Interest in property in regional Victoria has spiked during the pandemic, with agents saying they’ve been flooded with inquiry from Melburnians bringing forward plans to leave the city.
Some suburbs have seen the number of views per listing soar nearly 600 per cent from this time last year, according to Domain data, while typically popular inner-city locations record a fall in demand.
Bendigo recorded a 67.5 per cent jump in views per listing in the year to the end of July, while Warrnambool/south-west Victoria and the Latrobe/Gippsland regions jumped more than 50 per cent each.
Holiday hotspot the Mornington Peninsula also rose 37.3 per cent.
By contrast in Melbourne, some regions recorded drops in interest while others rose less sharply.
The leafy inner east fell 11.8 per cent, while the inner city fell 7.5 per cent.
In Inner Melbourne, the inner east and north east views per listing fell as much as 11.8 per cent year-on-year.
The drop in interest was steeper when compared to February, just before the pandemic began. Over that time views per listing fell 18.3 per cent in the inner east, 12.7 per cent in inner Melbourne and 8.5 per cent in the west.
Melbourne’s south-east region managed a 10.1 per cent rise on a year ago, and is up 18.6 per cent since just before the pandemic hit.
Not all of Melbourne was down, Domain senior research analyst Nicola Powell said.
“Some of the areas in Melbourne, the views per listing are still up year-on-year,” she said. “The general rule of thumb is that the [rest of the] inner areas have seen a marginal increase or decline.
“But all of Melbourne’s areas peaked in May.”
Dr Powell said the data aligned with property market chatter about city-dwellers fleeing to the regions, adding it may be indicative of a greater social shift.
“Will the pandemic and the digital transformations we’ve seen in desk-based workers change our purchasing behaviour in the future?” she asked. “We’ve started to see it in search behaviours, so will that be the first indication of a broader change?”
The suburb with the greatest jump was Ventnor on Phillip Island, with a 577 per cent rise in views per listing over the year to July.
Inquiry in the area had been consistently strong since the Victorian coronavirus outbreaks began, and recent high-profile sales drove even more interest, Alex and Scott director Greg Price said.
“There are COVID refugees everywhere. We’ve had an influx of people coming in,” he said. “We’ve seen a massive influx in inquiry since mid-March and it hasn’t stopped.”
In the intermediate period between lockdowns, business had picked up, Mr Price said.
“We’ve just had the most massive June and July because people were out and about,” he said. “People have just said: ‘Bugger this, I’m just gonna get out of town.’”
Bendigo suburbs Ascot and Kangaroo Flat were next, up 214 per cent and 203 per cent respectively over the same period. However, they did come from a lower level of views per listing than Ventor.
McKean McGregor principal Glenn Rea said Bendigo’s proximity to the city and the shift to working from home for white-collar workers had been a winning combination for regions like his.
“Victorians want to get to regional cities, they have greater autonomy and they can work from anywhere really,” he said. “[And] we’re still only a smooth drive into Melbourne.”
It was the busiest Mr Rea had ever been.
“In our five years of doing residential property, it’s the most energy I’ve ever seen in the market,” he said. “Talking to agents who have been doing it for longer than we have, they say it’s the same.”
Dr Powell said the interest could also be driven by Melburnians looking to buy holiday homes, given holidaying elsewhere could be difficult for the foreseeable future.