‘Ripple effect’ sees wave of buyers ditching Sydney for coastal boom towns

Sydney’s property market has run out of steam but there’s no sign of a slowdown in the state’s coastal hotspots.

The harbour city’s median house price fell 1.4 per cent to $1,150,357 over the year to March, but boom-time price increases are still being seen up and down the seaboard, with prices bolstered by a steady stream of Sydneysiders leaving the city behind.

A string of suburbs across the Shoalhaven, Illawarra and Mid-north Coast regions, as well as some Newcastle suburbs, recorded double-digit house-price growth in the year to March, according to the latest Domain Group data.

Jade Merchant – pictured with her husband and children – relocated to Nowra a year ago, and hasn’t look back since. Photo: Supplied

On the south coast, the median house price rose by about 21 per cent in Ulladulla, Lake Illawarra and West Nowra, about 20 per cent in Sussex Inlet and Berry, and more than 15 per cent across the rest of Nowra. 

A year ago Jade Merchant and her family relocated to the outskirts of Nowra, which has a median house price of $450,500, to get more bang for their buck. 

Tired of the long daily commute from their home on the city’s fringe, the family decided they’d had enough of Sydney life. 

On the south coast, the median house price rose by about 21 per cent in Ulladulla, Lake Illawarra and West Nowra.On the south coast, the median house price rose by about 21 per cent in Ulladulla, Lake Illawarra and West Nowra. Photo: Karleen Minney

“We swapped a three-bedroom house with neighbours looking over us, for four acres and a six-bedroom house with ensuites,” she said.

Mrs Merchant bought the property for $765,000, and based on recent sales in her street, believes its value has since jumped to $900,000, an increase of almost 18 per cent.

Domain Group data scientist Nicola Powell said the ripple effect of Sydney’s growth was reaching regional areas.

“We are seeing negative movement – moderation – in Sydney. But in these regional areas again we’re seeing double-digit growth.”

Dr Powell added it wasn’t just Sydney buyers pushing up prices, but also people moving from Canberra and Melbourne.

Precium buyers agent Matt Knight said he had increasingly seen Sydneysiders looking to buy further south. 

“Historically Kiama and Gerringong have always been popular for sea changers,” he said. “What we’ve seen over the past few years is people willing to travel further and that’s led to higher prices in places like Shoalhaven, Jervis Bay, Mollymook, and Ulladulla.”

Mr Knight said while property prices had moderated in Sydney, he didn’t expect them to slow down in the Shoalhaven region any time soon. 

“The ripple flows on from Sydney and there’s always a delay… For the last two cycles the south coast had a rise that was about 18 to 24 months after Sydney,” he explained.

Andrew Creech from LJ Hooker Ulladulla said the market had cooled a little compared to six months ago, but didn’t think prices would drop significantly.

“I’ve lived here most of my life and I’d never thought I’d see prices like this,” he said of the suburb, which has a median house price of $600,000.

He noted the Berry bypass had made the area more appealing, as it reduced travel time by at least 20 minutes.

The latest migration statistics show people on Sydney’s fringes – those at the mercy of traffic congestion and long commute times – are most likely to relocate, according to demographer Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research.

“It’s not so much the pull factor of new places, it’s the push factor of Sydney,” he said, noting it wasn’t just high house prices people were fleeing.

“House prices have been one of the drivers of people exiting Sydney but not the only one. Liveability and lifestyle are another,” he said.

Mr McCrindle said many suburbs with double-digit price growth were in the Illawarra, Mid-North Coast, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions, which saw the biggest influx of Sydneysiders last financial year. 

He expected the shift to coastal areas to continue to increase, particularly as a growing number of baby boomers are in the midst of reaching retirement and seeking a sea change.

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