Sending Melburnians east

Liz Bell

THE ‘COVID-change’ has overtaken the sea change and the tree change excuses for selling up in the city and moving to the country.

Some local real estate agents say interest in regional real estate has boomed this year, with buyers seeking clean living, space and fresh air – all within an easy commute, if necessary.

Russell Chester from LJ Hooker Traralgon, which has some properties for sale in rural Yarram, said demand was outstripping supply, with people wanting to move to the regions, but not having enough stock to choose from.

Mr Chester said as work places became diversified and more people were able to work from home, regional living was becoming more attractive.

Graham Chalmer director Mark Ventrella said regional areas such as Sale presented incredible opportunities to buy homes at a fraction of Melbourne’s prices.

“It’s been a buyers’ market here for many years and compared to what you can buy a Melbourne property for, it’s a bargain – price is the key,” he said.

Now is the time for regional communities to capitalise on the growing popularity of remote working and sell the benefits of country living to unhappy city commuters, according to Gippsland MHR Darren Chester.

Mr Chester said many businesses had to quickly adapt to their employees working from home during the coronavirus pandemic – and had seen how it could be successful.

“There are countless people who’ve been able to work from home for the first time,” Mr Chester said.

“For a lot of businesses and employees, it’s been a success and I think we should be pursuing a policy of decentralisation.

“We now know how remote working can operate and we’ve been using the technology, so there’ll be people who are now re-thinking their lives in Melbourne.

“I want to see governments support new opportunities for people to live in regional towns and either telecommute to work or decentralise more public service positions to regional locations.

“Australia’s pandemic recovery will require us to change the way we work and hopefully an era of decentralisation is upon us.

“It’s extraordinarily expensive to keep retrofitting our bloated cities with new infrastructure to handle the exploding population.

“Why do that when a better option exists 100 or 200 kilometres down the road?

“This is an opportunity for us to sell the dream of a sea change or a tree change to those who are unhappily commuting in the city each day and want more balance in their lives.

“Our towns and regional centres in Gippsland would flourish with a boost in population.

“If there are people looking to leave the metropolitan area, we need to give them every reason to choose Gippsland – and that means having good infrastructure.

“Perhaps they might need to work a day or two in town.

“If that’s the case, the availability of infrastructure — such as faster rail – will be an important factor in their considerations.

“Shorter travel times between regional areas and Melbourne can also revitalise small communities by enabling people to move to regional areas without facing a longer commute.

“I think there’s now greater interest in projects like the $530 million upgrade of the Gippsland line among people who’ve been working from home since March – it’s shown just how important these kinds of projects are to the long-term prosperity of our region.”