COVID-19 is closing the gap between homes in regional Victoria and Melbourne, with new figures showing Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo are booming and growth is set to continue.
But Warrnambool and its surrounds emerged as the state’s surprise winner for price growth in the past three months, according to a new realestate.com.au report that has good news for towns from Mildura to Wodonga.
The findings in the REA Insights Regional Australia Report 2020 were buoyed by a 60 per cent surge in search figures for homes outside of Melbourne since March this year, while numbers in the state’s capital have barely moved.
Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said while an end to Melbourne’s lockdown would improve the city’s outlook, it was unlikely to keep pace with those on its fringes in the near future.
“The gap between regional Victoria and Melbourne is closing and COVID-19 is really accelerating that,” Ms Conisbee said.
“Regional Victoria is likely to outperform Melbourne in the short-to-medium term.”
The report show’s Geelong was the nation’s most successful regional area in the past five years, outgrowing every other as its population rose 14 per cent to the end of 2019.
The city’s house prices jumped 43 per cent ahead of 2015 levels to $610,000, the third biggest lift outside a capital nationwide.
An 8.5 per cent increase to 162,918 residents marked the Bendigo region as the nation’s fourth fastest, while the Ballarat area’s 8 per cent population rise to 167,552 was fifth.
Both are expected to have prices rise, with Ballarat home to a $425,000 median house price and the nation’s fourth-fastest regional rise in views per listing from March to September, while Bendigo had the seventh biggest rise and a $415,000 median.
But while Geelong didn’t make the top 10 in that regard, its easier access to Surf Coast beaches and significant government infrastructure spending linking it to Melbourne are expected to keep it ahead.
“Until there is a bit more government spending I don’t think they will take off the same as Geelong,” Ms Conisbee said.
But the real surprise from the research was Warrnambool and its surrounds, where the median house price rose 5.8 per cent to $340,000 between June and September — a jump only exceeded by regions in New South Wales and Western Australia.
Ms Conisbee said the positive figures were hard to explain, but certainly showed the region had benefited during the months spent fighting COVID-19.
The report also shows Victorian investors made the most inquiries for homes in Mildura, Shepparton and Wodonga between April and September this year.
Professionals Mildura director Tony Roccisano said the city had been through an “unbelievable” year so far.
“We have had a mini boom out here in Mildura,” Mr Roccisano said.
“It started when the pandemic started with so much movement from people in Adelaide and Melbourne and Sydney.”
He noted that it was accentuating a recent trend that had seen the city’s population jump about 10 per cent a year for the past three years.
The city’s median house price has risen 6.5 per cent in the past year to $330,000.
But investors looking at the regional hub will likely battle first-home buyers who have notched higher inquiry numbers in the Geelong suburb of Belmont as well as Wodonga and Mildura than any other part of regional Victoria.
Elders Wodonga director Dean Star said the town had seen land boom after the announcement of the $25,000 HomeBuilder scheme, with prices leaping from $125,000 early in the year to about $155,000. The result had been an increase in buyers hunting for an established home.
“COVID-19 has had a positive effect on the market in general, here,” Mr Star said.
He said with the local economy not reliant on Melbourne it had largely ignored the worst of the pandemic.
The three streets in regional Victoria to attract the most views per listing were Old Beech Forest Road, Beech Forest, about 193km southwest of Melbourne, McIvors Road, Kilmore, 60km to the north of the big smoke, and the Great Ocean Road, Big Hill, between Aireys Inlet and Lorne.