Lifestyle top driver for apartment hunters

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Gold Coast, still considered a regional area despite its second largest city in Queensland, offers a great balance between lifestyle and opportunity. Image: Courtesy of Bensons Property Group

More than one in ten who moved to the regions in the first three months of 2021 chose the Gold Coast as a destination.

According to a report by the Regional Institute of Australia using data from the Commonwealth Bank, almost all of them were from high-density, low-affordability Sydney and Melbourne, and contributed 17 percent growth in the community area over the three months.

They were among the unprecedented 11,800 Australians who left capital cities when entering between January and March, out of a total of 104,100 people who had moved between states in the same period.

Australians are on the move and so are house prices.

This comes as no surprise to Janneke Leffers, who is meeting the demand for information about the Gold Coast by building a business based on this phenomenon.

Five years ago the founder of the consulting firm Moving To The Gold Coast took the plunge with her husband Sebastian and their two children Siena and Jayden, frustrated and disillusioned with the real estate prices and the drudgery.

“It’s a real boom and I love the way people are reacting,” she says. “The Gold Coast is a hot ticket.”

Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of the focal points of the rising regional real estate market, where the rises have outpaced the capital’s rises. In the past 12 months, regional house prices rose across the board by 17.7 percent. In the capital cities, the increase was 12.4 percent, according to CoreLogic.

However, there remains a significant price differential, with a median price in regional areas of $ 478,212 compared to the city average of $ 727,427.

Regional industry representatives point to the high level of convenience, affordability, lower density and the quieter pace of life outside of Sydney and Melbourne, where more than two in five Australians live.

For Leffers, the Gold Coast or Glitter Strip – which is still considered a regional area despite its second largest city in Queensland – offers a great balance between lifestyle and opportunity.

“The Gold Coast has always been very attractive because it offers good education and good employment,” she says. “There’s more space and you get more bang for your buck, but it’s still urban and has a cool vibe and great restaurants.”

She says people are looking for practical information about moving to the area and her service provides “ears, hands and eyes on the ground”.

Local Mayor Tom Tate welcomes all visitors.

“We welcome each of them, even if they aren’t barracking for the Titans or Suns,” he says. “It could be Melbourne or Mumbai, but we welcome everyone who wants to contribute to our great city.”

He says the pandemic has changed the trajectory of Australian migration and he anticipates faster growth than predicted.

“What we saw is that people stuck in multiple tough locks, whether in Sydney or Melbourne, have clearly chosen to vote with their feet, their wallets and their mortgages,” he says.

“To make sure we are ready, the council is currently reviewing its transport, community and economic strategies to make sure they can cope with this influx while protecting the lifestyles that are attracting people here.”

There is more to come.

Real estate search data from REA Group – which operates realestate.com.au – shows Gold Coast properties attract nearly 2,200 views, making it one of the top three most sought-after regional search areas.

There are some significant hot spots for the sudden growth in real estate over the past year. The 10 fastest growing parishes for average price are all in regional areas. These include a 35.6 percent increase in home prices for Byron Bay to a median price of $ 1,377,297, a 35 percent increase to $ 217,585 for Balranald in western NSW, and a 34.3 percent increase a median of $ 139,094 in northwest Tasmania.

Eliza Owen, Head of Research at CoreLogic, says many of the top performing sites are in beautiful locations with lake or tree changes.

“In the example of Byron and Ballina, these markets are also very well equipped with luxury real estate and recreational areas,” she says. “For high-income professionals who would have been better able to switch to teleworking by 2020, housing markets like this one will have become particularly attractive.”

However, Owen says price growth and high demand in some of the cheaper regional and rural areas could point to the return of investors looking for rental yields.

“A low base means that around 30 percent appreciation can mean real estate was priced in the tens of thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands of dollars like we’ve seen with Byron.”

But the greatest attraction for Australians is still regional centers that are within commuting distance from the major capitals.

The Illawarra, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie regions of NSW were heavily searched for properties over the past year. There was also at least a doubling of searches for the Mid North Coast, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven, Coffs Harbor, Grafton and Hunter Valley, also in NSW, as well as Warrnambool and South West and Shepparton in Victoria.

Cameron Kusher, director of economic research at REA Group, says that of the top regional markets with the highest viewership, eight are directly adjacent to a capital city and eight are on the coast.

“Popular regional areas tend to have desirable lifestyles, be relatively large cities or towns, and commute to capital cities,” he says.

“The interest in regional markets is driven by lifestyle, the desire for more space and affordability. Lifestyle continues to be a draw, however, as prices have risen in many of these regions since the pandemic began, affordability is becoming more of a challenge.

“This can mean that people moving to popular regional areas may have to forego space.”

In the midst of a future of professional work that will include a greater proportion of flexible arrangements, sustained growth can be expected for tourist destinations or regions within a reasonable commute.

Owen says the increased mining activity in Pilbara, WA will translate into higher rents in the short term and potentially an influx of investors looking for returns. An increase in infrastructure around Launceston in Tasmania thanks to the City Deal and in southeast Queensland before the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032 should also encourage higher demand. And she says local governments could use remote work and study normalization to keep their populations going.

“Working and studying from a distance not only attracted people from cities, it kept people in regional Australia,” she says.

“Providing local residents with access to technology and internet connectivity has been found to be extremely important to keep the people in the Australia region.

“Of course, a transport infrastructure that shortens the route to the major metropolitan areas will also be extremely important in order to meet regional demand in the long term.