Trading city life for a blissful bush or beach existence is a dream homebuyers have followed for years.
But changing technology, lifestyle and affordability are adding to incentives for a sea change or tree change, and leaving less reason to wait until retirement to take the plunge.
Now country centres and coastal towns across the state are in the spotlight, many outperforming Melbourne when it comes to price growth.
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“Regional areas are doing really well,” realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said.
Property listings were also attracting keen interest, including Jan Juc on the surf coast, ranked No. 25 nationally for the highest average number of views for a listing on realestate.com.au.
“It’s a combination of people wanting a more relaxed lifestyle, that it’s more affordable and the fact you can still get to Geelong or Melbourne if you need to,” Ms Conisbee said of the coastal spot’s appeal.
Listings in parts of the Dandenong Ranges were also attracting good views.
“The big homes on big blocks are something people like and it’s obviously very beautiful there and quite affordable,” Ms Conisbee said.
Macedon and Mt Macedon were also seeing high views for listings, while closer to the city Warrandyte and Eltham were attracting attention.
Established homes weren’t the only focus, with Torquay now in the top 10 Victorian places searched for house and land options.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen very high levels of search activity for new homes outside of Melbourne,” Ms Conisbee said.
And notably, a new crowd were making the change to coast and country areas.
“Younger people are looking at them as an option and I think that’s the big change,” Ms Conisbee said. “There has always been talk about retirees moving to the beach or bush, but the reality is a lot of young people are priced out of Melbourne.”
Government grants for regional areas and more flexible working conditions were factors for young buyers, she added.
Town Coast & Country Realty director Peter Mussared said the shift was clear in the Macedon Ranges, where the agency dealt with mostly tree change buyers. “It’s completely changed — you’ve got a younger generation living in the area now which is great,” he said. Mr Mussared said popular schools and the fact many parents could commute to the city made the area appealing.
“A lot of families are moving up knowing schooling is more affordable than in Melbourne and it’s the same education,” he said.
Mr Mussared said entry-level to Macedon was about $700,000, mid-range properties were about $900,000-$1 million, and some “really special” properties sold between $2-$3 million.
He said Macedon’s large blocks and “village hub” were key to its appeal. “It’s one of those areas that there’s not going to be any more of it made,” he said.
Younger buyers were also making the move to the Mornington Peninsula.
“Generally they’re focused around two things — value for money and a better area to bring their kids up with a focus on the outdoors,” Fletchers Mornington Peninsula director Josh Callaghan said.
But most buyers around Sorrento, Rye and Blairgowrie were “transitional”, setting up to retire in a few years and splitting their time between the coast and the big smoke.
“They’re looking for that permanent property where they’re perhaps selling the family home and will retain an apartment in the city,” he said.
Mr Callaghan said for these buyers an entry point to Blairgowrie and Sorrento was $800,000, mid-range was $1.3 million-$1.5 million, while the upper end was $2 million-plus property. Rye’s upper end was a little more affordable.
Mr Callaghan said sea changes had been a constant for the past 20 years, and there were now more permanent residents.
He said improved infrastructure, including Blairgowrie’s redeveloped yacht club, had boosted the region’s appeal.
On the edge of the Dandenong Ranges, Emerald and Gembrook were attracting tree change buyers.
Bell Real Estate Emerald agent Samantha Scott said while $1 million had become entry level in parts of the city, buyers could get more for their money in the leafy outer-eastern region, where families could upgrade to second homes for $700,000-$900,000. “You can live on an acre with all the comforts,” Ms Scott said.
Low to mid-$500,000 could buy a three-bedroom house on 1000sq m, while million-dollar properties came with larger land and luxury touches.
Ms Scott said while city retirees had long come to the region, the move had become more popular in the past few years, especially with younger buyers.
“We’ve had a big influx of first-home buyers because there are still properties in that first-home buyer range,” she said. Emerald was a favourite for many, but Gembrook’s great food and proximity to freeways and major infrastructure in Pakenham made it “the next big thing”.
Though part of greater Melbourne, the area’s open space and idyllic lifestyle made it a world of its own.
“Coming home on a Friday evening — it’s like going to a B&B every weekend,” Ms Scott said.
SEA AND TREE CHANGE HOTPOTS: MEDIAN HOUSE PRICES
MT DANDENONG: $677,500
MT MACEDON: $830,000
Bellarine Peninsula & Surf Coast
OCEAN GROVE-BARWON HEADS: $685,000
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