What’s Driving Relocation to Regional Areas in Queensland?

Property Market, Sales,  Salespeople

Over the year 2020, we have seen great growth in the property market within regional Queensland. What’s causing the regional relocation and will it continue? Industry experts offer their thoughts.

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Real Estate Australia (REA)’s recent Regional Australia: the COVID-19 Regional Shift report states the relocation from capital cities to regional areas has been on the increase for several years. However, Chief Economist at the REA, Nerida Conisbee explains the global pandemic has resulted in two distinct trends that have accelerated interest in regional areas. These being resurgence in the mining sector, and a change in the way people work.

Conisbee says new price growth data confirms that the search and enquiry changes on realestate.com.au was from genuine buyers, rather than those simply trapped in lock down.

Areas beyond commuting distance to the CBD are now experiencing strong movement, while the good performance of nearby mines has seen Townsville enjoy some of the highest price growth in Queensland. Townsville came in as the second-best performer in Queensland according to the latest Quarterly Market Monitor.

“Any regions that have economic growth closely tied to strong performing minerals (iron ore, gold and copper, excluding coal) are seeing a flow on to house price growth,” says Conisbee. “But a more surprising shift has been regional relocation due to people working differently, and wanting more space due to COVID-19 restrictions.”

Conisbee maintains that it’s important to study regional areas that have seen the strongest price growth over the very long term.

“Australia’s strong shift to beachside living is apparent from this data,” says Conisbee.

Between 2014-2019, the Gold and Sunshine Coast’s experienced the strongest population growth in regional Australia, beaten only by Geelong in Victoria, with population numbers jumping 12.6 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively. In 2000-2020, Sunshine Beach saw the highest price growth in regional Queensland, with median prices soaring by 572 per cent, followed by Moffat Beach (482 per cent) and Mudjimba (464 per cent).

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Affordability is the Attraction

CoreLogic Head of Research, Eliza Owen, believes regional areas’ housing affordability – rather than COVID-19 – is the key to an unsurprising city to regional relocation.

“Data suggests relocation to regional Australia was not initiated by COVID-19, but may have amplified it,” she says. “Capital city markets generally have higher volatility, meaning returns are higher during upswings, and declines are deeper during downswings.”

Like Conisbee, Owen says long-term analysis of data is critical with highly volatile sales data through the pandemic making it a difficult measure of demand. She explains that while city to country migration has been “persistently negative” for more than a decade, particularly since 2015, internal migration trends reversed as housing prices peaked and trended lower.

“This suggests housing affordability could be a key driver of movement to regional Australia that was evident well before COVID-19,” says Owen.

However, in a strange twist, recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) reveals 885 regional residents moved to Brisbane in the June quarter.

“Brisbane defied the trend of intrastate departure, and saw a significant increase in net internal migration, which refutes the idea that COVID-19 largely spurred migration away from Brisbane to regional markets within the state,” says Owen. “Ultimately, the combination of housing and population data highlights that in some parts of the country, COVID-19 may have spurred an increase in movement to regional Australia. However, migration data suggests the narrative does not appear consistent across the country, and highlights affordability is also an important driving factor of departure from the cities.”