Money Property Forget the big city. We find homes for $12,000
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Forget the big city. We find homes for $12,000

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We hear a lot about Australia’s property bubble. Prices are rocketing up and the media is all over it.

Chris Ellison homes
Homes (centre and right) owned by WA mining magnate Chris Ellison and his wife Tia.

We love to cover a record sale, or let people perve on the homes of the rich and fabulous. Like the $57.5 million mansion in Perth (pictured right).

Those stories are mainly about Sydney and, to a lesser extent, Melbourne. In those cities, auctions are a bloodbath.

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The reality of the housing market is very different outside capital cities – but we don’t hear so much about them.

There must be houses in this country that cost a lot less than the average, right? That’s how averages work.

House for sale in Warren
For sale: $40,000 home up for grabs in Warren, west of Dubbo.

I went looking for them and I found examples like this house in Warren, NSW (right).

There are some cheap “houses” out in the bush that might take even more getting used to.

This is listed as a five-bedroom home in Coober Pedy, SA.

Coober Pedy home
2012 Woolaston Road, Coober Pedy: needs work, but this home could be yours for $25,000.
property4
Renovator’s dream/nightmare: lot 14 Warrie St, Gulargambone.

That might not be an option if you are claustrophobic but there are cheap houses listed for sale that are even less liveable.

It’s only $25,000. You might need some more fittings, but no need to invest in fly screens. There are no windows. But living underground is what Coober Pedy is famous for. When in Rome!

Like the home pictured right for $20,000 in Gulargambone, NSW.

Even the real estate agent calls it derelict. The absence of interior shots in the listing tells the story.

I thought $20,000 or $25,000 for a place to live was as low as you could go.

But the absolute cheapest house I could find in all of Australia was this one, in Bundaberg, Queensland (right, below).

property5
Childers Road Kensington Qld: the cheapest home we could find.

Picket fence and all, for just $12,000.

It is partly a caravan. Half of it is a permanent structure though so I think it counts.

$12,000 seems mighty cheap. The fees on a mortgage that small would be a massive fraction of it.

To put this in context, $12,000 is just two per cent of the average Australian house price. The average worker makes $12,000 in eight weeks (before tax).

It would buy you a used Ford Focus, eight nights in the Opera Deluxe suite at the Park Hyatt Sydney, or eight tickets to the AFL Grand Final (including a function the night before).

So this place is a bargain. For a while I fantasised about living in sunny Queensland and never having to work again. Then I realised I wasn’t asking an important question.

Here, I’m sorry to say, this story gets serious.

Why, I began to wonder, is housing so cheap in regional Australia?

The answer is we live in a country where wealth is not evenly distributed. In the cities, there are more rich people than you can froth a macchiato for. In the country, wealth is harder to come by.

In Sydney, the most recent data shows average wages of $57,000 – nearly 25 per cent higher than in the rest of NSW ($46,000).

In Bundaberg, where our very cheap home is found, average earnings are $41,000.

The decline of Australia’s agricultural sector and the boom of our service industries means kids born in regional areas will probably move to the cities.

The alternative is a life of fewer opportunities. Statistics show 13.1 per cent of people in rural and regional Australia live in poverty – a higher rate than in the capital cities. (That figure takes the cheaper cost of housing into account.)

This is a country of extremes – not just of drought and flooding rains, but of wealth and poverty.

It’s easy sometimes to forget about the poverty. I’m somewhat ashamed to have started writing this piece thinking only of the amusement value of a cheap house, and not at all about the conditions that explain it.

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