*Updated* Growing trend: Home buyers choosing bush over beach

Updated - Australians are increasingly moving away from capital cities, and there’s a growing trend towards choosing bush over beach.

Residz Team 4 min read

Australians are increasingly moving away from capital cities, and there’s a growing trend towards choosing bush over beach.

As McGrath Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer John McGrath says in the 2023 McGrath Report, the ‘beach first’ mentality is shifting as many buyers find better value for money in Australia’s inland regions, including wine country and hinterland areas.

“When the pandemic came along it created an opportunity where we didn’t need to be tied to big cities for work, so we went looking for our perfect patch of sand,” the report says.

“The only trouble is that laidback life by the seaside is getting harder to find - and afford.”

So, many home buyers are broadening their hunt to rural or semi-rural areas.

Scott Kennedy-Green: Relishing country life

Chief Auctioneer of McGrath Estate Agents Scott Kennedy-Green, who farms commercially in country NSW with his family, says a percentage of people who moved from the big cities during Covid have decided it’s not for them, and have moved back.

But, like himself, there are those who relish country life, he says.

“When you’re given wonderful regional hubs with excellent infrastructure and quality schooling and retail, and the whole gambit of metro life in the bush, you’ll find people gravitating towards those,” he tells Residz.

Scott says regional towns around 2-3 hours drive from a metro area is about the limit for those who want to commute.

“But I’m a firm believer that if you can fly there you can buy there,” he says, citing the daily air services from some Central West NSW cities.

“Airports are as important as anything. Smart people will look at this. If it’s two hours and drive, or four hours and fly in and out, that is where you see the greatest influx of migrating tree changers.”

Scott sees the greater availability of small rural blocks and more rural subdivisions make regional areas more accessible to buyers.

“They can’t make any more coastline, but strategic councils will rezone and redevelop small rural allotments to capture the migrational shift out of the metro markets,” Scott says.  

Wine Region Popular With Buyers

The McGrath report says the winery region of the Hunter Valley in NSW has attracted many buyers keen to trade in the hustle and bustle of the rat race for a slower, calmer pace of life.

CoreLogic data shows the area recorded an annual growth rate for houses of 34.3% to April 2022, which made it the best performing non-capital city housing market in the country.

It says Central Queensland recorded the largest uptick in sales volumes for houses of 42.9% in the year to February 2022, sharing this record with the New England and North West region of NSW, which offers large blocks in rural settings.

The Real Estate Conversation says latest CoreLogic data shows in NSW, the top 3 regional growth markets are Griffith-Murrumbidgee in the Riverina (9.5%), Tamworth-Gunnedah in the New England area (9%), and the Upper Hunter (7.4%).

In Victoria, the top 3 regional growth markets are Wangaratta-Benalla in Hume (2%), Moira in Shepparton (1.4%) and Glenelg-Southern Grampians in the Warrnambool region (1%).

In Queensland, the top 3 regional growth markets are Port Douglas-Daintree in Cairns (12.4%), Granite Belt in Darling Downs (10.1%) and Burnett in the Wide Bay region (7.6%).

Elders: Strong Price Growth in Rural Property

Meanwhile, Elders rural real estate specialists also report a strong year on year appreciation of land values across the country, and across land use types.

In its Rural Property Update October-December 2022 edition, Elders says land values in rural areas continued to increase, and total property turnover declined across the year.

“The value of rural property traded totalled $3 billion in Q4-2022, an increase of 13.3% compared to Q3-2022.

“This was a function of strong price growth, very large one-off transactions and the transaction mix favouring smaller higher-priced parcels of land.”

With very tight supply across the country, the median price per hectare of rural properties is growing across most regions of Australia.

Elders says ongoing volatility in financial markets is likely to be supportive of farmland values.

And, while lifestyle choices and food and fibre production are driving demand, the Elders report suggest other factors are also at play.

“Alternative land uses, such as carbon sequestration (carbon farming) and biodiversity

offsets (locking up high quality vegetation on a farmland to offset environmental impacts

elsewhere such as roads or urban development), may deliver alternative revenue streams for some land holders,” says Mark Barber, General Manager, Farmland Agency and Agribusiness Investments.

“We are seeing rising demand for farmland that can provide carbon sequestration and biodiversity credits.”

Call to Grow Regional Centres

According to Michael West Media, the think tank Regional Australia Institute is chasing a population policy that would see the regions grow to 11 million people by the end of 2032, a move it says would add $13.8 billion to the GDP.

To achieve balanced growth between the cities and regions, the institute says the government should expand migrant workforce programs, back regional innovation and fund localised vocational and university education models.

Buying a Regional Property

So, what should you look for when buying a regional property?

OpenAgent’s Craig Gibson says you should consider:

Residz specialises in all sorts of research that can help renters, buyers and sellers find out information about property.

Photo by Jennefer Zacarias on Unsplash