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Author: Sam Graham

Property market in Sydney got you down? Try looking regional...

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Earlier this year, Sydney was ranked the world’s second worst city when it comes to housing affordability, and even with the changes proposed in the recent federal budget, pressure on house prices and unit prices doesn’t look like easing anytime soon. Core Logic data released in February puts the median dwelling price in Sydney at $795,000, with the median house price at $928,000 and the median unit price at $745,000. When we use the region’s median household income of $88,000, the average dwelling is worth almost 10 years’ worth of wages.

As the Sydney property market continues to cause headaches for first time home buyers, more and more of us are making the move to regional NSW.

With massive growth in regional areas such as Newcastle and The Hunter, The Central Coast, The Illawarra and the Mid-North Coast, opting for an E-Change, Tree Change or Sea Change is a growing trend.

The case for moving regional

From a buyer’s perspective, it can make sense financially. While regional centres often mirror the trends seen in major cities like Sydney, there tends to be some lag time in percentage price growth, as these markets lack the same volume of buyer demand. This can be a godsend for would-be buyers, as it can be the case that bargains exist beyond the city limits for a price that would have denied them entry in a major urban centre.

The case against moving regional

However, it’s important to remember that anomalies can still exist within these regional markets, especially as they are subject to local sub-economies and employment characteristics. For example, during resource booms, regional centres often experience a sharp increase in property price growth as demand rises, followed by a downturn as local employment levels subside and housing demand cools.

Perhaps the best way to decide how suitable a regional area might be before you decide to put down new roots is to make a list of the ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ that your current city-dwelling lifestyle provides, and cross reference this against what a regional community has to offer.

This was exactly what Kimberly Garlick did eight years ago, when she decided to pack up her family life in Sydney and make the move to the NSW Northern Rivers region.

Housing affordability was a big drawcard for Kimberly - “We could get so much more for our money up here than we ever could in Sydney,” Kimberley says. “Really, there were just so many positives to making the move.”

“Before we left Sydney, everybody warned us that we wouldn’t get the same opportunities in the country as we would living in the city, but that hasn’t been the case,” Kimberley says. “We have access to everything we need here – good schooling, fantastic facilities from music to dance, the horses – but without the stress of living in a city.

While it was the Garlick’s love of horses that prompted them to find greener pastures in the form of a 15-acre plot in Bellingen, she says that her family has fallen in love with their country lifestyle, and wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It took me a little time to adjust to not having my friends or a coffee shop close by, but the benefits far outweigh those things. For a start, the traffic would drive me mad if I was back living in Sydney. We just don’t have that here. There is a real sense of community where we live. While we don’t live in each other’s pockets, the people here are incredibly supportive and you know they would be there for you if you ever needed anything.

“The other thing is that I don’t feel like there are any pressures here to keep up with the Joneses. We are just accepted for who we are – there isn’t a pressure to fit in. Maybe that’s unique to the Northern Rivers, but I’ve found that you can be really quirky and no one blinks an eyelid. You can be wealthy or poor, but people seem to treat everyone the same way – it doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer or a baker. That’s really refreshing.”

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