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Pandemic pushes city slickers to Queensland country towns


Seeing cities in lockdown was the push Jancine and Steve Harrison needed to pack up and move to Kalbar – a regional Queensland town, population about 2000.

“When the Brisbane lockdowns happened, I just worked from home so it didn’t affect me much, but COVID-19 was definitely the push for us to move,” Ms Harrison said.

“We were looking at what was happening in other cities, with constant lockdowns, and we didn’t want to get caught up in it all so we just thought no, we love the country, so let’s move out there.

“There’s a sense of community in Kalbar that you didn’t really feel in Brisbane … it’s like you really belong somewhere.”

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed a net loss of 11,247 people were recorded in capital cities in the September 2020 quarter as residents rushed to regional areas.

The loss of residents from major cities was the largest quarterly fall on record, double the September 2019 quarter figure of 5631 people.

Queensland University of Technology nursing and paramedicine graduate Morgan Brown made the decision to spend her first year working in Augathella, about 740 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.

“I’m really excited to move to the area. I went and had a look recently and the countryside is just gorgeous,” she said.

“The community is a factor as well when I visited it everyone knew each other by name and that blew me away.”

University of Queensland population geographer and demographer Elin Charles-Edwards was not surprised by the trend of people migrating from the city to the country.

“We expected that COVID-19 would have an impact on internal migration,” Dr Charles-Edwards said.

“It’s hard to separate the reasons for why people are making the move.

“What certainly seems to have evolved is that we are less tied to places of work so the largest group of people moving away from major cities are within the 25- to 44-year-old range, and this is the age group where people can work remotely and have families with kids.

“The real question is whether this is a permanent shift in the population now … whether these regional areas will retain these residents.”

Queensland gained 7237 people from interstate moves, whereas NSW and Victoria saw a net total loss of 7859 residents.

Sunshine Coast real estate agent Alan Nash, of Aspire Estate Agents Sunshine Coast, saw this interstate interest in moving to Queensland firsthand.

“There’s a lot of interest from and properties being sold to Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney residents looking to get away,” he said.

Mr Nash said working from home was a blessing in disguise for many Australians looking to get out of major cities.

“Now that people work from home, they are looking for somewhere they can enjoy as well as work from,” he said.

“The residential market is incredible at the moment. I’ve been doing this job for 11 to 12 years and never seen it like this … we haven’t got a property to rent until April.”



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May 2021: How did Brisbane apartment values perform in April?

Brisbane’s median apartment value reached a 2020 high of $390,000. Now it’s $406,000.

Brisbane apartment values are continuing their surge, according to property data firm CoreLogic.

Values rose one per cent, the same as Melbourne.

It puts Brisbane’s rolling quarterly apartment gain at three per cent, following jumps of 1.7 per cent in March and one per cent across February.

Brisbane’s median apartment value reached a 2020 high of $390,000. Now it’s $406,000, up from just over $400,000 last month.

Apartments in Brisbane around the new median

Breeze, West End
Price – One bedroom apartments from $409,000

Brisbane apartment

Breeze West End 43 Ferry Road, West End QLD 4101

Forming part of Pradella’s $1 billion masterplanned Riverside West End community, Breeze 110 apartments in Brisbane’s south.

It features a number of resort-style amenities as well as abundant green open spaces and retail offerings.

A rooftop skygarden terrace complete with a 20-metre lap pool and landscaped entertainment area crowns the 11-storey complex.

The Coterie, Fortitude Valley

Price – One bedroom apartments from $383,300

Brisbane apartment value

The Coterie 365 St Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 

The completed Fortitude Valley development The Coterie by Vicland Property Group, Rothelowman and Bruce Henderson Architects has views across Brisbane from its St Pauls Terrace location, just 1.5 kilometres from the CBD.

The site’s original heritage bakery facade and feature interior elements of St Pauls have been carefully integrated into the development to preserve the history of the Valley with a convenient cafe offering a welcoming, local face to the modern community.

The 249 apartment development features a private rooftop retreat atop each tower, landscaped gardens, sun decks, a swimming pool and alfresco entertaining zone.

Renovaré, Yeronga

Brisbane apartment value

Renovaré Yeronga 174 Venner Road, Yeronga QLD 4104 

Price – One bedroom apartments from $389,000

The Gardner Vaughan Group Yeronga project Renovaré is offering its one bedroom apartment from $389,000. They’ve recently released their third stage, Vensuto, made up of 33 one, two, three and four bedroom apartments.

The project has achieved a five-leaf rating of sustainability from The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) which highlights the features and positive impact on the environment and community.


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Gold Coast

Grant Hackett’s luxury beach front pad on Gold Coast’s ‘Millionaires’ Row’ hits the market

Grant Hackett

Former Olympian Grant Hackett has listed his luxury beachfront pad on “Millionaires’ Row” on the Gold Coast in the hopes of upsizing in Melbourne.

The three-bedroom villa at 1/100 Hedges Avenue, Mermaid Beach is located on the most prestigious beachfront strip in Queensland, mere steps away from beaches and cafes.

Hackett grew up in the adjacent suburb of Mermaid Waters. He said the opportunity to buy the home six years ago was too good to resist.

“I decided to move back to the Gold Coast in 2014. Who doesn’t want to move to the Gold Coast and live on the beach?” Mr Hackett told Domain.

“It’s a perfect spot. Steps away from the beach and I absolutely fell in love with it straight away.”

In the last four years, the gold medallist known as one of Australia’s best long-distance swimmers has relocated to Melbourne with his family.

Grant Hackett

Hackett snapped up the property for $1.5 million in 2014. Photo: Supplied

They have used the Gold Coast property as a holiday home since then and have decided it is time to sell.

“There’s no news yet but our family is growing down here in Melbourne,” Mr Hackett said. “We want to get a bigger property down here in Melbourne.

“When we do go up [to the Gold Coast] we are spending all our time with our family. It doesn’t make sense to hold such a beautiful property any longer.

“From our perspective, we’re sad to see it go but I’m sure someone else will get some pleasure out of it.”

Grant Hackett

The home also has two powder rooms. Photo: Supplied

The home, which has a total space of 331 square metres, spans four levels and has a double lock-up garage in the basement plus visitor parking.

The property has open-plan living and dining rooms that showcase the beach views.

It also has a private internal lift to take residents up to the fourth-floor rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the Coolangatta coastline back to the mountains.

Grant Hackett

The beachfront villa has panoramic views Photo: Supplied

Selling agent Troy Dowker of Kollosche said he anticipated the luxury modern villa would be in high demand.

“A luxury style villa is few and far between,” he said. “You get rockstar views from the rooftop terrace. It is a pretty amazing space.”

The property last sold for $1.5 million in 2014, records show.

It is scheduled to go to auction on May 30 at 9am.


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Market Place

Regional jobs boom to help fuel move from city to country

A boom in job vacancies across regional Australia will help fuel the continued shift of people from cities to the country.

According to the Regional Australia Institute, there are more than 66,200 jobs available in regional towns and cities across the country.

The institute’s chief executive officer Liz Ritchie said the regional job boom was the largest since records began and even beats demand during the mining construction boom a decade ago.

Economists have warned without jobs to keep them there, the pandemic-driven exodus of people from the city to the country could quickly stall.

The work from home directive has translated into higher price increases for country properties than those in the city, even though home sales there are experiencing a price boom of their own.

Some property commentators have warned that post-COVID-19, the new country residents will have to head back to the cities for work.

Housing Industry Association economist Angela Lillicrap did not agree.

“It all depends on what businesses do in the future but all the signs are that having staff working from home is here to stay,” Ms Lillicrap said.

“It is likely that much of the shift in population to the regions will be permanent.”

Other analysts are predicting the regional growth trend has at least two to three years to play out yet.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics research released on Friday, teleworking is now favoured by many employers.

Before COVID-19, one in five (20 per cent) of businesses had staff teleworking.

Currently, 30pc of businesses have staff teleworking “with 45pc of these experiencing improved staff wellbeing as a benefit”, the ABS said.

Investment manager Atlas Advisors Australia has called for better use of migrant investment funds under a key visa program with the aim to fill critical gaps in venture capital in regional areas.

Atlas’ executive chairman Guy Hedley said Australia should use the Investor Visa program to channel funds to regional economies as the US already does.

“This would lead to the development of regional economic hubs that may attract other metropolitan businesses to relocate to obtain funding support,” he said.

The Regional Australia Institute has launched a campaign to encourage more people to consider moving to the country.

Regional jobs

Developers are quickly moving on those towns within commuting distance of the city to create new estates to accommodate the demand. 

The latest jobs numbers come at a welcome time, the RAI’s Ms Ritchie said.

“Regional job vacancies now account for nearly one third of all vacancies across the country.”

She said the current strength in the regional labour market is broadly based across all states and territories and occupations, with the greatest demand being for professionals and skilled tradespeople.

In March 2021, a record number of jobs were advertised in regional areas of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Australian Community Media has also seen continued growth in the rural job advertising market.

This jobs growth has “shown no signs of easing off after such a strong start to the year”, according to ACM’s agriculture division commercial director Craig Chapman.

“Our experience is position vacant advertising on our platforms is closely aligned to the confidence the rural sector has, not only at the production level but also for those businesses providing products and services to rural producers,” Mr Chapman said.

Ms Ritchie said in Queensland and Western Australia, regional job vacancies were not far below previous records, while in the Northern Territory, regional job ads have been trending higher over the past eight months.

RAI chief economist Dr Kim Houghton said the Dubbo and Western NSW Region recorded the strongest annual growth, with job ads up by 117pc in the year to March 2021.

“Each and every one of the 32 regions outside of the mainland state capitals had more vacancies in March 2021 than in the previous month and also more vacancies than a year earlier,” Dr Houghton said.

Key job categories are Health Care and Social Assistance, followed by Public Administration and Safety, then the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sectors.

Ms Ritchie said their research from late last year found that one in five people living in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are considering a move to regional Australia.

Those research results mirror those from most others, including NBN Co. which commissioned its own survey to discover whether the city exodus was going to continue.

More than a third were looking to move after the pandemic.

People see benefits like saving money, a quieter lifestyle, and getting on with the things that make them happy as the key drivers for relocation.

Ms Ritchie said: “Of course there will be growing pains with regionalisation, but we should not shy away from the challenges ahead – and housing is one of those.

“While regional communities have long faced housing challenges, these have been amplified by the increased interest in regional living sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and the working-from-home phenomenon.”

Housing will be the focus of RAI’s next Regions Rising webinar series on May 20 to discuss those housing challenges.


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