More Aussies move to regions for housing affordability and lifestyle

Regional homes
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Internal migration to regional Australia increased by 4.6 per cent over the last three months —  its highest level since the September 2022 quarter and 14 percent above the pre-Covid average.

This matters because it means more Aussies are not only seeking a change in lifestyle, but a house that allows them to take on a more reasonably-sized home loan than the great expense currently faced in our capital cities.

The Sunshine Coast led the way as Australia’s most covered region for movers.

This is according to the ‘regional movers index’, a regular report by CommBank in conjunction with the Regional Australia Institute. 

The index measures the number of people moving into the regions, relative to the number of people moving back to our capital cities. 

Regional Movers Index chief executive Liz Ritchie said the lure of regional living remains strong, with 25 per cent more people moving from the city to the regions than back in the opposite direction.

“Regional Australia offers something more for many people, especially those from big cities,” Ritchie said. “More space, more time, more affordability. This shift away from capital city living has been underway now for a decade. It was definitely super-charged by Covid, but this data proves the regions are still very desirable for a significant proportion of the population.”

Sydney and Melbourne are out of favour as property costs hit 

Sydney was again the capital that shed the most people in the last 12 months, accounting for 65 per cent of all capital city outflows, followed by Melbourne at 35 per cent, as per CommBank.

The inflated economy and high cost of living can be sharply felt in a city like Sydney, especially when its housing market is already widely considered to be 'unaffordable'.

Domain recently put the city’s median house price at $1.6m, while Knight Frank listed Sydney in its top 10 most expensive global residential markets in 2023 - hardly something to boast about.

So it’s not hard to see why many Aussies might be looking for a more modest house price and a much more manageable home loan

Sea-changers see home buying chance

Amid the positivity of many sea-changers, the simple solution of moving to a smaller town can also have flow-on effects for others dealing with the same high cost issues. 

A University of New South Wales study recently noted that while some remote areas of inland Australia have stagnated or even experienced population decline, others are already struggling to deal with increased migration from the pandemic and the rise of remote work. 

Some coastal regions in particular have experienced a significant influx of sea-changers in recent years motivated by cheaper and more spacious housing on offer by the beach.

“Some who are priced out of the city housing markets may be able to afford a more spacious, standalone dwelling in a regional area,” says Dr Laura Crommelin, Senior Lecturer in City Planning at the School of Built Environment, UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. 

“Those regional areas within striking distance of the city are increasingly popular with those who still might commute once or twice a week to the city for work, but spend most of their time living by the coast.”

In some instances, this movement of people has seen greater competition at auctions in regional towns. For example, last week’s auctions were especially busy in Newcastle/Lake Macquarie and on the Gold Coast, with most homes under the hammer selling, based on CoreLogic’s data. 

Which regions are most Aussies moving to in 2024?

Regional New South Wales accounted for the largest share of net inflows from capitals, capturing 36 per cent of all city dwellers leaving the big smoke, followed by regional Queensland at 32 per cent and regional Victoria at 30 per cent.

The Sunshine Coast (Qld), Gold Coast (Qld), Greater Geelong (Vic), Moorabool (Vic) and Fraser Coast (Qld) all made return appearances in the RMI’s regional hotspot list, by share of net internal migration.

However, the Sunshine Coast commands an impressive lead, accounting for a 17.5 per cent share of all net internal migration, up from 12.5 per cent a year ago, and eclipsing the next most attractive region, the Gold Coast, which has an 8 per cent share.

CommBank executive general manager regional and agribusiness banking, Paul Fowler said the Sunshine Coast offered a wonderful lifestyle experience and is one of Queensland’s fastest-growing economies, so it was no surprise it had retained its coveted number one spot for the fifth quarter in a row.

“A skilled and diverse labour supply is one of the most critical inputs for any economy and Sunshine Coast businesses across a wide range of sectors are taking advantage of the growth in people coming to the area, moving at pace to explore new and innovative opportunities,” Fowler said.

“The tug of regional New South Wales remains strong with communities relatively close to Sydney, such as Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Maitland, making various hotspot lists.”

Fowler said when it comes to growth hotspots, Western Australia also continues to succeed.

“WA’s economy is strengthening beyond traditional resources, with wholesale trade, construction, professional services and agribusiness coming to the fore,” Fowler said.

Overall, there are clearly a lot more opportunities for home buyers willing to look beyond their immediate location.

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