At a time when Aussie property markets are fluctuating between rising prices and issues of oversupply, these five towns are standing out from the rest with their improving livability.
Each town has a significant regional centres with strong, diverse economies.
Special events including major industrial projects such as power stations or wind farms, or major infrastructure developments such as new or expanded hospitals, airports, universities, export ports or rail links also boosted desirability of these areas, according to a recent Hotspotting report.
1. Wagga Wagga, Riverina Region, NSW
Population in 2011: 63,900
Typical property prices: $225,000-$356,000
Highlights: Strong population growth, popular with first home buyers, affordable housing, $1 billion in defense projects, service centre region of 180,000, $450 million hospital upgrade, $54 million freight hub and expansion of Charles Sturt University.
Why: Wagga Wagga, named Australia’s most family-friendly city in 2014, has good prospects for future capital growth.
One of the many qualities that makes it worthy of consideration by property investors is the high number of first-home buyers taking advantage of affordable properties in the area.
Wagga Wagga ranks No.12 among NSW locations for first-home-buyer benefits over the past 15 years, with most of the top 10 being locations in the Sydney metropolitan area.
This strategic inland city is noteworthy for multiple economic drivers, lack of dependence on mining and a low jobless rate.
There’s an expanding military presence (army and air force bases); education, health and other community services for a region of 180,000 people; and steady population growth.
Upgrades and expansions either completed or under way include projects at Charles Sturt University and Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Major spending on the region’s military bases is in planning.
2. Newcastle, Central Coast, NSW
Population in 2011: 156,000
Typical property prices: $376,000-$975,000
Highlights: Key regional centre for NSW, $2 billion in residential construction, world’s largest coal export port, upgrade to Newcastle port rail links, $5 billion coal loading terminal, $350 million revitalisation of, $1billion upgrade to airport/RAAF Base Newcastle CBD.
Why: Newcastle has a rising economy and property market, having benefited from major new projects in the city and the nearby Hunter region.
The city has delivered solid capital growth over the past three years and in the past 12 months some Newcastle suburbs recorded double-digit median price growth.
Key projects keeping the Newcastle economy strong include the CBD revitalisation, residential construction, upgrades to transport infrastructure and expansion of the Newcastle port.
Newcastle is already the world’s biggest coal export port and major upgrades to export facilities occur regularly.
A $1 billion upgrade to the Newcastle airport and RAAF Base is under way.
The city presents an appealing formula for property investors: affordable prices, an overall sol id growth record and major impetus from economic activity in and around the city.
3. Cairns, Far North Queensland
Population in 2011: 156,000
Typical property prices: $144,000-$467,000
Highlights: Strong population growth, $1 billion airport upgrade, Chinese investment & tourism, $110 million port project, $8 billion resort, Bruce Highway upgrade, $450 million upgrade to hospital. Retail projects
Why: Cairns has mounted an economic comeback, which is having spinoffs for its property market.
Having been previously hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis, which reduced overseas tourist numbers on which the Cairns economy largely depended, Cairns has recently shown strong signs of economic revival.
In the 1980s, Cairns was one of the stars in the Australian property firmament, boosted by surging tourism and investment from Japan.
Those glory days faded and Cairns was overtaken by Townsville as the most important regional city in North Queensland.
However, there are plenty of positive signs that Cairns is now challenging again, boosted by tourism and investment from China, a proactive local council, spending on infrastructure and success in efforts to diversify the city’s economy.
House prices have grown in the past 12 months, with some suburbs recording double-digit rises.
4. Bendigo, Regional Victoria
Population in 2011: 108,500
Typical property prices: $280,000-$422,000
Highlights: Strong regional centre, $5 billion Regional Rail Link, solid population growth, $630 million hospital redevelopment, proximity to Melbourne, $250 million Evergreen Waters project, Diverse economy, $1.3 billion Australian Defence Force, Airport upgrade contract awarded to local business
Why: Bendigo has long been one of Victoria’s key regional centres, with growth thanks to its steady local economy, proximity to Melbourne and good transport links to the capital – especially now the $5 billion Regional Rail Link has been completed.
It has shown steady long-term price growth but remains affordable. Its economic prospects have improved with the $630 million re-development of Bendigo’s hospital, private sector plans to develop the city’s first master-planned residential community, and the awarding of a $1.3 billion Defence contract to a Bendigo-based business.
Bendigo benefits economically from a number of major companies which are based locally but perform nationally – including Thales, the company that received the Defence contract recently.
5. Busselton, south-west coast, WA
Population in 2011: 30,000
Typical property prices: $338,000-$630,000
Highlights: Growing population, strong tourism-based economy, three new suburbs planned, $120 million hospital upgrade, Margaret River wine region, $145 million airport upgrades, emerging cruise ship industry, $70 million foreshore plan
Why: Busselton has been voted Western Australia’s top tourist town three times since 1995.
It has fine surf beaches and is regarded as the gateway to Margaret River wine region, as well as the events capital of regional WA.
The Busselton economy is being boosted by spending on infrastructure, including upgrades to its hospital and its airport.
Its growing popularity with FIFO workers is also boosting the property market.
The market has generally been the leading performer on price growth in regional WA over the past two years, according to reports from the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia. Sales activity and price growth slowed in the second half of 2015, but Busselton remains a solid market with good long-term prospects.