Getting ahead and securing a stable future are priorities for many Australians, but with city lifestyles becoming increasingly costly, the tunnel just seems to get longer, and the light at the end of it further away. Working out how to break the cycle of debt and spending is tricky – especially when external forces like interest rates, house prices and government policies are beyond your control to change. As with many things, the pain of the ongoing reality eventually becomes greater than the notion of change.
If you are currently at breaking point, why not consider a move to a regional area? Not only does this lifestyle change reduce outgoings, for many, it may well be the only option to fulfil their dream of becoming a home owner. It’s no secret either that regional living also has the capacity to improve your general quality of life and put you in a stronger position regarding prospects for the future as well.
There are plenty of regional areas across Australia that are both beautiful and filled with opportunities. However right now, regional New South Wales is one of the most affordable regions for first home buyers and investors looking at getting themselves onto the property ladder. Recent research reveals the top 12 most affordable hotspots in Australia and one third of those were local government areas in New South Wales, with the rest across Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
The five criteria for selection in the report included considerations of things such as: affordability; consistently positive property trends; investment opportunities (including rental yields and vacancy rates); regional developments contributing to an overall positive economic outlook long term; and low unemployment rates. Across these criteria, the regions that stood out for consistency and growth potential were the City of Maitland, the Yass Valley Council, the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and the Dubbo Regional Council. All four regions showed positive growth due to various factors, such as investment in and commitment to significant residential, commercial and infrastructure projects over the last couple of years. This also secures the potential for growth into the future as local infrastructure and economic prospects improve and house prices follow suit. High rental yields and low vacancy rates were also common across the four regions.
City of Maitland
Located in the centre of the beautiful Hunter Valley, the local government area of Maitland is about 130 kilometres north of Sydney and has a small population of roughly 80,000 people. Local towns include Tocal (north) Woodberry (east), Gillieston Heights (south) and Lochinvar (west) among others.
Despite its small population, the Maitland region’s stunning natural surrounds and ideal location are making it one of NSW’s fastest growing regions (outside of the metropolitan area). The median house price is $470,000, land around $243,000 and median unit prices are $350,000. Employment options are good, as it’s a particularly productive region, with a strong agricultural industry. Average weekly income per household is just over $1,400 and the unemployment rate is 4.8%.
Its location is perhaps its key drawcard – it’s a 90-minute trip to Sydney, via two major highways, has some of Australia’s best wineries on its doorstep and the beaches of Newcastle and the Central Coast are within an hour’s drive. With a number of major infrastructure projects currently underway, great things are predicted for the City of Maitland and it will no doubt stay on the hot spots list in years to come.
Yass Valley Council
Those looking for a real tree change may find their ideal match in the Yass Valley area. About an hour’s drive slightly north west of Canberra, the region covers 4,000 square kilometres in the heart of New South Wales’ Southern Tablelands. It may be the most centrally located region between Australia’s three major cities – with Sydney a few hours north east and Melbourne about 6 hours south west.
It’s a relatively large region, with a small population, so if it’s space and community you’re looking for, joining the other 16,000 or so residents of the Yass Valley may be your dream come true. Towns include Yass, of course, in the region’s north east corner, Gundaroo to the east, Wee Jasper to the south west, Burrinjuck to the west and Kangiara in the north. To the direct south it’s bordered by Brindabella National Park and the Australian Capital Territory. The Yass Valley offers the best of the Australian countryside with hills and valleys, rivers and lakes and gorgeous parks and gardens throughout.
The region has a strong agriculturally history, with a number of those industries – including wool and wine – still operational today and earning global recognition for their innovative approaches. The region also presents unique employment opportunities, not only locally but in the nation’s capital, thanks to an easy one-hour commute to the bright lights of Canberra. The median house price in the region is one of the highest of all the hot spots at $565,000, but growth is strong with a 10.8% price rise recorded in the year prior to the report’s publishing. Median prices for land are $297,500 and units $319,000. The strong economic opportunities contribute to its growth; median household income per week is over $1,800 and the unemployment rate is a low 2.5%.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council
For those who can’t decide between Queensland and New South Wales for their escape from the city grind, the Port Macquarie Hastings local government area may be just the compromise you’ve been looking for. Located on NSW’s mid north coast, it’s central to Sydney – just over 400 kilometres to its south; and Brisbane almost 600 kilometres to its north. Home to over 83,000 people, the region includes Banda Banda in the north, Port Macquarie to the east, Comboyne to the south and Mount Seaview to the west. With lush forests and national parks on its western borders and the vast stretches of each coast beaches on the other, there is plenty of natural beauty to keep lovers of the outdoors active.
Connected by two major highways including national icon, the Pacific Highway, the Port Macquarie-Hastings region is starting to become more of a lifestyle destination for families. It has been a popular retirement location in the past, but a median house price of $554,000 (with growth of 4.8% p.a) and the affordable lifestyle that goes with it, have made it more appealing for the 40 plus crowd, looking for a better place to raise and school their kids. Land can be bought around the median price of $250,000 and median unit prices are $382,500. Average weekly income per household is a little lower than the others at just over $1,000 however this could be due to the larger retired population and the unemployment rate is 3.3%.
Growth in the region is anticipated to continue, with over $420 million being invested into projects in the region in 2019. From master planning in specific zones to commercial projects, and infrastructure improvements to boost employment and the local economy, the Port Macquarie-Hastings region will end up with new residential and mixed use lots and dwellings, ensuring that its towns and cities are prepared for its ever growing population.
Dubbo Regional Council
Ideally located in the centre of New South Wales, the local government area for Dubbo Regional Council takes in almost a third of the whole state. Equal distances to both Canberra to its South and Sydney to its south east (roughly 400 kilometres), the region has seen significant growth in the last 5 years and today has a population of 51,000 people. Dubbo city is in the central north west part of the region, while the council’s borders are marked by Eumungerie in the north, Spicers Creek and Yarragal to the east, Euchareena to the south and Wambangalang to the west.
Liveability and affordability are the key attractions to the Dubbo region, with the median house price currently sitting at $345,000 with 4.3% growth p.a. Median land prices sit at $130,000 and median unit prices are $278,000. Average weekly income per household is just over $1,200 and the unemployment rate is 2.3%.
Lifestyle factors are attractive in the Dubbo region with great weather, a healthy and spacious natural environment and significant national parks and lakes in the region to be enjoyed. Two of Australian’s major cities are within a few hours’ drive and the region is home to the nationally renowned Western Plains Zoo.
The Dubbo Region offers a dynamic range of employment opportunities with its thriving health, education and professional industries. In addition, the mining, manufacturing and construction industries are expected to grow considerably in the coming years, providing further job expansion and economic growth.