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Big spenders are pricing locals out of Byron Bay as shacks are replaced with mansions

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Byron Bay has transformed from a laid-back coastal town to a Hollywood mecca as successful businessmen and celebrities flood the region.

While the northern NSW town is now an internationally acclaimed destination, locals are being priced out as the popularity drives real estate prices up.

Little shacks from the 1960s have been bulldozed in to build mansions that span three blocks, and rental availability has plunged to an all-time low.

Locals say there is no way for them to compete with city-sized budgets from people moving from Sydney or Melbourne, and celebrities appear to be snapping up land in every direction.

Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron settled into Byron at the height of the Covid pandemic, while the Hemsworth clan are mainstays and Matt Damon recently arrived in town.

Businessman Geoff Morgan sold his $22milion Wategos Beach holiday home to Melbourne-based Rip Curl founder Brian Singer after just five days on the market. 

Byron Bay has transformed from a laid-back coastal town to a Hollywood-style mecca as successful businessmen and celebrities flood the region. Pictured: The original Byron Bay surf club

Matt Damon poses alongside good mate Chris Hemsworth - both men call Byron Bay home

Matt Damon poses alongside good mate Chris Hemsworth – both men call Byron Bay home 

Matt Damon previously stayed in this Byron Bay mansion while visiting the region on a vacation with his family

Matt Damon previously stayed in this Byron Bay mansion while visiting the region on a vacation with his family 

Meanwhile in the same corner of Byron, nestled among one of Australia’s only north facing beaches, JB Hi-Fi former chief executive Richard Uechtritz is demolishing two blocks to create his dream mega-mansion, The Australian reported.

Adam Gilchrist, who co-founded F45 Training, splashed out on a new pad in 2020 in the area. He already owns at $18.85million property in the region, and reportedly has rejected offers to rent the home at $100,000 a week.     

The exorbitant displays of wealth area stark contrast to what locals believe Byron Bay stands for. 

Some say that as they continue to move further inland, or further south, the enclave will lose the charm that drew so many to the region in the first place.

Local comedian and long-term resident, Mandy Nolan, told Daily Mail Australia the heart and soul of Byron Bay – the ‘artists, musicians, crystal healers and dope dealers’ – deserve to keep the ‘s**tty little shacks’ they call home. 

‘If you want in on what we’ve spent decades creating… take care of the many who are being squeezed out,’ she said. 

‘It would be a sad day if our artists and musicians, our crystal healers and dope dealers can no longer afford a s**tty shack somewhere.’ 

The exorbitant displays of wealth area stark contrast to what locals believe Byron Bay stands for. Pictured: The local railway cottage in 1970

The exorbitant displays of wealth area stark contrast to what locals believe Byron Bay stands for. Pictured: The local railway cottage in 1970

Zac Efron hunkered down during the global coronavirus crisis in Byron. The Hollywood star started dating a local waitress, who he has reportedly since separated from

Zac Efron hunkered down during the global coronavirus crisis in Byron. The Hollywood star started dating a local waitress, who he has reportedly since separated from

Television presenter and radio host Carrie Bickmore owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay

Television presenter and radio host Carrie Bickmore owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay

Families who have called northern New South Wales home for generations have found themselves sleeping in cars or caravans and eventually moving away from the eclectic community they helped to build.  

At $450 a week, traffic controller Steph Rouillon and her two children have been living in a one-bedroom ‘bush shack’, which is well-and-truly falling to bits. 

The dirt road leading to the room has destroyed her small car, the water pump is ‘temperamental’ at best and she often finds herself unable to shower or cook at ‘the most inconvenient of times’. 

Her 14-year-old and 11-year-old boys have converted the lounge room into their bedroom, and they eat dinner as a family standing up each night.

While the quality of life is ‘questionable’, she says, at least she has a roof over their heads.

Just weeks out from Christmas she was told to find somewhere else to live.  

The Byron Bay post office was built in 1896. Locals say this is the Byron Bay they know and love, but it has been entirely changed due to an influx of celebrities and businessmen

The Byron Bay post office was built in 1896. Locals say this is the Byron Bay they know and love, but it has been entirely changed due to an influx of celebrities and businessmen

Mother-of-two Steph Rouillon said she and her children have been struggling to find a new home within her budget as a result of the influx of new people

Mother-of-two Steph Rouillon said she and her children have been struggling to find a new home within her budget as a result of the influx of new people

F45 Founder Adam Gilchrist recently splashed out on a second Byron Bay home

Zac Efron hunkered down in Byron Bay during the Covid pandemic

Adam Gilchrist, who co-founded F45 Training, splashed out on a new pad in 2020 in the area. He already owns at $18.85million property in the region, and reportedly has rejected offers to rent the home at $100,000 per week

Pictured: Byron Bay in 1947, long before it became a hotspot for tourists and beloved by celebrities

Pictured: Byron Bay in 1947, long before it became a hotspot for tourists and beloved by celebrities

‘This is the modern poverty line,’ she said. ‘Living week-to-week on a single mother’s income. I wake up, stand on a hot road, pay my rent, sleep, repeat.’

Steph, like many others within the community, blames the crisis on ‘newbie cashed-up city folk Byron wannabes buying up properties’ only to turn them into AirBnB businesses.

She said what people from Melbourne and Sydney don’t realise is that their bigger budgets are pricing out locals – the very people who ‘inspired them to move here in the first place’. 

‘We’re full,’ the traffic controller said. ‘This is our home. We’ve been here for 10 years.’ 

Based on the current market, Steph said she’s looking at having to spend upwards of $850 per week on a home – and will be competing with hundreds of other tenants in the exact same position as her. 

‘Women like me, who don’t mind leading a simple life, surf and wear bare feet don’t want to live in another whitewashed version of Bondi. We left for a reason,’ she said.  

Homes are now bigger than entire buildings were when the region was considered a ‘hidden gem’ among surfers and locals. Pictured: The original Byron Bay surf club on the left, and F45 co-founder Adam Gilchrist’s home on the right

Rouillon pays $450 a week for a one-bedroom 'bush shack' which is well and truly falling to bits

Rouillon pays $450 a week for a one-bedroom ‘bush shack’ which is well and truly falling to bits

Byron Bay now has several luxury resorts often frequented by celebrities and millionaires

Byron Bay now has several luxury resorts often frequented by celebrities and millionaires

As Byron's reputation as the place to be grows, real estate agents report properties being snapped up sight unseen or via Zoom inspection, forcing locals from the town they helped to build

As Byron’s reputation as the place to be grows, real estate agents report properties being snapped up sight unseen or via Zoom inspection, forcing locals from the town they helped to build

As Byron’s reputation as the place to be grows, real estate agents report properties being snapped up sight unseen or via Zoom inspection.

According to Byron Bay Shire mayor, the level of demand is unprecedented.   

‘Real estate agents have seen nothing like this before, what we are seeing is social tension as people are being squeezed out. It can be negative — the community is getting overwhelmed.’

‘It’s going gangbusters, prices are moving quickly, we are seeing five to 10 years of price growth in five to 10 months. It’s going nuts.’

Meanwhile local real estate agents are seeing homes sell for in excess of $400,000 more than asking prices, as potential tenants offer to pay for 12 months’ rent in advance just to secure a home.     

Ray White real estate agent Matthew McCormack admitted the market is the strongest and most competitive it has been in five years.

Elsa Pataky and husband Chris Hemsworth helped to transform Byron Bay into 'Hollywood 2.0' and attract other stars

Elsa Pataky and husband Chris Hemsworth helped to transform Byron Bay into ‘Hollywood 2.0’ and attract other stars

Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky are Byron Bay locals, and recently finished building their dream home

Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky are Byron Bay locals, and recently finished building their dream home

Mandy Nolan (pictured) is a writer and comedian for The Byron Echo

Mandy Nolan (pictured) is a writer and comedian for The Byron Echo

‘It’s cut-throat at the moment, you’ve got to have your cash ready to go,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. 

Realestate.com’s chief economist Nerida Conisbee said interest from the US market has also increased.

‘Everyone knew about Byron before but now big influxes of celebrities and a lot of high-profile driven activity has lifted the popularity of the area,’ Ms Conisbee said. 

While data isn’t yet available to show cost increases in the Byron market, realestate.com revealed views per rental listing jumped by 42 per cent year-on-year between April and November 2020.

For buyers, there was an increase of 94 per cent for houses and 119 per cent for units. 

The median house price in Byron Bay is now $1.44 million and has soared 22.8 per cent over the last year. 

Ms Consibee said a true reflection of the meteoric price increase will become clear in the coming months.  

While data isn't yet available to show cost increases in the Byron market, realestate.com revealed views per rental listing jumped by 42 per cent year-on-year between April and November 2020

While data isn’t yet available to show cost increases in the Byron market, realestate.com revealed views per rental listing jumped by 42 per cent year-on-year between April and November 2020

Local comedian and long-term resident, Mandy Nolan, told Daily Mail Australia the heart and soul of Byron Bay - the 'artists, musicians, crystal healers and dope dealers' - deserve to keep the 'sh*tty little shacks' they call home

Local comedian and long-term resident, Mandy Nolan, told Daily Mail Australia the heart and soul of Byron Bay – the ‘artists, musicians, crystal healers and dope dealers’ – deserve to keep the ‘sh*tty little shacks’ they call home

Pictured: Mega mansion home owned by Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky in Byron Bay

Pictured: Mega mansion home owned by Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky in Byron Bay

THE ‘WHO’S WHO’ OF BYRON BAY 

While several big name stars call Byron Bay home permanently, the trendy seaside suburb has also become somewhat of a revolving door, with an endless stream of A-listers and local celebs spotted in the region.

The Hemsworth Clan:

Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky arguably started the ‘Hollywood 2.0’ craze.

The 37-year-old Thor star relocated to the area from Los Angeles in 2014 with his wife of 10 years, Elsa Pataky, and their three young children.

They now reside in a $20million mega-mansion in the area, situated on 4.2 hectares. The home boasts six bedrooms, a game room, gym, steam room, media room and a 50-metre rooftop infinity pool.

Chris’ younger brother Liam soon made the leap as well, dividing his time between Byron and Malibu during his marriage to Miley Cyrus before  making the move more permanent in 2020. 

Matt Damon:

Matt Damon is thought to own a holiday home in Byron Bay.

The actor says he is thrilled to be spending time Down Under as he joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder.

‘I’m so excited that my family and I will be able to call Australia home for the next few months,’ Damon, 50, said.

Zac Efron:

Efron hunkered down in Byron during the global coronavirus crisis.

The Hollywood hunk started dating a local waitress, who he has reportedly since separated from.

While he is currently filming a movie in South Australia, it is presumed that he will return to his ‘second home’ in Byron Bay when the project is completed. 

The 32-year-old actor reportedly has no plans to return to Los Angeles any time soon, after extending his tourist visa from three months to a year, and shopping around for property in the area. 

Nicole Kidman:

Nicole Kidman, 53, has been living in Byron Bay on-and-off with her husband Keith Urban and their two daughters since filming for her new show began earlier this year.

Nine Perfect Strangers is based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same name. 

It stars several A-listers including Melissa McCarthy, Samara Weaving, Luke Evans and Bobby Cannavale.

In July, Nicole told the Daily Telegraph she’s ‘thrilled’ to be able to bring the $100 million production and hundreds of jobs to the local film industry after it was sent crashing down by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘It is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community that nurtured me through so much of my career,’ she said.

Elyse Knowles:

Elyse Knowles bought a $2.3million beach house in Byron Bay in early 2020 after more than a year of renting in the coastal town with her boyfriend, Josh Barker. 

Their new 1960s built property is located in the old part of Byron Bay town, just a short walk from the main beach and surrounded by tranquil greenery.

Last year, Elyse told Daily Mail Australia that the couple moved to Byron Bay from Melbourne while chasing a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves.

‘Everyone always smiles and always say hello. That was one of the first things I noticed living [in Byron].’

‘The community is more environmentally conscious. It is conversations that people have every single day… talking about the ocean and the marine life.

The couple are now expecting their first child.

Carrie Bickmore:

The television presenter and radio host owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay.

She recently took her daughter to the holiday town to celebrate the new year. 

Isabel Lucas:

Isabel Lucas first purchased a home in Byron Bay in 2016, but the Australian actress has lived on-and-off in the region for the better part of a decade.

She has been spotted at protests against 5G towers in the area and has contributed to the belief that Byron Bay is the ‘anti vax’ capital of Australia.

While filming her feature film Bosch & Rockit in Byron Bay earlier this year, she ‘opted out’ of Covid testing, after previously admitting she ‘doesn’t trust’ the past of vaccination. 

Natalie Portman: 

Hollywood actress Natalie Portman was spotted on several occasions holidaying in Byron Bay ahead of filming Thor: Love and Thunder.

She seemed to relish ‘living like the locals’ for her short stay, visiting the beaches and buying clothes from local stores. 

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