22 November 2019
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City escapees and where they're moving

John McGrath
12 June 2018


Some are swapping Sydney for Melbourne, others are heading to commuter regions and pretty much everyone wants to live on the Gold Coast, according to new figures on internal migration recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and analysed by CoreLogic. 

The figures looked specifically at where people from capital cities moved to in 2016-17.  Here are the key trends.

Sydney to Melbourne

About 14,400 people moved from Sydney to Melbourne in 2016-17.  This city swap isn’t surprising because as great as Sydney is, Melbourne offers much of the same big city benefits including plenty of recreational facilities, high quality education and job opportunities – but more affordable housing.   

Melbourne has a median house price that is $198,000 lower than Sydney and a median apartment price that is $176,000 cheaper. There’s no doubt property prices in both markets will grow in the future, so Melbourne has plenty of appeal for those who are stretched financially in Sydney. 

Melbourne is currently Australia’s fastest growing capital city, with 2.7% growth compared to 2% in Sydney in 2016-17. While Melbourne experienced a net internal migration gain, Sydney had a loss.

Ripple effect to regionals 

Towards the end of every major capital city boom, we see strong migration to regional areas within commuting distance. Many of these regional hubs have undergone significant transformation into beautiful lifestyle centres with thriving local economies and communities, as discussed in our 2018 McGrath Report. 

The top two locations chosen by Sydney escapees in 2016-17 were Newcastle/Lake Macquarie in the north (5,500 arrivals from Sydney) and Illawarra in the south (5,300 arrivals from Sydney). 

These are popular traditional choices for Sydney families who have found it too tough to buy and have eventually chosen to commute in exchange for a cheaper home and a coastal lifestyle. 

Newcastle is undergoing a massive construction boom in a citywide update of public buildings and amenities. It has a top university and a burgeoning café scene, as does the Illawarra. Both have rail links to Sydney and upgraded roads are making the drive quicker and easier. 

The top two locations chosen by Melbourne escapees were Latrobe-Gippsland (7,300 arrivals from Melbourne) and Geelong (6,900 arrivals from Melbourne). 

Not all those moving to Geelong are being pushed out of Melbourne due to house prices. Several government departments have set up in Geelong, bringing thousands of new jobs to the region. 

Everyone loves the Gold Coast 

The Gold Coast has become a magnet for capital city escapees – in fact, it was among the top 10 destinations chosen by people leaving capital cities in every single state in 2016-17.

Relocations to the Gold Coast in 2016-17

  • 8,800 people from Brisbane
  • 5,200 people from Sydney
  • 2,500 people from Melbourne
  • 975 people from Perth
  • 750 people from Adelaide
  • 492 from Canberra
  • 413 from Darwin
  • 237 from Hobart 

I’ve been recommending the Gold Coast to my own investor clients for several years now. The GFC hit this city hard but the long road back has provided many opportunities for southern investors and sea changing families. 

The enormous infrastructure spend that came with the Commonwealth Games has added huge liveability to the city. The light rail has improved accessibility and there are plenty of new sporting facilities for families and major venues to attract more domestic and international conferences.

Australians love their big cities. We’re a large nation in land size but more than two thirds of our population live in just eight capital centres, according to the Census.

Net internal migration figures give us a great insight into which towns and smaller cities are luring people away from our most desired locations. 

The lifestyle appeal of transformed regional areas and the economic vitality of secondary cities like the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Geelong are obviously capturing people’s attention and imagination.


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