Coastal flight: How families are forcing up house prices in the regions

Sydney lost the top spot to laid-back Byron Bay.

Sydney lost the top spot to laid-back Byron Bay. Photo: Getty

Four years ago Peter Horsfield and his wife migrated up the east coast – to near the top – of Australia.

The pair had been proud Sydneysiders for years until the traffic jams and daily bustle started to taint their love for the city.

“I looked overseas, I looked at moving to the Gold Coast, but Cairns just came up,” the financial planner told The New Daily.

“I basically did an analysis of how you can have a balance between generating income, servicing customers and having a higher quality of life, and Cairns just ticked those boxes.”

Four years ago Peter Horsfield and his wife migrated up the east coast of Australia.

Four years ago Peter Horsfield and his wife migrated up the east coast of Australia. Photo: Peter Horsfield

He says the only two things that they miss are the constant buzz of a big city and being close to an international airport.

“Everything else is ‘Hey wow’. People are lovely, you can talk with your neighbours, you don’t have to worry about traffic, cost of living is great, there are so many outdoors activities, and you can keep yourself engaged.”

The couple is just one example of the great middle-aged migration happening across the country.

But as thousands of Australians leave capital cities for greener pastures, they’re also pushing up house prices in some regional centres.

As of December 2018, only three capital cities across the country featured among centres with the 10 most expensive median house prices, with Sydney losing the top spot to Byron Bay, new research from Propertyology shows.

The trend towards of rising median house price in regional cities is being fuelled by financially comfortable, middle-aged Australians, says head of Propertyology Simon Pressley.

“Some people, as they acquire equity, say ‘I know I live in Sydney, but do I actually like it? It’s expensive and congested’, so there are people who have gone through that and decided to move.”

Mr Pressley said that many of the regional cities on the list have a median age well above the national average.

“They’re not old, they’re mature. They’ve already worked hard and bought a home and they’ve got some financial capacity. A lot of people are choosing not to live in the big cities any more.

“So it’s not new or unique to Byron. It’s something that will continually evolve. It’ll keep going.”

Byron Bay Property Sales director Jeremy Bennett says he has definitely noticed a trend towards young families moving to the area.

“I’ve noticed more families coming to Byron, definitely for the lifestyle. It’s continually growing,” he told The New Daily. 

“There’s a correlation between moving here and access to [fast] internet because it means they can live and work here. There’s a lot of people who come, they have online businesses and they’ve chosen this lifestyle.”

The great migration

Demographer Mark McCrindle says that it’s not just the key coastal areas, such as the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Geelong that are drawing middle-aged movers, but inland regional centres as well.

“What’s interesting is the increase in inland areas. Morisset in Quorrobolong [inland from Newcastle] is growing at 2.6 per cent and that’s way above the national growth of 1.6 per cent,” he told The New Daily.

“You’ve got Dubbo, which we don’t think of as a fast-growing city and yet it’s grown at 1.8 per cent, which is fast for a regional centre. Ballarat has grown at 1.8 per cent in the last year and Bendigo has added 1700 people.”

While the regional migration has warmed up house prices in these areas, it’s offset by robust economies, Mr McCrindle says.

“That price difference has gone. Many of the house prices are similar to the capitals, but they have the benefit of growing economies.”

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