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Sea change out, tree change in: Australians flock inland for an affordable lifestyle

Buyers are swapping the beach for the bush when it comes to relocating to more affordable regional areas, new research reveals.

According to the Hotspotting Exodus to Lifestyle – National Top 10 report, inland regional cities and areas dominate the list of the most affordable locations.

Hotspotting Director Terry Ryder said in a period where Australia has just recorded its highest population growth in two decades, many are opting for the bush rather than the beach for affordability and lifestyle reasons. 

“Western Australia and Queensland continue to be national leaders in price growth, while the two biggest states on population – NSW and Victoria – continue to lose population through internal migration,” Mr Ryder said. 

“The biggest part of that trend is people leaving our two biggest cities and moving to smaller cities or to regional areas. 

“That’s been happening in significant numbers for the past decade and was not caused by the COVID19 lockdowns, as some media reports have suggested.”

The report considered the combined power of several property metrics including rising sales activity, with potential for capital growth, plenty of houses at affordable prices, strong infrastructure (existing and planned) and proximity to major jobs nodes.

Hotspotting General Manager Tim Graham said Sydney and Melbourne were still growing thanks to overseas migrants focusing on our two largest cities, but their growth rates had dropped due to the residents leaving to move to other parts of the country. 

“Queensland and WA are the biggest recipients of this internal migration and it’s why these two states have such consistently strong population growth rates,” Mr Graham said. 

“And the latest population figures from the ABS show that the trend is continuing. 

“Australians are on the move in search of a different lifestyle at an affordable price, enabled in large part by technology which has allowed more and more people to work remotely.” 

National Top 10 affordable lifestyle locations

Tamworth, NSW

Mr Ryder said Tamworth was a thriving regional hub in NSW’s Greater Northern region, undergoing significant growth thanks to major infrastructure projects and its reputation as an affordable and rural lifestyle destination. 

“Its strong economy, driven by industries such as agriculture and mining, is bolstered by the development of a new intermodal freight hub and plans for a university campus,” Mr Ryder said. 

“The city’s tourism and equine industries also contribute to its success, with the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival drawing visitors and its status as the national equine capital attracting investment.” 

Mr Ryder said the property market in Tamworth is robust, with a low vacancy rate and high rental yields making it appealing to investors, particularly in the unit market. 

“With support from federal and state politicians, the city is well-positioned to accommodate the growing trend of people moving from big cities in search of more affordable housing and a better quality of life,” he said. 

Shepparton, VIC

Mr Graham said Shepparton – located two hours north of Melbourne – was a thriving city at the heart of Australia’s food bowl. 

With its prime location near major rivers and highways, it serves as the commercial and manufacturing hub of the Goulburn Valley region, he said. 

“The city’s strong agricultural industry – with 25 per cent of Victoria’s agricultural products being produced – is supported by efficient transportation links,” Mr Graham said. 

“Currently, Shepparton is investing $2 billion in transport upgrades and a major freight logistics centre.” 

Mr Graham said the city is also focusing on renewable energy, with plans for a Renewable Energy Zone and multiple solar farms. 

“This is creating job opportunities and contributing to its economic growth,” he said. 

“Shepparton also offers affordable real estate and low vacancy rates, making it a favourable destination for investors.”

Yeppoon, QLD

Mr Ryder said that in recent years, the Yeppoon property market in coastal North Queensland has been experiencing a surge in both sales activity and demand, even amidst the pandemic. 

“This growth is expected to continue throughout 2022 and 2023, with overseas buyers also showing interest in the region,” he said. 

“The town is predicted to be a top beneficiary of the long-term trend of people moving to lifestyle locations. 

“But, despite this popularity, median house prices in Yeppoon and nearby suburbs remain affordable at around $500,000 to $600,000.” 

Mr Ryder said Yeppoon’s status as the principal seat in Livingstone Shire and its proximity to Rockhampton, along with diverse economy, including agriculture, construction, tourism, and resources, make it an attractive location for buyers. 

Gladstone, QLD

Mr Graham said Gladstone – a significant regional centre in Australia – is experiencing a positive turnaround from its turbulent past. 

Vacancy rates have decreased, rents and sales have risen, and house prices are on the upswing, he said. 

“This trend has persisted throughout the pandemic, even as many other areas of the country have seen declining property markets,” he said.

“The city has been recognised as a top-performing municipality and a rising market for both houses and units. 

“Gladstone’s growing popularity is also reflected in its ranking as one of the most desirable destinations for people moving within Australia, which is due to an array of factors, including various projects diversifying the economy and creating job opportunities.” 

Mr Graham said the city is emerging as a major clean energy hub, with numerous hydrogen projects and a multi-billion-dollar federal program backing its development. 

Toowoomba, QLD

Mr Ryder said Toowoomba is a rapidly developing regional city in Australia, with a growing economy and a significant presence in the national stage. 

Its large program of infrastructure development, including the privately developed Wellcamp Airport and its inclusion in the2032 Olympics, highlight its strategic importance, he said. 

“The city’s location near the Surat Basin’s mining and renewable energy resources, as well as its proximity to tourism, manufacturing, and agricultural industries in the Lockyer Valley, further contribute to its economic growth,” he said. 

“In addition, the $1.6 billion Second Range Crossing and the upcoming $31 billion Inland Rail Link solidify Toowoomba’s position as a nationally recognized transport hub.” 

Mr Ryder said the city’s appealing parks and gardens, booming health, and education facilities, and affordable housing also attract property buyers to the region. 

“With a strong economy, low vacancies, and solid yields, Toowoomba is a prime destination for those looking to invest in the property market,” he said. 

“As the city continues to grow and thrive, it remains a key player in shaping Australia’s future economic landscape.”

Lockyer Valley, QLD 

Mr Graham said the Lockyer Valley is a fertile farming region that stretches between Brisbane-Ipswich and Toowoomba and is easily accessible by the Warrego Highway, making both cities within a 40-minute drive. 

“The area is renowned for its diverse range of commercial fruits and vegetables, earning it the nickname “Australia’s salad bowl,” he said. 

“Aside from agriculture, the region is also home to light industry, a university campus and serves as the gateway to the Surat Basin mining precinct and a growing renewable energy sector. 

“It is also well-connected with major road links, and its beautiful natural landscape, featuring the Great Dividing Range, makes it a popular tourist destination.” 

Mr Graham said the upcoming $15 billion Inland Rail Link is expected to further improve transportation in the area, connecting it to interstate markets and ports. 

“With its appealing rural atmosphere and affordable property options, the Lockyer Valley is expected to continue its growth trajectory, with its population projected to increase by 40 per cent by 2041,” he said.

“It is a promising region with opportunities for both residents and businesses.”

Mount Gambier, SA

Mr Ryder said Mount Gambier is a highly desirable regional centre in South Australia for property investment due to its affordable housing, lifestyle opportunities, and strong employment growth. 

“The region’s key industry is forestry, with plans for expansion and the establishment of a forestry research centre,” he said. 

“The town has also seen an influx of interstate and intrastate residents, attracted by the affordable housing and more relaxed lifestyle.” 

Mr Ryder said this growth has put pressure on the town’s infrastructure, especially in terms of public transport, road infrastructure, and medical facilities. 

“To address these concerns, there are plans for a $70 million hospital expansion and a $190 million upgrade of the Princes Highway corridor,” he said. 

“With a median house price of $376,000 and rental yields above 5 per cent, Mount Gambier is a promising location for property investors. 

“Rental availability is also tight, with vacancies remaining below 1 per cent in the town since 2020.” 

Murray Bridge, SA 

Mr Graham said Murray Bridge in South Australia is a prime investment location due to its rural lifestyle, affordable housing options, and diverse economy. 

“It is already the regional centre for Murraylands and a sought-after destination for water activities,” he said. 

“With a current population of 23,000 and a projected steady growth over the next 20 years, it is on track to becoming one of the state’s largest regional centres.” 

Mr Graham said that in the past, Murray Bridge had an image problem and was often overlooked by investors in favour of the nearby Adelaide Hills. 

“However, with ongoing revitalisation of leisure areas and new residential developments, the area is undergoing a positive transformation,” he said. 

“It is located less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide, making it attractive to those looking for a more affordable and peaceful lifestyle outside of the city.” 

Geraldton, WA 

Mr Ryder said Geraldton – the only city on Western Australia’s Coral Coast – has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to its status as a key regional centre and its close proximity to Perth. 

This has resulted in a strong economy and a significant increase in population, with housing prices rising as a result, he said. 

“In fact, research by Curtin and Monash universities has shown that 17 of the top 50 suburbs in WA for value growth are located in the Geraldton region,” he said. 

“However, even with this notable growth, housing prices in Geraldton remain significantly lower than in other regions, with the average price for a house being around $300,000.” 

Mr Ryder said Geraldton was recognised as one of the top 5 most affordable locations in regional WA in a report by Canstar. 

“This is further supported by Hotspotting’s Price Predictor Index, which has consistently shown the Geraldton region to be a strong market for sales and growth,” he said. 

Mandurah, WA

Mr Graham said the property market in Regional Western Australia is experiencing significant growth, with high sales volume and double-digit price increases. 

This is due to improvements in the local economy, particularly in lifestyle locations such as the City of Mandurah, which has seen a surge in sales activity, he said. 

“While the rest of Perth has experienced economic disruption and downturn, the property market in Mandurah has remained resilient and continues to grow,” he said. 

“Several factors are contributing to the success of Mandurah’s property market, including continued price growth, increased demand from first-time home buyers, and population growth driven by the area’s attractive seaside lifestyle, affordable land, and access to job opportunities.”

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