These are the 20 best regional towns for Australian first homebuyers

Wategos Beach at Byron Bay.
  • Australians are looking to the regions, lured by affordability, lifestyle, and the recent surge in working from home arrangements.
  • But not all are created equal, with ME Bank commissioned research ranking the top 20 towns for first homebuyers looking to make a tree change.
  • Victoria took out eight of the 20 spots, but it was South Australia’s Adelaide Hills that dominated the top end of the list.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Most Australians might live in cities, but it is the regions that are now having their time in the sun.

As the pandemic decentralises workplaces and affordability remains a distant memory in major capitals, nearly two-thirds of first homebuyers are considering a change of scenery, according to a survey from ME Bank.

“Like many Australians cooped up the city, I spent hours during the pandemic trawling through property websites, daydreaming of a refreshing sea or tree change,” consulting demographer Chris McNeill said.

“With working from home on the rise, now is a perfect time to escape to the country, not only to improve your lifestyle, but save money and buy your first home.”

It’s fleshed out in the most recent property data which shows that regional areas are outstripping capital cities as demand and prices rise.

Not all regional towns are created equal of course. For most people, there’s little point in being able to afford a home in a place they’d rather not live. Nor would many city-dwellers be rushing to live in the middle of the outback should they need to commute again next year or not be willing to divorce from the big city lights entirely.

It being a matter of, as they say, location, location, location, McNeill’s national planning consultancy firm Ethos Urban crunched the numbers to find out exactly where first homebuyers might, or rather should be, looking.

The factors at play included a town’s growth, population, and employment, as well as the quality of its internet, schools, and hospitals, and even the town’s ‘character’.

“All the towns in our top 20 list are ideal for first home buyers, in different ways. Some are cheaper for the bargain hunters, while others have the ideal beach lifestyle for those with bigger budgets,” McNeill said.

The Adelaide Hills takes out the top spots

The number one spot it says was clear in Nairne, nestled in the Adelaide Hills.

“Nairne has a vibrant and growing community expected to reach 6,200 by the year 2036; good access to hospitals and schools; spectacular surrounds in wine-growing country; and heritage streets that give it a ‘lost to time’ quality,” McNeill said.

“A boom in new property developments in the town also means affordable modern housing is attainable for first home buyers.”

It was followed not far behind in number four place by neighbouring Mount Barker. It’s no coincidence, according to McNeill.

“The Hills are driving distance to Adelaide, with attractive scenery, charming town centres, and world-famous wine.”

New South Wales only downgraded due to affordability

Similarly, the New South Wales’ far north coast managed to launch a disproportionate number of towns onto the list, with Lennox Head (10th), Byron Bay (12th) and Mullumbimby (19th) all making the top 20.

Noting the proximity to major centres and the scenery, McNeill said there was just one factor precluding much of New South Wales from dominating the list.

“If it wasn’t for the double weighting we gave housing affordability, New South Wales would have performed far better. There are incredible little towns all over the state. The fact Byron Bay still made the list despite its soaring prices is a testament to the amazing beach lifestyle on offer there.”

One state outshines the rest

However, it is recently reopened Victoria that dominates the list with 8 towns stealing a spot. The top Victorian bolthole went to Woodend in the Macedon Ranges, followed closely by Beechworth in the north-east of the state, and Tatura in the Golburn Valley.

“So many Victorian towns are within striking distance of Melbourne, or a major regional city, which gives first home buyers in these areas great job flexibility and access to amenities,” McNeill said.

“They also boast amazing bush and beach lifestyles, without the crazy New South Wales prices. There are still undiscovered gems dotted around. Then there’s Port Fairy, which is a paradise on anyone’s list.”

The full list is below.

1. Nairne, South Australia.
2. Bungendore, New South Wales.
3. Margaret River, Western Australia.
4. Mount Barker, South Australia.
5. Kiama, New South Wales.
6. Woodend, Victoria.
7. Beechworth, Victoria.
8. Dunsborough, Western Australia.
9. Tatura, Victoria.
10. Lennox Head, New South Wales.
11. Kilmore, Victoria.
12. Byron Bay, New South Wales.
13. Tanunda, South Australia.
14. Nuriootpa, South Australia.
15. Mansfield, Victoria.
16. Airlie Beach – Cannonvale, Queensland.
17. Wangaratta, Victoria.
18. Port Fairy, Victoria.
19. Mullumbimby, New South Wales.
20. Castlemaine, Victoria.

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