Australia’s best regional towns for first-home buyers revealed

Written by The New Daily in Real Estate on December 9, 2020

By Matt Johnson – this article first appeared on The New Daily

The Adelaide Hills is prime real estate for those aspiring to make a tree change, according to a new report that analysed the most idyllic rural towns for first-home buyers.

Once known as an agriculture and meat-processing hub, Nairne in South Australia took out the top gong in ME Bank’s report on the best regional towns for first-home buyers.

Its larger neighbour Mount Barker, a 40-minute drive to Adelaide’s CBD, also ranked in the top five.

The report, which considered towns with populations of less than 20,000 people, analysed each based on their mix of lifestyle, access to public amenities, housing market prospects and picturesque landscapes.

Housing affordability was double-weighted in the rankings, which pushed established rural markets further down the list.

adelaide-hills-propertyThe Adelaide Hills are home to affordable properties with access to an abundance of natural wonders. 

Adelaide Hills Real Estate director Bill Ferber told The New Daily younger families are drawn to the region by a vibrant culture and quaint country-style living close to the urban fringe.

With “hundreds upon hundreds” of affordable rezoned blocks in Nairne and the surrounding wine country expected to be unlocked within years, Mr Ferber said it’s the perfect place for young professionals to settle.

“Although Mount Barker has become so big you can no longer recognise everyone down Main Street, there’s still a robust community that’s heavily involved in sport and wine growing,” he said.

“Freeway access is excellent and other infrastructure is starting to catch up. There are nice new shopping precincts popping up, and lesser-known beaches are only a 45-minute drive through the back roads.

“And, of course, you have the fresh air, rolling hills, deciduous trees, and there’s a nice lifestyle with plenty of schools and a lot going on.”

Victoria dominates the rankings

Despite not fielding a top-five contender, Victoria was home to eight of  the top 20 regional towns, including Woodend, Tatura and Port Fairy.

With a wealth of satellite towns less than two hours from Melbourne, Ethos Urban demographer Chris McNeill – who provided consultation for ME Bank – said Melburnians were spoiled for choice.

“The Macedon Ranges are a perfect distance from Melbourne where you can enjoy the country lifestyle, but still commute to Melbourne if you need to,” Mr McNeill said.

“So many Victorian towns are within striking distance of Melbourne, or a major regional city, which gives first-home buyers in these areas great job flexibility and access to amenities.

“They also boast amazing bush and beach lifestyles, without the crazy New South Wales prices.”

Byron Bay and surrounds the most popular region

Byron Bay real estate agent Ed Silk said prices have “soared through the roof” as people escaped Sydney during the pandemic. And then there’s the well-documented ‘Chris Hemsworth effect’.

Byron ranked 12th in ME’s rankings and neighbouring Lennox Head (10th) and Mullumbimby (19th) also made the list.

Together, they ensured the NSW Far North Coast claimed the title of most-represented region.

byron-bayHome to Hollywood stars during the lockdown, Byron Bay is an idyllic location to settle down – if you can find an available property. 

“I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘I’ve lived in Melbourne all my life and I’ve been living here since lockdown started and I have no thoughts of going back’,” Mr Silk told The New Daily. 

“I don’t know how to express this any other way than it affects people emotionally – they just fall in love with the place.

“It’s not surprising when you consider the region is home to north-facing beaches, you have the nearby hinterland, we’re in a sub-tropical zone, there’s an inclusive culture and the area has become a magnet for creatives including musicians, painters and documentarians.”

Meanwhile, Western Australia’s vintner-heavy and surf-friendly Margaret River region scored two places in the top 10 with the aforementioned township (3rd) and Dunsborough (8th).

“It’s the best South West WA has to offer. You’re wedged right between some of the most breathtaking beaches and picturesque wine country,” Mr McNeill said.