last two months sales have picked up because buyer interest has resumed," he said.
"I would put that down to a bit of doom and gloom in the public sector with an election coming up, but that is now over."
Mr Todd said he expected an increase in sale prices by anything up to 20 percent across Ararat in 2014 and beyond.
"Investors and buyers should think seriously about making a purchase now with the view that properties will be worth substantially more money in the future," he said.
Mr Todd said Ararat had done well to hold its own.
"Despite the likes of Stawell and smaller towns that have fallen away we have been lucky to survive and the prison project in particular kept us out of the Global Financial Crisis.
First National's sales consultant/licence agent Adam Walker said it is a great time for people to be buying.
"Buyers have been a lot more active because Ararat is in a pretty good position," he said.
Mr Walker said the market had bounced back after a tough period in sales and rental when the prison development stalled last year.
Wes Davidson branch manager David Jennings said it had been quite a good year.
"Anything up to $200,000 has been moving along quite nicely with interest coming from in and out of town," he said.
"Low interest rates present an attractive option, investors can get into the market at 4.5 per cent and lock in. They can buy a home that effectively looks after itself."
Mr Jennings said sales were between 20-25 percent ahead of this time last year.
He said he expects it will only get easier to buy with the ability to afford rent becoming more of an issue in the next couple of years.
"I think the future is going to be bright, whether people are going to rent, buy or build this will have a good economic impact."
Mr Jennings said unfortunately with rental demand through the roof, locals had been forced out of the market, with prices 20 percent above market value.
Mr Kerr said if anything was holding Ararat back it is not enough diversification of industry and jobs.
"We don't have enough to hold the younger generation. But I think that will change over time with the bypass and duplication making the commute a lot easier."
The high level of rates also remains a significant deterrent for potential buyers.
"The rising rates make it a little bit more difficult for people considering the move here," Mr Kerr said.
"It is eye popping for outsiders, this is something that will be an ongoing and increasing issue."
Mr Walker said there is no easy away around the fact people in country areas pay a lot more than their city counterparts.
"The reality is people who are buying properties for $180,000 are paying more rates than someone who has paid $500,000 elsewhere," he said.
"We just try to assure people that council is proactive, investing that money in to facilities and services."
Mr Jennings said sellers should be looking to optimise their opportunities with the arrival of spring.
"It is a good time to hit, we see a lot of sellers in spring, this brings more competition. It is important people present their home and price it right."