Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Geelong revealed as the top destinations for capital city defectors


The number of Australians seeking a sea or tree change by relocating to the regions has reached a new high during the COVID-19 pandemic according to new research released this morning.

The inaugural Regional Movers Index Report from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) shows that the population flow from capital cities to regional areas increased by 7% between the March 2020 quarter and the same period in 2021.

In fact, the migration to regional areas has not only reached a new high point during the pandemic, it’s the highest level recorded on the index since March 2018 (the earliest figure available).

According to CBA’s Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking, Grant Cairns, the movement is not simply a case of city dwellers fleeing metro areas during the pandemic, but rather a testament to the opportunities provided in regional Australia.

“The Index demonstrates how Australians formerly living in capital cities have embraced remote ways of working as an opportunity to experience what these areas have to offer, while those already in regional areas are finding reasons to stay.”

“I’m optimistic about what this growth means for regional Australia, as more people experience the liveability of our regional areas and embrace the associated work-life balance and affordability.”

Going coastal

So which cities are Australians leaving from and where are they resettling?

The report found that Sydney and Melbourne were the points of origin for the vast majority of the exodus, accounting for 96% of the total net migration from all capital cities during the March quarter.

Predictably, regional parts of New South Wales (32.4%) and Victoria (27.8%) were among the leading destinations for Melburnians, Sydneysiders and other Aussies seeking a lifestyle change, though Regional Queensland was also right in the mix (28.8%).

Drilling down, the top ten Local Government Areas (LGA) which attracted former capital city dwellers during the last quarter were as follows. 

LGAShare of capital migration
Gold Coast11%
Sunshine Coast6%
Greater Geelong4%
Lake Macquarie2%
Townsville 2%

How are regional house prices holding up?

As Mr Cairns mentioned, Australians are looking to relocate to regional areas for a variety of reasons, one of which is the idea of greater affordability.

That’s perhaps unsurprising when both Melbourne and Sydney make regular appearances on lists of the ‘world's most expensive cities’, and given the considerable increase of house prices in both cities over the years (and even more so of late).

But regional areas haven’t been spared from rising property prices, perhaps as a direct result of increased migration.

CoreLogic’s recent Regional Market Update revealed that housing values in the regional market rose by 13% in the 12 months to April 2021 - comprehensively outpacing value growth in capital cities (6.4%) over the same period.

According to CoreLogic, the median home value in regional areas across Australia is currently $468,980, but certain areas are far higher. For instance, a 21.9% annual increase in house values in the Richmond-Tweed region (which includes Byron Bay) lifted the median value in the Byron council area to $1.4 million.

“Looking forward, regional housing markets remain well placed to record higher than average levels of demand, especially those markets that are located close enough to capital cities to provide a commuting option, and those lifestyle markets that are popular with sea and tree changers,” said CoreLogic’s Research Director, Tim Lawless.

“While surging values are probably good news for homeowners in these regions, for those that don’t own a home, affordability is being stretched. Particularly for long-time locals whose incomes are unlikely to be rising at anywhere near the pace of house price appreciation, they may be forced to seek out housing options further afield,” says Mr Lawless.

RELATED: Home loan check: Are tighter lending conditions on the way?

Ready to pull up stakes and make the move to the coast or country? Well if you’ve got your eyes on a regional property purchase, you’ll want to start looking for a mortgage to make it happen.

Get started by checking out some of the great offers in the table below, or compare home loans from an even greater number of lenders with our handy comparison tables.

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* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

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