Among many, Danielle Fumagalli and Bruno Martins moved to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney. Pic: Paul Harris
8 November 20
Covid the catalyst for a sea change: Sydneysiders and Melburnians are moving to the Sunshine Coast in droves as COVID-19 proves a catalyst for a sea change, with families prepared to spend two weeks in quarantine and buy or rent houses sight unseen.
The warm weather, the relaxed lifestyle and relatively affordable housing in the coastal region north of Brisbane are luring singles and families dealing with the stresses of lockdown in the southern states, with the widespread adoption of remote working removing one former barrier to a sea change.
Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a big shift in people moving from the capital cities to the regions, including a net loss of 14,000 in Sydney and 10,000 in Melbourne in the first half of the year. The net figure is the difference between the people leaving a place and those moving there.
From January to June a net 8000 Sydneysiders moved to other parts of NSW, while a net 3000 Sydneysiders moved to regional Queensland.
The trend is putting pressure on the Sunshine Coast housing market, with rental vacancies dropping to their lowest level in years, and many local schools are reportedly now at capacity.
Melissa Schembri, a real estate agent with Next Property Group on the Sunshine Coast, said she was taking a lot of inquiries from interstate.
"COVID has just made people realise that they can work remotely … and it's also made people realise what they want their lifestyle to be," Ms Schembri said. "It's been the catalyst for change."
Paul Angell from First National Real Estate Coastal, who has worked in the real estate industry for 17 years, said interest in the Sunshine Coast housing market had never been stronger especially among buyers in Sydney and Melbourne.
"When the lockdowns came into effect, we expected a reduction in people relocating or buying investment property, however what actually happened was the opposite," Mr Angell said.
"The border restrictions have limited people's ability to inspect properties in person, but with demand for Sunshine Coast properties so high, several determined interstate buyers and tenants have signed contracts for properties sight unseen."
SQM reports the rental vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast was just 0.5 per cent, which Mr Angell said was the lowest since January 2005. In April this year it was sitting at 2.4 per cent.
Muval, a comparison website for removalist services, reports the number of Sydneysiders and Melburnians inquiring about moving to the Sunshine Coast have doubled since the start of the year.
A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Education said enrolment growth was expected across Sunshine Coast schools in 2021 and beyond and a number of building projects were underway.
Colin Minke, the principal of Immanuel Lutheran College in Maroochydore, said he had seen a 50 per cent increase in interstate inquiries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, translating to about a 10 per cent uplift in enrolments. Some year levels were now at capacity.
Determined families have found a way despite the Queensland border closing to NSW and Victoria to fight the pandemic.
"We've had families from interstate who came and quarantined to come to the college," Mr Minke said. "Other families have taken a circuitous route, via the Northern Territory in one case and certainly flying from one place to another so they're not coming in from an airport in NSW."
As well as remote working, Mr Minke said the expansion of Maroochydore Airport meant more people could live on the coast and work elsewhere, while the planned upgrades to the Bruce Highway and railway would improve access to Brisbane.
Danielle Fumagalli and Bruno Martins, originally from Brazil, visited the Sunshine Coast last Christmas and "fell in love" with the warmer weather and "more chill" lifestyle.
When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, they lost their jobs in Sydney and feeling anxious about lockdown, decided to move straight away, trading Maroubra for Alexandra Headland, near Maroochydore, in April. Ms Fumagalli easily found work in marketing at a local business in Noosa, while her partner is a freelance photographer, designer and sport coach.
"Everyone thinks that Sydney and Melbourne have more work opportunities but during these times, I feel like people started noticing more and paying more attention to local businesses and how important they are."
Jo Yates, 41, made a temporary move from the eastern suburbs to Tewantin, near Noosa, earlier this year said she could never go back. She has retrained as a buyer's agent.
"Just coming up here and having a bit of space, actually made me realise how on top of each other we were, how stressed everybody was, how unfriendly it can be," Ms Yates said. "Everyone up here's so much more chilled out, and for half the money I was paying in Bondi, I've got a four-bedroom house instead of a two-bedroom unit."
"On Facebook and forum pages, people are saying they're moving to the Sunshine Coast and all the locals saying ‘No! No more people moving here, the prices are rising!"
- AUTHOUR: CAITLIN FITZSIMMONS
- SOURCE: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD