The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently released annual migration figures and they show that some of the regions seeing the greatest increase in migration are coastal towns and lifestyle markets.

‘Sea change’ and ‘tree change’ were the long forgotten buzzword for the migration of people to coastal and lifestyle markets. In a lot of instances, this trend had been led by retirees. This trend was particularly strong before the financial crisis however, since the end of the financial crisis, interstate migration has slowed and most lifestyle markets have underperformed capital city housing markets due to both declining housing demand and a weaker tourism sector. The recently released latest Migration Statistics from the ABS suggest that migration to coastal and lifestyle markets is increasing and being led by families rather that retirees.

The table included in this report shows the top 25 SA4 regions nationally for internal migration (excludes overseas migration) over the 2008-09 and the 2014-15 financial years. Of the regions included in the table, 14 of the 25 are the outer fringe regions of the capital cities where population growth is being driven by new housing. The Melbourne-West region has seen the greatest level of internal migration over 2014-15 with 5,038 internal migrants. This region is seeing substantial levels of new housing development, much of which is at affordable price points which is clearly attracting people to the region.

Estimated net internal migration by regions
2008-09 vs 2014-15, % of total migration


Looking at coastal and lifestyle regions, 15 of the regions in the table above could wholly or partly be described as lifestyle regions. These regions are: Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Geelong, Richmond-Tweed, Mornington Peninsula, Mid North Coast, Central Coast, Hunter Valley exc Newcastle, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven, Bunbury, Mandurah, Sydney-Outer West and Blue Mountains, Illawarra, Wide Bay and Latrobe-Gippsland. If we look at migration in each of these regions, it is being fuelled by those aged 0-14 years and those between 25 and 64 years. Meanwhile migration of 15-24 year olds is low and often falling and migration of those over 65 years of age is not as strong as younger children and those of working age. This would seemingly indicate that migration within these coastal and lifestyle markets is being driven by young families.

Coastal and lifestyle markets have generally dramatically underperformed in terms of value growth relative to capital cities over recent years while more recently we are starting to see value rise in many of these regions. This would seemingly support this data given increased demand for housing (with migration as a source) often leads to increases in home values. Another contributing factor to this migration is likely to be the fact that the recent increases in home values in capital cities which has resulted in deteriorating affordability has forced many younger families to look for alternatives to living in the capital cities. Subsequently some appear to making the choice to move to lifestyle markets. Note that many of the coastal and lifestyle markets highlighted are still within relatively close proximity to major capital cities meaning that residents can commute back to the city for work if required. Many Australian workplaces are also becoming more flexible meaning that people can work from home or commute to the office only a few times a week. Undoubtedly this is also making moving to a lifestyle market more appealing.

Based on the data, it is still too early to say that ‘sea change’ and ‘tree change’ has returned however, the data is already nearly a year old and it’s likely the trend has progressed further over the current financial year as more Australians make the move to lifestyle markets. Given that is the case you can be sure that there are plenty more people that are contemplating a similar move and may make one over the coming years.