city or country
People & Property

City or country? The great debate ignited by COVID-19

By Jarrod McAleese • Nov 2020

For many Australians, COVID-19 has been a time to reflect and review – particularly on lifestyle, both now and in the future.  
Previously, proximity to central business districts was deemed paramount, to adequately balance work and home commitments.  
However, after a year of intermittent lockdowns and a gradual shift away from centralised workplaces appearing likely, are buyers seeking fresh pastures?  
Latest migration numbers  
According to Corelogic’s November 2020 report, internal migration from cities to regional Australia reached a record high in the June quarter 20202.  
And the Regional Internal Migration Estimates figures, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), provided further evidence of this exodus.  
The data found that in the June 2020 quarter, there was a net loss of 10,500 people from Australia’s capital cities as a result of migration to other regions domestically – a record high and more than double that of the June 2019 quarter (-4,300)3.   
Victorians on the move  
Victoria endured the most difficult lockdowns as a result of its lengthy second wave of coronavirus, which contributed to notable migration numbers.  
Analysing the June 2020 quarter, ABS data revealed that:  

  • Victoria had the largest change in net migration and its first since the June 2008 quarter.  
  • Additionally, it was the largest loss since the March 1996 quarter.  
  • Melbourne alone saw a net loss of 8,000 – its largest on record4. 

Where are they heading?  
Victoria’s greatest loss of citizens was to Queensland, which additionally gained the most residents of any other state in the country.   
Victoria had a net loss of people to New South Wales for the first time since the June 1997 quarter.   
But buyers aren’t just snapping up interstate properties – there’s significant interest in regional Victoria as well.  
The Real Estate Institute of Victoria confirmed in a release that median house prices in regional Victoria set a new quarterly record at $442,500 in September, which included growth of 5.1% for the quarter and 4.9% over the last 12 months.  
REIV President Leah Calnan, told Property Now that this market growth has been consistent for an extended period.  

“This trend’s really been happening for the last six months. We saw it initially start in the first lockdown that Victoria entered – there was an increase in interest and demand for property in regional Victoria and that was likely for a combination of reasons; re-evaluation of lifestyle, affordability and space.”  
Discussing the hottest current locales, Calnan noted the ‘sea change’ was front-of-mind for consumers.  
“The Mornington Peninsula is certainly very popular and has been trending that way for the past 5-10 years. In this area, rental vacancy rates dramatically reduced, indicating there’s a ‘try before you buy’ at the moment in that region.  
“There’s also the Bellarine Peninsula – again there’s a really big push there. The affordability and lifestyle are attractive and potentially, people may be identifying an opportunity to buy a second dwelling, if they feel they won’t be travelling overseas in the coming years.”  
But the ‘tree change’ is also firming as an attractive prospect.  
“Every regional town – Bendigo and Ballarat have always traditionally been areas with strong growth, but we’re seeing spikes in interest in Horsham, Bright and right up to Mildura.”  
With the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) having recently slashed rates to record lows, Calnan believes that the financial gap between covering rent and paying a mortgage is closing.  
“Money is so cheap – we’ve never seen rates this low, which does give people the opportunity to buy.”  
“It does feel like Victorians are looking for that quarter acre block. That’s trended the opposite way for the past 10-15 years, where land has become so expensive, but that’s what regional Victoria offers – something you can’t get as easily in metropolitan Melbourne.”  
It remains to be seen how Victoria’s transition to a COVID-normal will affect consumer sentiment in the long-term, but it’s clear that the old-fashioned ‘Australian dream’ is making a comeback – at least temporarily.  

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