City-Dwellers Snap up Country Homes for Lifestyle, Space and Value
Home prices in regional areas rose faster than in the cities last year, according to research into Australia’s property market from leading property data company CoreLogic.
In an accelerating trend throughout 2020, Aussies are rediscovering a love of the land, with sea-changers and tree-changers fuelling a property boom in many regional and rural towns. Prices in regional centres rose 4 per cent from September to December, compared to 1.8 per cent growth in Australia’s cities.
Mathew Tiller, LJ Hooker Head of Research, said the unique circumstances sparked by Covid-19 had accelerated the movement out of Australia’s capital cities. And, amongst other factors, this was pushing up prices in the regions.
“A large majority of those who have moved already had in the back of their minds that they were going to make a regional move,” he said. “What the last 12 months has done is speed up their timeline.
“Affordability, lifestyle changes, downsizing of the mortgage and the ability to work from home, continue to be key drivers behind people’s decision to move.”
Experts are tipping the trend to continue. Tiller cited conversations with a number of long-serving regional agents, in New South Wales, who are all planning for more growth in 2021.
“Property prices, in rural and regional areas, may have risen considerably over the past year, however, they still remain vastly more affordable than the capital city markets”
He said new entrants to country and coastal towns brought increased demand for services, as well as property. In some cases, just a few dozen additional families arriving was enough to increase prices in smaller towns, but without affecting the lifestyle.
Exodus from Australia’s cities was already emerging. From the 1990s, people seeking a coastal lifestyle boosted some regional areas. Then targeted immigration and the mining boom propelled the trend throughout the 2000s.
Census data from the Regional Australia Institute showed 65,204 people – mainly young people and families – moved from the cities to regional areas between 2011 and 2016.
Regional and property experts argue Australia’s regional areas offer a great lifestyle with plenty of space, good jobs and incredible bang for buck in property.
They also report people feel less risk from high-density living and potential lockdowns than living in close proximity in cities.
And with the realisation many people can work from home, it is expected more people will move for lifestyle reasons.
One of the standout performers for property in regional Australia were New South Wales’ rural northwest and New England areas. Prices increased 8.4 per cent over the last year including 5.9 per cent in the last three months.
In Victoria, the cost of homes in Warrnambool and South West Victoria rose 3.8 per cent in a quarter, while in northwest Victoria prices climbed 11.8 per cent in a year.
South Australia’s rural southeast saw property prices up 5 per cent in a year. Outback prices in the state were up more than 11 per cent. In regional Northern Territory the median was 4.9 per cent higher.
Across the Tasman, regional Tasmania recorded rises of 4.4 per cent, including the northwest and west which were up more than 10 per cent.
In Queensland, it’s the Wide Bay region including Bundaberg, coastal Bargara and agricultural communities Childers and the Fraser Coast.
LJ Hooker Bundaberg principal Jonathon Olsen said new buyers had emerged, particularly in the last five months, leading to increased returns for sellers in the greater area.
Olsen said this included a range of different properties, from homes in Bundaberg that are becoming even more attractive to owner occupiers and investors, to acreage in rural areas for agriculture, and seaside properties in Bargara. “It’s a very exciting time for the Wide Bay,” he said.
“People feel safe, they’re not leaving, they’re spending money locally.” Olsen went on to say he expected the trend to continue due to enquiries from people in New South Wales and Victoria, whose planned move to the region was delayed due to border restrictions. “They want to be here for the lifestyle”.
Across Australia, historically low interest rates, government stimulus programs and lower fewer people selling their properties have all combined to maintain and increase prices.
Mr Tiller reported that government spending was also helping. Infrastructure projects such as major road upgrades and bypasses, new and improved health and hospital facilities and new schools all added to the liveability of towns outside our capital cities.
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