Finance Property The top regional housing markets that boomed before the COVID lockdown Updated:

The top regional housing markets that boomed before the COVID lockdown

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As we start easing restrictive coronavirus lockdown measures that shuttered our major cities, some suburbanites may be inclined to start thinking about a tree change.

Consider this: It’s a natural escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life, with plenty of space to abide by the new rules of social distancing.

Property analytics firm CoreLogic in its Regional Market Update recently revealed which regional housing markets proved golden before the pandemic..

CoreLogic head of research Eliza Owen said fortunes in the regions could soon reverse, but there are also areas that could experience a resurgence.

“Parts of regional WA may see some stability in housing values over 2020, off the back of increasing optimism in mining as China recovers from COVID-19,” Ms Owen said.

With that in mind, here are the top nine performing regions over the last year.

9. Ballarat, VIC

While Melbourne prices were buffeted by restrictions on auctions and open for inspections, Ballarat was one of a number of regional centres that withstood recent headwinds.

Speaking with Ballarat’s The Courier, local real estate agent Mark Nunn said interested homebuyers are increasingly looking to the regional city’s fringes, where properties on larger blocks are flourishing.

House prices: up 4.6 per cent (median $447,834)

House sales: down -8.1 per cent (3152)

Average time on market: 30 days (up four days on 2019)

Local agents say the market’s recent boom has been buoyed by properties on larger blocks of land. Photo: Biggin & Scott Ballarat

8. Cairns, QLD

Cairns may be one of the main beneficiaries of the Sunshine State’s positive track record in beating coronavirus, with a 2019 jobs boom spurred by the city’s hotel construction and tourism sectors.

Although the regional city followed the national trend with mass layoffs through the pandemic, looming infrastructure upgrades may help draw more tourists looking for a long-term change.

House prices: up 4.7 per cent (median $383,708)

House sales: up 10.1 per cent (5282)

Average time on market: 58 days (down one day on 2019)

Urban living with a tropical twist has seen prices soar in Cairns. Photo: Belle Property Cairns

7. Mackay – Isaac – Whitsunday, QLD

Despite being hit by Queensland’s resources downturn, Mackay proved to be one of the state’s best-performing markets in 2019, following growth in the agribusiness and tourism sectors.

Considering the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef are a short flight away, there’s plenty of opportunity for island-hopping, too.

House prices: up 5 per cent (median $329,757)

House sales: up 15.4 per cent (2813)

Average time on market: 56.5 days (up 4.5 days on 2019)

The Mackay region’s median property price now sits at $329,757. Photo: Gardian Real Estate

6. Geelong, VIC

Geelong, a satellite city 75 minutes away from Melbourne via regional rail, has increasingly become a destination for CBD workers looking for affordable properties without having to cope with gruelling peak hour traffic.

Although property prices ticked up 5.3 per cent over the last 12 months, median prices are more than $55,000 lower than those in the Victorian capital.

House prices: up 5.3 per cent (median $629,060)

House sales: up 0.7 per cent (6020)

Average time on market: 40 days (up 10 days on 2019)

A four-bedroom house and land package in Geelong could set aspiring home owners back just over $440,000. Photo: Hamilton Property Group

5. Sunshine Coast, QLD

Switching from inner suburbia to the coast in a “coronavirus-inspired sea change” has seen inquiries on properties in coastal south-east Queensland markets surge, according to Domain.

With countless surfing points and abundant rainforests in the nearby hinterland, it’s a nature lover’s paradise that retains some aspects of city living.

House prices: up 6.3 per cent (median $660,154)

House sales: up 10.1 per cent (10,191)

Average time on market: 53 days (up 8.5 days on 2019)

The Sunshine Coast market boomed in sunnier times, but the coronavirus could halt its momentum. Photo: Ron Jeffery Realty

4. Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, NSW

On the doorstep to NSW’s Hunter Valley – renowned for beach escapes and an overwhelming roster of wineries – Newcastle is also home to a median house price more than $250,000 below Sydney’s.

The regional harbour city had been riding high on a six-month recovery prior to the coronavirus, but like many regional centres, may soon find its prices going backwards.

House prices: up 7.3 per cent (median $586,761)

House sales: up 9 per cent (7342)

Average time on market: 42 days (up 1 day on 2019)

Newcastle: A coastal getaway with big city vibes. Photo: Getty

3. Illawarra, NSW

Similar to Geelong, the Illawarra region is shaping up as the answer for homebuyers left feeling uneasy by Sydney’s eye-watering house prices.

According to OpenAgent’s Katy Holliday, cities like Wollongong have carved out a reputation among workers seeking flexible arrangements and a location to raise a young family.


House prices: up 8.5 per cent (median $708,870)

House sales: up 18.4 per cent (5195)

Average time on market: 43 days (down 11 days on 2019)

2. Gold Coast, QLD

Affordability and local tourists’ desire for a sea change also proved a major factor in Gold Coast’s year-on-year growth, although the region’s fortunes may turn if investors begin shying away from traditional tourist hotspots in the recession.


House prices: up 8.5 per cent (median $665,660)

House sales: up 3.5 per cent (15,797)

Average time on market: 46 days (down 1 day on 2019)

Reduced investor interest could soon weigh down on the Gold Coast market. Photo: Getty

1. Launceston and North East, TAS

Ms Owen said the demand for Tasmania’s north-east is unsurprising, given the Tasmanian market was booming prior to coronavirus.

“Launceston and North East Tasmania have unsurprisingly seen an uplift due to a spillover of demand from Hobart,” Ms Owen said.

With abundant nature, a rich history and house prices more than $200,000 below the national average, it’s no surprise the Apple Isle has started to become a favourite haunt for those looking to escape CBD living.

House prices: up 9.5 per cent (median $354,903)

House sales: down 11.3 per cent (3315)

Average time on market: 33 days (up 6 days on 2019)

Launceston’s garnered a reputation as Australia’s best-performing regional market. Photo: Harrison Humphreys