It’s no secret rusted-on city slickers have used the pandemic as a catalyst to pursue a life filled with the early calls of kookaburras, rainforest hikes and evenings winding down on a golden beach.
And regional homes have become such hot property that real estate agents in major rural hubs are now reporting major shortages, as buyers from Melbourne to Perth escape the concrete jungle.
Hotspotting founder Terry Ryder, who recently published a report titled Exodus for a More Affordable Lifestyle: Regional Areas become Hot Property, said regional towns offered a tonic for city dwellers overcome by pandemic-induced malaise.
“While pre-COVID living in a regional town and working for a city-based company may have seemed impossible, the lockdown phase has shown … [home owners] can effectively work from home and no longer need to battle peak-hour traffic to be productive,” Mr Ryder said.
Mr Ryder identified Bendigo in Victoria, the Central Coast in New South Wales, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and Rockingham in Western Australia among regions to capitalise on the tree change trend.
Buyers get more bang for buck in regional areas
Beyond a stripped-back lifestyle, he said buyers sought affordability as prices in capital cities continue to climb.
It’s a major factor Josh Kibble, a sales manager at Albury’s Drummond Real Estate, said inspired Melburnians with “pretty big money” to uproot and start a new life near the mighty Murray River.
Mr Kibble told The New Daily Melbourne’s average price ($666,796) could comfortably fetch a four-bedroom, two-bathroom property with 250 square metres of living space on a 700 to 1000-square-metre block.
“I’ve had five listings put on just this week and they’ve all sold – we’re not used to that rapid pace in our real estate market,” Mr Kibble said.
“I’ve been in real estate for 10 years and this is probably at its peak in respect to sales, volume and some of the prices we’re getting at the moment, and we’re starting to see the tree changers come through.”
City dwellers cause prices to spike – and markets to slow
Sunshine Coast real estate agent Melissa Schembri, from Next Property Group, said interstate demand was so high that a local private school received 300 applications from Victorian families in August alone.
Ms Schembri said she now fields roughly six calls a day from Melburnians and Sydneysiders for most properties on her books, with many resorting to FaceTime walkthroughs and sight-unseen purchases.
“I reckon it’s the 40 to 60-year-old age group inquiring the most, and many said they wanted to relocate here because they’ve been trying to run a business while juggling home school and being locked down,” Ms Schembri told The New Daily.
“We sold $20 million worth of waterfront property on Culbara Street in Mooloolaba in July, and every single one of those buyers came from Brisbane, Sydney and Victoria.”
Ms Schembri said the demand for waterfront living within an hour’s drive of the hinterland has created a 10 per cent spike in prices.
In other booming regional cities, however, agents have had to intervene to ensure there are still properties available on the market.
Sims for Property director Richard Sims, who works out of Launceston, said demand for the Tasmanian city – which commands an average price tag of $350,000 to $400,000 – has become so intense that agents have been forced to slow down sales.
Mr Sims told The New Daily affordability and a strong economy – which counts major brewer James Boag and the University of Tasmania among its contributors – had combined to create “unprecedented demand”.
“From a property transaction point of view, we were up nearly 40 per cent on the June quarter,” Mr Sims said.
“Demand for these properties is so high that we have to give people time to get connected, and with so much interest from multiple purchasers, it no longer becomes what the home’s worth, it becomes what individuals are prepared to pay in that competitive situation.”
New-found buyer interest creates ‘a nightmare’
Mornington Peninsula-based Seachange Property director Geoff Oxford also said buyer interest has peaked in the three weeks since agents in Melbourne were again allowed to conduct private inspections.
Mr Oxford said the current period has been an “absolute nightmare” as clients from young families to retirees seek out a sea change.
“I would usually do two half-hour inspections for a house which would get 30 groups through, but now I have to book 30 15-minute inspections for the same amount of people,” Mr Oxford told The New Daily.
“Not only that, buyers’ interest has spiked by roughly 500 per cent.
“The conversations are the same. COVID has given [buyers] a realisation that everything we lived in the city for no longer exists and can settle near a beach with good infrastructure, golf courses and hot springs.”
Shelly Jurd, real estate director at the Hunter Valley’s Jurds Real Estate, said half the buyers in the area were hunting a permanent regional move, with 75 properties totalling more than $100 million sold since March.
Ms Jurd said the trend caused homes to “sell like hotcakes”.
“We’ve never seen anything as strong as this,” Ms Jurd told The New Daily.
“Some properties are only staying on the market for a couple of weeks where they might have previously taken three to nine months.
“It’s certainly been [driven by] an exodus from the city, and there’s also been a lot of feedback that buyers don’t know when they’ll get to travel again, so they think it’s a good time to buy a weekend retreat.”
Australia’s top 10 affordable tree change locations
- Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
- Central Coast, NSW
- Orange, NSW
- City of Rockingham, WA
- Launceston, Tasmania
- Hunter Valley, NSW
- Albury/Wodonga, NSW/Victoria border
- Latrobe Valley, Victoria
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