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The Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and ongoing restrictions have seen Australians reevaluate what they want from their home.
The sea- or tree-change shift shows people have refocused their attention on what is around them, with buyers increasingly venturing out of their usual neighbourhoods and suburbs to regional Australia in search of a different lifestyle.
Because home is no longer just the place we rest, it has fast become the place we work, play, and even self-isolate for a period of time.
In fact, the latest Domain data shows that migration from cities to regional Australia is double what it was two years before the pandemic, with trends remaining strong.
The latest Regional Movers Index – a partnership between the Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) – shows that quarterly migration from capital cities to regional areas over the past two years is on average 15% higher than what it was in the two years pre-Covid-19, and more than double the levels seen in 2018 and 2019.
Migration to regional Australia — where is everyone moving to?
The data shows that regional NSW picked up half of the net inflows to regional Australia, while regional Victoria and Queensland each had a share of around 20%.
It is clear that the high-population coastal centres close to capital cities continue to be the main destinations for capital-city dwellers making a regional move.
By Local Government Area (LGA), Gold Coast continues to sit at the top of the list of where Aussies are flocking to in search of a different lifestyle.
The area welcomed 11% of all people who moved from a capital city to a regional area during the 2021 calendar year.
The Sunshine Coast wasn’t far behind, taking in 5%.
Greater Geelong followed with 4%, then Wollongong which accounted for 3%.
In 5th place was Lake Macquarie which welcomed 2% of the annual share of movers.
Top 5 Local Government Areas by growth
These LGAs might have topped the list as the most desirable places for migrants to move to, when it comes to data on the strongest annual growth in migration from capital cities for 2021, Queensland and South Australia were in the spotlight.
Port Augusta in South Australia topped the list, closely followed by Douglas and Western Downs in Queensland, Mount Gambier in South Australia, and Banana in Queensland.
Interestingly, historical patterns that showed a drop in the December quarter were felt in all but one LGA: Mount Gambier.
Mount Gambier bucked the seasonal trend and saw moves into the region significantly increase during the final quarter of 2021, up another 23% from the previous quarter.
Here’s why movers and making the change
It’s clear that people are being drawn to the benefits of regional living versus city life.
And RAI data in mid-2021 shows the key things people are looking for when they migrate.
A sense of space, connecting with the natural environment, and overall improved well-being came out on top as the reasons for moving to regional Australia.
While the benefit of regional living was the key driving force, the top 3 things seemingly driving people out of cities are traffic congestion, general stress and anxiety, and a high cost of living.
The May 2021 national survey looked into what prompts people to move house more broadly across Australia, not just to regional areas, and found that nearly half (46%) of Aussies would move house for a change of scenery.
Women are more likely to move house for a change of scene than men (49% vs 44%) and by age, 81% of 65+-year-olds would relocate for a change of scene compared to 42% of 18-24-year-olds.
Interestingly, Territorians are the most open to moving for a change of scene (56%) compared to Victorians (46%), NSW residents (45%), Queenslanders (49%), South Australians (48%).
So should I invest in regional Australia?
I recently wrote about the new trend with people returning to our cities.
Sure during the pandemic, there was an estimated 43,000 people leaving our cities in favour of the regions.
And the media exploiting this statistic with every possible clickbait headline that exists.
In reality, though, a 43,000 net loss is not a significant number of people leaving our capital cities.
It is certainly not going to create a major slump or downturn in those bigger markets.
However, a thousand or so moving to a region that would usually see a hundred will have a greater impact on those smaller markets.
But moving forward, as our borders are opening and workers, students, and migrants will be returning, and the majority of new jobs will be created in the three big capital cities and this is where the majority of our population growth will occur.
While regional areas may be great places to live, I believe there are better long-term investment opportunities in our capital cities.