More and more Aussies are moving in search of affordability. But what does affordability mean, and is it all it’s cracked up to be? Aussie investigates what makes three of the top regional cities affordable, and asks what else you should consider before you start to pack.
So keen are they to attract new residents, that seven of the leading regional cities in NSW united to form the ‘Evocities’ a campaign designed to change perceptions of life in a regional city.
But despite the apparent attractions of a great community, a thriving culture, and a more relaxed lifestyle, affordability remains the number one reasons big city dwellers decide to escape to the country.
While affordability probably makes you think of house prices, there are a few other things that impact besides the cost of a roof over your head.
So what exactly is affordability?
Average house prices top the list of factors that determine affordability, which makes sense since paying the mortgage is likely to form the biggest chunk of your monthly living costs. Metro dwellers spend anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their total income on the mortgage every month, depending on which capital city they live in.
But there’s more to it than just the cost of a place to stay. Groceries, utilities, transport and travel, education and even the cost of lost income thanks to fewer high paying jobs in the regions all add up to give a more complete picture of affordability.
We have a look at three different affordable regional cities in Australia and compare with their state capitals.
With a median house price of $390,000 and a population of just over 160,000, coming in third on our list for all-round-affordability is Toowoomba in Queensland, which is located 125km west of Brisbane and is less than a two-hour drive from Brisbane Airport.
With Brisbane average house prices now over $650,000 this regional city also scores highly on other affordability factors when compared to Queensland’s capital.
General groceries are a bit cheaper in Toowoomba but fruit and veg comes in a lot cheaper, and while Macca’s costs the same wherever you are, you can expect to pay about $10 less for a decent three-course meal for two in Toowomba.
Local transport costs are cheaper in Toowoomba with a monthly travel pass costing half the price of the Brisbane equivalent, though it’s likely travelling distances are shorter. And while there’s not much in it for utility costs, a trip to the cinema or a gym membership will set you back less out in the country.
Unemployment is reasonable at around 4.5 percent compared with a national average 5.7 percent but you can expect to earn on average a quarter less than you would if you still worked in the big smoke.
If Queensland’s not for you, then you could think about heading to the regional city of Dubbo in NSW. Smaller than Toowoomba with a population of just over 40,000 it boasts a median house price of $360,000, which is a steal compared to the state’s capital, Sydney, at over $1million.
Admittedly Dubbo’s not Sydney, and it’s not that close, despite being in the same state. But if the five-hour drive is too much, Dubbo does have its own airport with regular flights to most of the east coast capitals.
Eating out and groceries are generally cheaper than Sydney but the price of a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will cost you an extra ten bucks in the country. You’ll be able to afford it though since a beer in Dubbo isn’t much more than half the cost of a beer in Sydney.
Getting around is cheaper too; Dubbo taxis charge more than 30 percent less per km than those in Sydney, and fuel costs are also slightly cheaper. Basic utilities will set you back over 20 percent more a month on average, though you’ll save more than that on your gym membership and trips to the cinema.
Like Toowoomba, unemployment in Dubbo is below the national average at just under 3.5 percent, but those jobs pay almost 50 percent less than the Sydney average, which might not be so bad when the median house price is almost 70 percent less.
What about Wodonga?
If Dubbo just seems a little bit too remote, then topping off our list of affordable regional cities is the slightly more accessible Wodonga – on the Victorian side of the border with NSW.
With a population of just under 40,000, Wodonga is similar in size to Dubbo, though it’s often grouped with its slightly bigger twin Albury on the NSW side of the border. Median house prices are an affordable $315,000 compared to an average of more than $840,000 in the state capital, Melbourne, just under three and half hours’ drive away.
Like the other regional cities, groceries and eating out are generally cheaper in Wodonga than the state’s capital; a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant works out cheaper by more than ten bucks, and your beers will cost a refreshing 15 to 20 percent less too.
Public transport costs are lower in Wodonga but taxis are cheaper in Melbourne. Utilities cost the same and like the other regional cities your gym membership or a trip to the cinema both cost less.
Unemployment is higher than the national average in Wodonga at over 6.8 percent, and while average salaries in Melbourne are higher, the gap is nowhere near as big as average house prices.
What else should I be thinking about?
While other factors play a part, its mainly house prices that make these cities affordable. But affordability, whatever it is, shouldn’t be the only thing that you consider if you’re planning a move out of the big smoke.
Lifestyle plays a big part in what makes people happy where they live. If you love the big city buzz you won’t find that in Dubbo, but if you want to be closer to nature and the outdoors then it’s a great place to start.
Smaller towns mean smaller communities. That can be great if you love to get involved but if you like doing your own thing then a close-knit community might not be top of your lifestyle wish list.
If one or two decent restaurants and coffee shops and a bit of local theatre is enough for your culture fix then great! But if your tastes are more high art than high street art, the regions might not cut it.
Wherever you choose Aussie can help you find the right loan.