The great Australian coast has long allured investors and retirees. Parting ways with the bustling metropolitan – its traffic, noise and fast-forward motion – they welcomed the laid-back lifestyle and potential financial gains that a developing seaside town had to offer.
But there has been an expanding cluster of younger, more spontaneous Australians of late who have cut to the chase earlier on, switching up the city-suburban 3-bedroomer for a paradisal seaside property – and they’re taking their families and careers with them.
“Yes – there is a trend of people moving to coastal towns to enjoy the lifestyle and lower property prices,” Domain economist Trent Wiltshire says, turning attention towards a 2016-17 Australian Bureau of Statistics report, which reveals Byron Bay’s annual population growth to have risen by 1.7%, Noosa by 1.3%, Surf Coast by 2.9% and Hobart by 1.1%.
“But this isn't hollowing out capital cities,” Wiltshire says. “Population growth in our capitals is very high, at 2% annual growth for Sydney, 2.7% for Melbourne and 2% for Brisbane.”
University of Tasmania demographer Dr Lisa Denny teamed with two other pioneering researchers in the field, Felicity Picken and Nick Osbaldiston, to answer a few pressing questions surrounding the city-averse surge. Published in a compelling demographic report, they raised: Who are the new seachangers of today? And why are they moving?
The report’s findings revealed that the three groups which comprise the seachangers are all under the age of 35, and they simply no longer want to be exposed to the stresses and strains that can come with living and working in a major city. It prompts a closer look into the rise of young Aussies confidently building new lives – and without the need of a metropolitan buzz.
A regional internal migration report from the ABS reveals that Sydney suffered the most losses from the migration wave, with a total of 18,100 people having left the major city between 2016-17.
Perth was listed as the second worst hit, at a loss of 6,900.
Queensland’s Gold Coast, long admired by retirees, welcomed the most seachangers, followed by the Sunshine Coast.
In their studies, Dr Denny and fellow researchers took a particular interest to Tasmania and the Sunbelt coast of Byron Bay, New South Wales. Spurred by sky-rocketing house prices, work strains, lifestyle dissatisfaction, traffic congestion and uncomfortable weather conditions across a handful of capital cities, these two ‘hot spots’ welcomed mostly a 25 to 29 year age group, according to data they gathered from the ABS Census of Population and Housing 2016.
But with appeal spreading fast, are those of us who are still mulling the idea of a seachange too late for a sandy-toed bargain?
Popularity drives demand – and as such, property prices in the last few years have rapidly soared in what were once considered inexpensive ocean-view spots.
“The interest is increasing the prices, driven also by the increase in sales, supply and demand,” managing director of R&W Noosa Holidays Sue Willis says. She also notes many new arrivals into Noosa as having come from the cities, and regional Victoria – an influx that has seen local schools putting their efforts towards making room for the new head-count of children.
Willis narrows-down buyer’s motives to Aussies wanting to create a better lifestyle for not just themselves, but for their entire family. “They feel safe in the Noosa community and like the idea of the healthy lifestyle options for the family – like swimming, surfing, National Park walks, low crime rates and good education offerings,” she says.
Although popular areas of Noosa, such as in and around Hastings Street, have experienced strong price growth in housing and commercial properties, it’s rather now an opportune time for those who have gained financial return from the major city boom.
“Before, Noosa buyers were mostly investors who had no urgency to purchase. Now, as the buyers are looking for their permanent home, they have a sense of urgency, therefore will pay the price needed to secure the property,’ Willis reveals.
The real estate director also points to suburbs in Noosa where prices are still not as severe, such as family favourite Castaways Beach, and Cooloola Hill, a pleasant residential area she describes as being close to the beach, yet distant enough for property prices not to be as high.
Domain economist Wiltshire gives a firm nod to population growth as having weighed down the price-tags of once affordable sea-side properties, but he also turns attention towards the difficulty, at times, for such towns to accommodate the influx of people.
“In these areas there is often opposition to more housing development to meet growing demand, which contributes to prices rising. Geographical constraints, such as national parks and the ocean, also make it hard to house more people in some coastal towns,” he shares.
There is some evidence of demand spreading out to the neighbouring suburbs of more popular locations, Wiltshire reveals, such as in Launceston where prices experienced a strong incline following Hobart’s boom. However, “the main towns have seen the biggest prices rises” he says.
Although certain seaside locations in Queensland and New South Wales have had their hey-day of properties being snapped up by first-time home owners, there remain plenty affordable locations around the country that can offer the ‘great Aussie dream’ in a convenient location – only if seachangers are willing to broaden their options and see the town gradually flourish, as many have done before.
Edmonton in Queensland, a short 15-20 min car drive to Cairns city centre, holds a median house price of $369,500. Residents admire it for being a great suburb to raise a family, with many schools, local amenities and medical facilities in immediate reach, and all encased by a breathtaking mountain backdrop.
Similar sentiments can be shared for Marcoola, another new and emerging beachside town in Queensland that has grown in popularity amongst families and working professionals, albeit the median house price swinging a touch higher; a quick housing market search showing a 4-bedroom for $749,000 and a two-bedroom for $410,000.
If we refresh our search engines towards Western Australia, we can find seaside haven Mandurah, where residents can reach Perth within the hour, whilst still being able to sit on an affordable mortgage that hands-down a coastal view and outdoors lifestyle.
However, such places may not have reached their advantageous upscaling – the planning of new roads, construction of more housing, medical facility upgrades, and increased focus on community and social events – if it weren’t for the outside interest that had picked up momentum over time.
And as more towns are drawn to the cusp of urbanising, it’s not just about what seachangers can gain from residing in them, but what a younger demographic’s presence does to the region in itself.
“I think the social fabric of the community as well as the strength of the local economy is dependent on new people turning up from time to time,” says Rowena Skinner, principal strategic planner at Noosa Council.
“This includes young teachers, bank workers or police workers who get transferred to a town almost involuntarily, as well as people who actively choose to live there. They bring with them new ideas and experiences and cultures and share these with the existing community.”
In addition to a plethora of commendable council-led developments – all of which included choosing architectural designs that were to enhance rather than impede the natural landscape – Noosa Council is actively working towards broadening its economic base as a means to increase the number of well-paying, full-time jobs for residents. This includes propelling health, digital, environmental, education, and creative industries, as well as rural enterprises.
But as coastal towns put their planning and development efforts into full-swing, CBD based companies could provide for the difference by embracing areas in which employees can work remotely, outside of a major city.
Skinner shares there are still many people who have to commute for jobs beyond the Noosa Shire, whilst those who have an online income or their own business reap more advantage. Having recognised this, Noosa Council implemented “friendly co-working spaces and business development networks that support people starting up and running their own small business”.
A strategic move considering the number of Aussies operating their own businesses experienced a 3.4% increase between June 2017 and June 2018, ‘representing the fifth consecutive year of growth of businesses in the Australian economy’, according to recent findings released by the ABS.
As coastal towns look to open more jobs, and assist working professionals in up-lifting or starting their own businesses, how will the property markets of major cities be affected?
“Jobs growth is becoming more concentrated in our capital cities, particularly knowledge-intensive jobs, so demand for housing in major capital cities is growing,” Domain economist Wiltshire says.
And although such jobs could be done remotely, he says there hasn’t been as much growth in remote working as there has been a rise in flexible working; employees being able to work one or two days from home.
“A more even distribution of Australia’s population will take pressure off the major cities, but this is only going to have a small impact,” he says.