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Struggling to house workers, a businessman bought this block of Orange units. It’s not uncommon

May 3, 2023

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By Peter Holmes


A block of units in Orange bought by a business to house workers has been put back on the market.


The block of five units at 36 Forbes Road, built about 43 years ago, has an asking price of $2.8 million to $3 million.


Known as Cole House Apartments, they were sold by the Cole family to the business in December 2020 for around $2.1 million.



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The complex - opposite Duntryleague Golf Club in West Orange - comprises two two-bedroom units, two three-bedroom units and one four-bedroom unit. The block sits on an L-shaped plot of 3,358 square metres.


Cole House Apartments had been run as motel-like short-stay accommodation by the Cole family.


At one point it was run out of two locations - the five-unit complex on Forbes Road, and two apartments on Warrendine Street. The Warrendine Street apartments were sold previously.


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The Coles had lived in a four-bedroom unit at 36 Forbes Road, offering the other four units as a mix of short-stay accommodation for visitors to events such as Food Week, Australian National Field Days and sporting tournaments, and longer term serviced units.


The business that bought the complex from the Coles in 2020 had been leasing two of the units from the family to house workers, after signing a contract to provide services to Cadia mine.


All five units were subsequently used to house dozens of workers who were required in Orange for varying periods of time to work on the project at the mine.


The business is selling the property now as it is winding down its operation at Cadia and shifting focus to a job in Queensland.



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Josh Fitzgerald from selling agent McGrath told The Orange News Examiner it was “not uncommon for these guys to come in and buy something, particularly if they’re struggling to house their workers”.


“When housing is tight it’s very difficult to make a serviced apartment happen,” he said. “You’ve got to find an owner who is prepared to invest the money in servicing their property.


“At the time, when all these mining contracts came up, there were only about 50 to 60 rental properties available in Orange.”


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Fitzgerald said turning full-time rentals or short-stay accommodation into longer term serviced apartments came with potential benefits and risks.


On the upside, serviced long-term apartments for workers can provide a secure income over extended periods of time. Particularly when a city has a mine and multiple major construction projects either underway or in the pipeline.


But on the downside, it can be challenging to reposition from being an extended stay provider to a short-term provider if and when the contracts dry up, as it requires a greater level of investment into daily servicing, and time spent on connecting with major online booking systems.


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If new owners were to lease the units to full-time renters, the listing states a potential weekly return of $2,030 ($380 x 2 for two-bedroom units, $410 x 2 for three-bedroom units and $450 for the four-bedroom unit).

The units at 36 Forbes Road are fully furnished. Each has an internal laundry, air conditioning and an updated kitchen. There are 11 car parking spaces.



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