As Covid lockdowns become a distant memory and life seems to be getting back to some level of normal, many in the media have begun to speculate that the trend I call the Exodus to Affordable Lifestyle trend will come to an end.
They believe that employers will demand staff return to offices, and that living and working remotely will became a thing of the past as everyone moves back to the cities and suburbs.
And the reason they won’t is that the Exodus to Affordable Lifestyle is not a response to Covid – it started long before that.
It’s a long-term trend and it’s here to stay.
The trend of people leaving the big cities and moving to the regions, or the smaller cities, has been under way for a long time.
Sydney has been losing population to internal migration for more than 10 years and Melbourne has been losing population to people moving to other parts of Victoria for the past five years.
It became more visible during the pandemic period and many commentators misrepresented it as something that was caused by Covid.
In reality, it is something driven by technology which allows people to access work remotely while living a better lifestyle at an affordable price.
Yes, it’s true that Covid supercharged the trend, but it didn’t cause it.
The result for regional property markets has been extraordinary, leading to strong demand and price growth in many areas.
Indeed, the regions overall have been out-performing the capital cities on price for the past five years, thanks to this compelling trend.
And now, at a time when some markets are declining from the boom-time peak levels, the regional markets overall are showing the strongest resistance to the downturn trend.
So I believe the Exodus to Affordable Lifestyle trend will continue.
What we will see change is not a move away from the Exodus trend but perhaps a focus on different types of locations and regions.
In the past few years, the focus has really been on coastal locations but many of those are no longer affordable. We have seen phenomenal growth in prices in seaside hotspots like Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Central Coast in NSW and the Mornington Peninsula on the southern fringe of Melbourne.
Instead, I see people making a “hill change” rather than a “sea change”, focusing on the same motivations such as affordability and lifestyle, but in more of a hinterland or country setting.
In terms of sales activity, we’ve already seen this start to happen.
The most popular locations for those fleeing the cities in the past years have now passed their peaks.
Those coastal hotspots I mentioned earlier – like the Sunshine Coast and the NSW Central Coast – have become very expensive markets.
Those locations may no longer offer affordable lifestyle options to some people – but there are still plenty of regional centres which are not expensive.
Queensland has many good options, including Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville.
In Victoria there is still quite a good level of affordability in major centres within one or two hours of Melbourne.
Locations such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong continue to perform well as property markets, as do the hill change towns north the Victorian capital.
All are within one or two hours of the CBD and will experience a high level of infrastructure spending as Victoria heads toward the 2026 Commonwealth Games – to be hosted not by Melbourne but by the key centres of Regional Victoria.
Buying in a strong regional centre can represent a win-win-win situation for investors: cheaper prices, higher rental yields and good potential for price growth.
It’s still important though to choose the location well and ensure there is a strong and diverse economy creating new jobs, good transport links and a good level of infrastructure spending, as well as affordable housing and an attractive lifestyle.
In regional locations that can offer all of that, the Exodus to Affordable Lifestyle trend remains very much alive and kicking goals.