18 November 2019
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Sydneysiders moving out

John McGrath
3 July 2017

By John McGrath

Sydneysiders are leaving in growing numbers and relocating to major regional centres within commuting distance or cutting ties with the big city altogether and moving to coastal seachange areas or regional treechange areas for a complete lifestyle make-over.

Others are swapping Sydney for another city such as Melbourne, Brisbane or the Gold Coast, as indicated in the latest internal migration statistics for the 2016 financial year (FY16) released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and analysed by independent property researchers, CoreLogic.

Sydney’s high property prices are no doubt contributing to this trend, with the city’s net internal migration numbers at their lowest since FY12. Conversely, migration to Regional NSW, Melbourne, Regional VIC and Brisbane is at its highest in at least 10 years. 

The biggest net gains were in Regional NSW with 11,827 new residents, Brisbane 10,149, Regional VIC 8,429 and Melbourne 8,270. The biggest net loss was in Sydney with -23,176 people departing.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not seeing a mass exodus of people from Sydney. However, this data does indicate that the property boom has influenced some people to leave the big city.

The ABS figures look at the number of people moving within a state and across state lines. Of the top 25 regions for population gains, 13 were located outside capital cities; generally in seachange/treechange regions close by. Of the bottom 25 regions where population was lost, 17 were located within a capital city; generally close to the city centre where home values are highest.

Drilling down to the individual regions with the greatest population gains, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast were at the top of the list nationally and this is no surprise to me.

The Gold Coast gained 6,428 new residents over the year. This is very significant as it is the highest internal migration ever recorded by the ABS since they began this data series in FY2007. It’s the first time the Gold Coast has topped the list and compared to FY15, internal migration is up a massive 39%.

Next is the Sunshine Coast, which also recorded very high migration with 6,200 new residents.

Coupled with the highest internal migration to Brisbane in at least a decade, it’s clear that South East Queensland is Australia’s hot spot for internal migration right now.

I think the South East Queensland property market will be the country’s strongest performer over the next three years with many investors, seachangers and treechangers taking advantage of the vast price gap between Sydney, Melbourne and the Sunshine State. 

South East Queensland offers a fantastic lifestyle, great weather and comparatively very affordable housing. The latest stats from CoreLogic show the median house price in the Brisbane-Gold Coast region is $555,000 compared to $755,000 in Melbourne and $1.050 million in Sydney. The median apartment price is $400,000 compared to $542,800 in Melbourne and $750,000 in Sydney.

In NSW, I think regional areas close to Sydney such as Wollongong, the Central Coast and Newcastle are well positioned for strong growth in property prices. It’s typical to see many Sydneysiders moving to these areas at the end of a boom. They keep their Sydney-based jobs but enjoy much greater affordability.

But I also think we’ll see more Sydneysiders making a complete seachange/treechange in the future due to the following trends.

  1. More retiree buyers. Post-GFC, many would-be retirees remained in work to re-build their nest eggs. This delayed their seachange/treechange and created a backlog of demand. We should see more retiree buyers in lifestyle markets in the short to medium term, not only due to the backlog but also given thousands of baby boomers are reaching retirement age every year.
  2. Decentralisation due to technology. Technology and more flexible working arrangements are allowing more people to work from home permanently or part time, where they go to the office just a couple of days per week. This is the way of the future and will likely lead to somewhat of a decentralisation of part of the workforce to better lifestyle locations.
  3. Affordability. This has become a bigger issue in Sydney than ever before. In years gone by, baby boomers and Gen Xers tended to stay in Sydney and battle the big mortgage. The desire was to buy a house and work hard to pay it off. But I think the more nimble Gen Y will be less accepting of this financial lifestyle. I think we’ll see more young singles, couples and families relocating to Melbourne in particular, where there’s plenty of jobs, a similar big city lifestyle but more affordable housing. We’re already seeing statistics to this effect.  

Here are the top 25 and bottom 25 regions for internal migration nationally in FY16.



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