A classic Queenslander
A classic Queenslander, Central Queensland. Photo – Canva.
  • Rural house prices have outpaced city house price increases over the past year
  • It's not just the commuter belt towns that have seen large increases
  • In-land towns, such as Winton and Cloncurry, Qld, have seen 30%-40%+ rises

Over the 2020 year, rural house prices grew 7.9% outpacing their city rivals, who could only manage an average 1.7% increase.

Most of the ‘town versus rural’ analysis has focussed on regional areas within a commuter drive of the major cities, as being part of a tree or sea change trend. Places such as Byron Bay or Noosa, or wine regions.

However, as Tim Lawless from CoreLogic) argues, this is not the only force at work.

“Many of Australia’s in-land rural markets are also showing strong housing market conditions,” said Mr Lawless.

“These areas generally do not provide commuting options back to major working nodes, nor the broad-based lifestyle appeal of coastal markets or hinterland locations.”

However, they do provide the appeal of generally lower house prices, quieter life and a laid-back lifestyle. If the local economy is good, then prospects are plentiful.

When Mr Lawless looked at 91 council regions in Australia that were at least 200 kilometres from a capital city, he found that in 32 of them, house values had risen to their highest levels (in January 2021).

Much of this was due to a lessening of drought conditions in some areas, or recoveries from a previous mining downturn.

However, there were also other areas that were travelling “at least 10% below their historic highs”, so had some potential still to go.

The strongest growth conditions were in regions such as the Central West and North Western Queensland.

For example, Winton is set in an area of sheep and cattle raising 177 kilometres from Longreach, Queensland, and 1,300 kilometres from Brisbane. Its population in the 2016 census was under a thousand.

According to CoreLogic, Winton house prices surged 40.5% last year. It’s a small data set, based on only 21 house sales, albeit this represented more than 60% lift in activity on the year before.

350 kilometres north-west of Winton is Cloncurry, described as the ‘friendly heart of the Great North West’. It also happens to be the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the destination of the first Qantas flight in November 1920.

A slightly larger town, its population is more than 2,700 and house prices there grew 37% last year, according to CoreLogic.

You are far away from the Brisbane commuter belt here. Cloncurry’s median house price is just $167,000, and Winton’s is $120,000. Considering the median house price in Brisbane was $720,000 in December 2020, these in-land rural population centres represent relatively low-cost buying.

“Such sheer affordability is likely to be an attraction for some buyers, however prospective city folk interested in relocating to the rural areas of Australia might be better off ‘testing the waters’ by renting before buying… just to make sure the rural lifestyle is really their cup of tea,” said Mr Lawless.


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