AFTER more than two years in the doldrums, the real estate market in the Clarence Valley is starting to show signs of improvement, particularly in the urbanised areas of the Lower Clarence.
LJ Hooker Maclean sales and marketing consultant Grant Nielsen said February had been the company's biggest month for two years, with 13 contracts exchanged.
March was also looking strong, he said, with four contracts already exchanged.
"It has been a long time coming and it's been welcome," Mr Nielsen said.
He said there had been a mix of local buyers as well as some from Brisbane and Sydney.
"There's no real trend, but it's probably more local than external."
Mr Nielsen said there were no "fire sales" in the latest jump and most properties were reaching vendor expectations.
"We had an auction at Palmers Channel in February and it sold well, well above reserve," he said.
"The actual first bid came in above reserve. I've been in the game for eight years and it is the best auction I've been associated with.
"There just seems to be an increase in confidence at the moment. That's all it's been - a lack of confidence - and finance has been difficult too."
Mr Nielsen said an improving real estate market sends positive economic ripples through the rest of the economy.
"For example, there has been a bit of a shortage of work for tradesmen, but that should pick up," he said.
He said January had been quiet but things turned around last month.
That view was reflected by PRDNationwide Yamba principal Denise Gillies, who said January, normally a busy month, was exceptionally quiet, but the number of inquiries had increased since.
"There's certainly signs of green shoots," she said.
"There has been a bit more interest, but it has been quiet probably since about 2007-08.
"It had been the worst cycle I had seen in 24 years in the industry."
Maclean Ycoast Real Estate principal Fiona Beamer said the traditional buying period of January had been quiet, particularly for high-end rural properties.
Persistent rain may have had an impact, but there were signs of improvement.
"There's a bit more interest, but although there's interest there's no urgency," she said.
"People have the feeling there is not a lot of activity."
In Grafton, Elders Real Estate principal David Dart said November and December were strong, but January was quiet.
"Inquiries are still good," he said.
"I think confidence is improving."