What’s causing our big city exodus?
Jobs help hold up real estate prices - at least that's what property experts used to say, but the internet is turning that old school thinking on its head.
There is nothing new about the retiree "tree change" or "sea change" movement, but younger Australians are increasingly escaping the cities and making their mark on property prices, thanks to technology.
Ashley Fell, social researcher with McCrindle Research said their analysis has shown many of those leaving Sydney - which suffered the highest net loss of all greater capital cities with 27,300 people leaving town between 2017 to 2018 - are of working age.
Dramatic increases in house prices, coupled with other "pain points", has had them packing their bags in droves.
"There's certainly an incentive for people to move into regional areas where there are shorter commute times, and ways to downshift lifestyle and experience less stress," she said.
"And for those effected by property prices, they can take a bit of a breather with the mortgage by moving somewhere that's more affordable."
Ms Fell added a key barrier in the past for career-minded city slickers looking to regional areas has been availability of jobs.
"Teleworking now allows people to work more remotely and have more flexibility without being in the city or even an office," she said.
While researching Workplace Wellbeing, a new book to be released by McCrindle Research later this year, Ms Fell said a key finding was a desire for workplace flexibility.
"Workers said they wanted a location less than 30 minute's commute from their home.
"It was 'extremely' or 'very' important for over half (56 per cent) of the workers surveyed to be relatively close to work.
"And that's what you get when you leave the major cities; you reduce that commute time and increase time with families," she said, adding that figures out from HILDA last month showed that Sydneysiders had the longest daily commute times in the country, averaging 71 minutes, followed by Melburnians enduring 65 minutes in transit.
City prices are down, but not enough
Although metropolitan house prices have come off the boil after their 2016-2017 peak, CoreLogic data to April showed the 12-month median house price for Sydney was $920,000, and $710,000 in Melbourne.
Cameron Kusher, senior researcher for CoreLogic, said while the strongest areas for population growth remains in Australia's capital cities, it's only logical that regional areas are becoming more of drawcard for those seeking affordability.
"We are seeing price-sensitive buyers realising certain areas nearby to capital cities offer similar proximity to the city centre, but at a much lower price than those areas still within the capital city," he said.
Mr Kusher pointed out that although median house price data doesn't reveal the motivation for moving, the numbers do show a pattern.
"We are already seeing this happen in markets like the Illawarra and Newcastle over recent years.
"As Sydney became increasingly unaffordable, people were moving further afield. The reality is that living in Wollongong and commuting to Sydney will take a similar length of time to living in the outer western suburbs and commuting," he said.
"We've also seen this in Victoria, in Geelong over recent years and then more recently Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley.
According to CoreLogic's Regional Market Update for the first quarter of 2019, the median house price for the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie region was $545,000 and in the Illawara region it sat at $648,000.
In Geelong, the median house price was recorded as $568,000 while in Latrobe Valley and Gippsland it was $361,000.
Bendigo and Ballarat had median house prices of $361,017 and $410,671 respectively.
"Telecommuting is clearly going to become more prevalent as technology advances.
The key question is likely to remain; who is allowed to telecommute and who isn't? It seems that the employees that are afforded the flexibility to work from home are those that have either been with the company many years and/or the older employees," Mr Kusher said.
He added that as housing affordability is a more significant issue for young Australians, employers would need to consider remote options for all workers.
"While housing is cheaper in regional Australia if younger workers aren't given the freedom to work remotely, it is unlikely it will become a viable alternative to living in the capital city," he said.
Ms Fell said her research found that many Australian workplaces were still resisting the move for employees to be more mobile.
"The reality is that you can work from airports, you can work from cafes, or you can work from home. Australian workplaces are starting to recognise that, but have some way to go. That flexibility is going to be key to attracting and retaining talent, which was a critical point that came out of our research and consultation with various workplace leaders because the average tenure today of an Australian staff member is now just two years and nine months."
Work from wherever
Entrepreneur, author and CEO of Collective Hub, Lisa Messenger, has been an employer for almost two decades and recently made the switch to a virtual workplace.
Her goal was for her team to reap the financial and lifestyle rewards of living where they choose.
"Last April I decided to decentralise after having a bricks and mortar office for about 17 years. I just said to my team 'work from wherever you want'.
"I've actually had many people working for me from all over the world for as long as I can remember," she said.
Her book, Work From Wherever, explains what the workplace shift has done for her.
"What I've learnt from closing a bricks and mortar office is that my productivity is far better now than it ever was when I was working in an office.
"I used to say when I was in an office I was busy, but when I was travelling I was productive - and now I'm on fire! No-one cares where I'm living and working from."
Travelling across Australia as a keynote speaker, Ms Messenger said regional areas are home to some inspirational people so career-minded people shouldn't feel they need to cling to the city.
"Some of the smartest entrepreneurs and innovators I've come across were in some of the most remote places geographically.
"Now technology means now you can literally work from wherever and live anywhere and I love that," she said.
"Now all you need is a laptop and a good idea.
"I'm getting the best talent from the happiest people because they're living where they want, and that's very cool."
Making the switch
After years selling property in Sydney's high-density, high-priced eastern suburbs market, Hamish Robertson now works with Richardson & Wrench Bowral and sees many others escaping to the country.
"Technology and wireless internet services have improved allowing people to work from home for, say, two to four days per week," Mr Robertson explained.
"Their employers are happy 'as long as the work gets done and the company's clients are happy."
For people working on the fringe of Sydney, he said often the commute from Bowral takes less time than from the inner west of Sydney to the suburbs.
"And the rail connection to Sydney - while it is not fast - it is possible to take an early train to Sydney or the outlying areas such as Campbelltown, Liverpool or direct to Central and come back the same day which is far less stressful than driving."
While the Southern Highlands is home to some prestige properties, typical homes in the region are still more affordable than Sydney.
"People can often afford to purchase a home with a separate office or studio on site," Mr Robertson said.
"The only thing people might miss in this area is 'the big salty dam' (or the sea) but we take the kids to Kiama for nippers in summer as it is about one hour away.
In Sydney, if I picked a bad time it could take me an hour to get from our home in Paddington to Bondi Beach and parking at Kiama is certainly easier."