Sydney millennials drawn to the Hunter by lifestyle and affordability

The lure of beaches, national parks and wineries, along with the opportunity to build a dream home, are just some of the reasons young Australians are increasingly keen on the Hunter region of NSW.

It’s common for young, regional Australians to pack up and move into the capital cities for education and work. But there’s an increasing shift the other way — particularly for Sydney millennials.

In the last Census period of 2011-2016, nearly 37,000 millennials (aged 20-35) left Sydney to live in regional areas around Australia. In reverse, approximately 32,500 moved in, leaving a net outflow from Sydney of approximately 4,500 people.

The data, from Regional Australia Institute’s new report, The Big Movers: Understanding Population Mobility in Regional Australia, also shows nearly 27,400 of those movers chose a town in NSW. A top target was the Hunter region, and in particular the towns of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland.

Online search data from shows that interest from Sydneysiders in regional NSW is heating up.

Since March, month-on-month growth in search activity from Sydney buyers searching for homes in the Hunter region (excluding Newcastle) has been consistently stronger than in regional NSW as a whole — and Sydney itself.

Cameron Kusher, executive manager – economic research at REA Group, isn’t at all surprised at the Hunter’s growing appeal.

“In terms of Newcastle and surrounds, you’ve got a great lifestyle, you’ve got beaches, if you want to move inland, you’ve got the wineries,” says Kusher. “The big advantage is that the cost of housing is much more affordable relative to what you pay in Sydney.”

Kusher suspects the Covid-19 pandemic is having an influence on what people are seeking to buy.

“If businesses are willing to give, particularly younger people, the flexibility to work from home on a more regular basis, then somewhere like the Hunter can certainly be attractive,” he says.

Affordability appeal

With property prices so high in Sydney, Kusher says millennials can take advantage of the fact that homes in the Hunter are around 38 percent less expensive.

“You’re typically going to be paying more than a million dollars for a house in Sydney, and you’re looking at just under $650,000 for a typical house in Newcastle or Lake Macquarie,” he says.

For those keen to build from scratch, Kusher says there’s very little opportunity in Sydney for under $750,000. Meanwhile, in the Hunter, there are a number of more affordable housing developments to consider, with land by Hunter developer McCloy Group starting at $176,000 in Maitland.

Brian Swaine, managing director of Hunter-based developer McCloy Group, says it has at least seven new developments underway in towns like Maitland, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens.

“People are liking the wider, open spaces, and the access to amenities,” says Swaine. “And with technology they can still have their same jobs and work remotely.”

Swaine says each McCloy Group development makes the most of the natural surroundings and offers plenty of outdoor spaces, unique public art, and high-quality infrastructure, such as high-speed broadband and parks and playground for growing families. He says buyers only need a 5% deposit to secure land in a McCloy community.

Living the good life

Affordability is one thing, but the great lifestyle of the Hunter is also a drawcard for millennials. Swaine says surfing, sailing or fishing are just some of the activities in easy reach.

“There’s the Watagan Mountains and the Barrington Tops National Park, all within a short drive, and most famously we’ve got the Hunter Valley wine region to our west, which is very popular,” he says.

For Newcastle Knights captain Mitchell Pearce, these factors sweetened the deal when he uprooted from Sydney for his football career.

“The beaches up the north coast are in my opinion as good as any beaches in Australia,” says Pearce. “There’s obviously a lot more open land as well, nature, and the Hunter Valley wineries.”

Pearce says Newcastle is a great central hub for the Hunter region, which is buzzing with cafes, restaurants, culture and key amenities. He of course revels in the local sport action, and also loves the great sense of community.

“Everyone is very supportive of each other, which is certainly something that when you move in from out of town, that you really buy into, and that’s something that I’ve really enjoyed,” he says. | 1st September 2020
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