It’s Millennials and Gen X who are driving regional property values higher

The number of people moving to regional areas rose by 16.6% to reach a new five-year high in the March quarter, almost doubling pre-pandemic levels. New data shows it's Millennials and Gen X who are leading the charge.

Residz Team 5 min read

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My husband and I just got back from a delightful weekend in a regional town on the NSW north coast. We drove through bush-lined highways to see our friends’ new cottage on a hectare of land, bought for half the price of a townhouse in our own Sydney suburb. Our friends are just two among increasing numbers of city slickers choosing regional living over life in the fast lane.  

Regional movers at a five-year high

A recent report from Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) shows Millennials and Generation X householders are moving to regions at phenomenal rates. In some cases it’s up 100% on the year before. Overall in Australia, the number of people moving to regional areas rose by 16.6% to reach a new five-year high in the March quarter, almost doubling pre-pandemic levels.

The Regional Movers Index shows Millennials accounted for the highest proportion of regional movers, making up 76% of movers to Port Augusta, 70% of movers to Mount Gambier and 66% of movers to Ceduna. All these towns are in South Australia, which has become the state-du-jour for buying and renting relatively affordable housing stock.

Regional Australia Institute CEO Liz Ritchie explains the very simple reason people are moving to regional areas:

“Regional living is attracting more young people and particularly younger families who are looking for bigger living spaces at a cheaper cost.”

With remote and hybrid work looking more permanent post-pandemic, there appears to be no reason why the trend won’t continue.  

Sydney and Melbourne unaffordable for many young families

The report shows the biggest outflows were from the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne with most people heading to regional NSW, regional Queensland, and regional Victoria.

The 4 most popular regional destinations are:

  • Gold Coast in Queensland - attracting 11% of people from major capitals in the 12 months to March 2022.
  • Sunshine Coast, Qld.
  • Greater Geelong in Victoria.
  • Wollongong and Newcastle in NSW.

There’s no debate on the relative affordability factor. If you put a search filter on “house under $700,000” in any of these five areas into one of the major real estate property listings platforms, you’ll be invited to browse the 1457 results. When you put the same filter on for Sydney real estate you get a big fat “zero results”. Melbourne offers up “2 results” - one turns out to be an apartment and the other is nothing but an ad for a builder. In other words, zero results.

Lifestyle the winner in a regional town

So, what’s it like to pack up and move to a regional area? Our friends said they were surprised how they grew to prefer being in their sleepier town over time spent back in Sydney. They cite the non-existent traffic jams as the number one reason for their enjoyment of regional living. They also love their views and on-their-doorstep bushwalks; the equivalent in Sydney would have been well out of their price range.

While they miss having the variety and quality of restaurants, galleries, theatres, and general ‘buzz’ of city living, our regional friends say it’s slowly coming to them.

RAI’s Liz Ritchie would agree.

“Millennials and Gen-Xers are welcome additions to any regional community as they often bring with them business skills to grow the local community, as well as families who integrate into the local school system and community sporting activities,” she announced in the report press release.

Much of these businesses will be in hospitality and quality retail, as high-earners living regionally but working and earning remotely start to displace retirees and low earners and demand city-style amenities.

This demand helps to grow economies in regional Australia and is one of 5 great reasons to consider moving to a regional area, says migration consultancy Aspire Australia.

It lists the 5 reasons as:

  • A wide range of employment opportunities;
  • Well-established and welcoming communities;
  • Lower housing costs and a higher standard of living for the average wage earner;
  • Generally smaller and well-funded schools;
  • Becoming more popular, bringing more business and helping to grow the area’s economy.

Plenty of work for those keen to move

Regional living initiative “Move to More” says on its website that 37% of Australia’s population live in regional areas, the regions employ one in three workers, and the regions are at the forefront of productivity in areas like health care and logistics.

Many regional towns are well-serviced by amenities. For example, Mt Gambier in South Australia has three libraries, 44 bars and eateries, and 34 doctors and allied health professionals. Peachester, population 480, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland has 20 hospitals within a 50km radius, and 20 grocery and convenience stores within 25km.

It’s encouraging for people who may not be able to work remotely for a city office. Commonwealth Bank Regional and Agribusiness Banking Executive General Manager Paul Fowler said regional areas are providing attractive local employment opportunities.

“Regional Australia is thriving, fuelled by strong investment across a broad range of industries including agriculture, manufacturing, retail and hospitality,”

Mr Fowler said.

“There are labour shortages in many parts of regional Australia and local businesses are attracting skilled and unskilled workers to increase capacity and serve growing demand for products and services.”  

Snapshot of our weekend in a regional coastal town

So what did we do with our friends on our weekend on the north coast of NSW?

We enjoyed the novelty of parking in an all-day parking bay for free and went whale watching, we ate out at a couple of lovely local restaurants, we cut down a vine choking their jacaranda tree and made Christmas wreaths, we bought rocky road at a country milkbar whose owner regaled the history of my friends’ cottage, we met their neighbours, we did a bush walk, and we sat on their verandah. It was a perfect weekend of regional living at its best.

But, it couldn’t last. On Sunday afternoon we drove 3.5 hours back to Sydney and took a wrong turn, placing us on the M2 freeway in a speeding snake of back-to-back traffic going the wrong direction. Once we finally reached home we parked a block from the house and wheeled our suitcases along the street. There was no sound of the waves, and no smell of wood fires.

Our life back in the capital city resumes…

If you’re considering purchasing or renting a house in a regional area, make sure you download our free property report for that address. We have 12 million addresses in our database, with every report offering information on internet speeds, crime trends, bushfire risk, investability scores and a whole lot more.

The Regional Movers Index, launched in 2021, tracks movements between Australia’s regions and capital cities, using Commonwealth Bank data from relocations amongst its 10 million customers. This enables early identification of growth trends and flags places emerging as hot spots needing fresh thinking on housing and infrastructure.

Photo by Jornada Produtora on Unsplash