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Defying Property Market Gravity

Defying Property Market Gravity
July 10, 2024 Propertyology Head of Research and REIA Hall of Famer, Simon Pressley

Dozens of locations across Australia produced significant growth in real estate values over the last 20-years despite their respective population declining over the same period.

A long list of other locations saw their population increase by the smallest smidgeon of the national average yet property values tripled over the 20-year period ending June 2023.

While most of the locations outlined in this real estate report are relatively small in stature, they continue to play very important roles in the production of various valuable goods and services.

Each individual township has its own unique natural assets, lifestyle, economic profile, opportunities and challenges.

In many cases, retaining their youth is among the biggest challenge.

In some cases, the relaxed lifestyle and affordable housing become powerful lures which ‘boomerang’ back some of that population after they tire from the big city lights, the concrete, the congestion and expensive housing.

Major investments in airport infrastructure, highway upgrades and the internet-of-things have collectively improved both access and community connectivity.

And, while their region’s food production and essential minerals and commodities will always be in demand, the fast-immerging renewable energy industry and the work-from-anywhere phenomenon will create new opportunities for many years to come.

This report contains a back-of-the-beer-coaster summary of Australian townships whose population of the last 20-years either declined or increased at a rate less than a third of the national average over the period (35 percent).


New South Wales

Armidale NSW

(20yr population: +7%)
House prices: $140,000 in 2003 to $490,000 in 2023 (+350%)

The primary administration centre and ‘mini capital city’ for the northern NSW region of New England has beautiful natural landscapes. Armidale’s A-grade lifestyle, affordable housing, numerous high quality private and public schools, and major university (UNE) provide a staple for raising a family. While agriculture underpins the region’s economy, Education is its biggest employer, and both tourism and renewable energy are fast-emerging. Armidale is also home to government departments, including the national HQ for Australia’s Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

Armidale’s population very mild 7 percent increase over the last 20-years didn’t hold back the performance of its property market. House values more than tripled. There is currently 40 percent less properties for sale than this time 5-years ago [check out ‘What’s hot, what’s not’].

Broken Hill NSW

(20yr population: -14%)
House prices: $47,000 in 2003 to $185,000 in 2023 (+393%)

This iconic township has made a significant contribution to the evolution of Modern Australia. Despite a 14 percent decline in Broken Hill’s population over the last 20-years, the current median house value is nearly 4-times higher than what it was 20-years ago.


READ MORE: Turning The Broken Into Something Brilliant


Cowra NSW

(20yr population: -3%)
House prices: $129,000 in 2003 to $395,000 in 2023 (+306%)

Just 2-hours north of Canberra and within the Lachlan Valley, the municipality of Cowra has seen its population shrink by 3 percent over the last 20-years to 12,659. Cowra has a prominent Italian heritage, beautiful Japanese gardens, stunning fields of canola and vineyards (Chardonnay) and attracts a health tourism trade.


Leeton NSW

(20yr population: -2%)
House prices: $157,500 in 2003 to $372,500 in 2023 (+236%)

In the heartland of the Riverina is the headquarters for one of Australia’s biggest food exporters and rice producers, SunRice. A 1-hour drive from the major regional city Wagga Wagga, the township of Leeton is home to just 11,400 people, yet it is a major supplier of a wide variety of raw produce that ends up in Australian pantries. Public demand for oranges, lemons, grapes, rice, corn, wheat, barley, canola and rice is likely to only ever increase.


Lismore NSW

(20yr population: +3%)
House prices: $170,000 in 2003 to $630,000 in 2023 (+370%)

Only half an hour from Byron Bay, home of Australia’s most expensive real estate, is the Northern Rivers primary administration centre of Lismore [refer this research report].


Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter NSW

(20yr population: +9%)
House prices: $135,000 in 2003 to $455,000 in 2023 (+337%)

This region incorporates Australia’s horse breeding capital (the township of Scone), electricity production (Muswellbrook) and a series of coal mines. While population growth was a modest 9 percent over the last 20-years, real estate values still tripled.


Narrabri NSW

(20yr population: -9%)
House prices: $142,500 in 2003 to $360,000 in 2023 (+252%)

Beef and lamb production are staples of this region, while energy generation (gas) is an emerging industry. Narrabri’s rental vacancy rate has been well below 2 percent throughout the last 3-years.


Research insights: SUBSCRIBE HERE


Parkes NSW

(20yr population: -4%)
House prices: $110,000 in 2003 to $385,000 in 2023 (+350%)

100-kilometres west of the city of Orange is the township of Parkes. Science (including supporting various NASA space missions), sheep farming, copper and gold mining, cropping and beef grazing is an eclectic economic mix. The award-winning Australian movie, The Dish, centred around the role of the telescope to the Parkes community.

South Australia

Adelaide Hills SA

(20yr population: +8%)
House prices: $260,000 in 2003 to $900,000 in 2023 (+346%)

Just 30-minutes east of Adelaide is where the scenic, rolling hills and vineyards envelope a series of quaint towns such as Hahndorf (Australia’s oldest German settlement), Woodside, Oakbank and Bridgewater. Adelaide Hill’s population growth over the last 20-years was a very mild 8 percent. Proof that size does not determine performance, this region’s average annual capital growth rate of 6 percent over that period meant that the median house value soared to $900,000 (a rate which was superior to all of Australia’s 4 largest cities).


Port Augusta SA

(20yr population: +3%)
House prices: $70,000 in 2003 to $220,000 in 2023 (+314%)


Port Pirie SA

(20yr population: 0%)
House prices: $70,000 in 2003 to $225,000 in 2023 (+318%)


Port Lincoln SA

(20yr population: +7%)
House prices: $170,000 in 2003 to $400,000 in 2023 (+235%)

This coastal adventure playground is also the base for the largest fleet of commercial fishing boats in Australia. Port Lincoln real estate offers rental yields of circa 5 percent and a 1 percent vacancy rate.


Whyalla SA

(20yr population: -0.1%)
House prices: $107,000 in 2003 to $260,000 in 2023 (+243%)

The history of this important regional seaport city is soaked with shipbuilding, steelmaking and ecotourism. Renewable energy (hydrogen) is a future growth driver for this anchor to South Australia’s ‘iron triangle’.


Benalla VIC

(20yr population: +5%)
House prices: $130,000 in 2003 to $430,000 in 2023 (+330%)

With links to the infamous bushranger, Ned Kelly, this understated regional city 2-hours north-east of Melbourne provides essential services to a rich farmland community. It is also home to a major ammunitions manufacturer. Benalla house rent prices have increased by approximately 40 percent over the last 5-years.


Campaspe VIC

(20yr population: +5%
House prices: $150,000 in 2003 to $430,000 in 2023 (+287%)

Real estate in townships such as Echuca and Kyabram have defied very modest population growth over the last 20-years and nearly tripled in value.


Colac-Otway VIC

(20yr population: +8%)
House prices: $150,000 in 2003 to $550,000 in 2023 (+366%)

Apollo Bay and Colac are part of a 22,273 regional population along the Great Ocean Road trek, 2-hours south-west of Melbourne. Bulla Dairy Foods, Australian Lamb Company and AKD Softwoods are major employers which signify the local economic strengths. The region’s median household age of 45 is well above the national average of 38.


Corangamite VIC

(20yr population: -6%)
House prices: $100,000 in 2003 to $410,000 in 2023 (+410%)

A 6 percent population decline over the last 2-decades did not prevent real estate in Camperdown and surrounding townships from increasing 4-fold.

Latrobe VIC

(20yr population: +12%)
House prices: $100,000 in 2003 to $410,000 in 2023 (+410%) 

Formerly the state’s primary supplier of electricity, the closure of the Hazelwood (brown coal-fired) power station in 2017 hampered the region’s population. But Morwell, Moe and Traralgon’s economic resilience is reflective in its real estate stability.


South Grampians VIC

(20yr population: -2%)
House prices: $110,000 in 2003 to $350,000 in 2023 (+318%)

A rural setting with fertile, volcanic soils and glorious mountain ranges is located 3-hours west of Melbourne. Despite population decline over the last 20-years, the region continues to be highly productive for lamb meet, wool, beef cattle and wheat. Hamilton is the major township.

Neighbouring municipalities Stawell (-6 percent) and Ararat (+1 percent) have endured similar population challenges, although real estate values still tripled.


Swan Hill VIC

(20yr population: +1%)
House prices: $130,000 in 2003 to $370,000 in 2023 (+285%)

Situated 2-hours north of Bendigo along the Murray River and NSW border, this historic township is renowned for its viticulture and paddle steamers. Swan Hill’s rental vacancy rate has been consistently lower than 1.5 percent throughout all of the last 20-years. House rents are currently circa $430 per week.



Burnie TA

(20yr population: +6%)
House prices: $80,000 in 2003 to $430,000 in 2023 (+535%)

The city of Burnie is the primary administration centre for north-west Tasmania’s regional population of circa 120,000 people. In addition to being responsible for transporting the bulk of the state’s product through its seaport, the region is productive for a range of agriculture, mining (metals), cruise ships and (emerging) renewable energy.

Despite its population growth being just one-sixth of the national average, Burnie’s property market over the last 20-years was one of the very best performers in Australia.

Invest with the best: CONTACT PROPERTYOLOGY


Western Australia

Kalgoorlie WA

(20yr population: +2%)
House prices: $145,000 in 2003 to $345,000 in 2023 (+238%)

Kalgoorlie was Australia’s 15th largest city in 1921. Over the following 102-years, this city’s population had only mildly increased from 19,200 to 30,800, making it smaller than 80 other cities. Population growth aside, Kalgoorlie is still at the centre one of the biggest gold reserves in the world. That valuable shiny stuff will never go out of fashion!


Esperance WA

(20yr population: +7%)
House prices: $160,000 in 2003 to $410,000 in 2023 (+256%)

On the WA’s southern coastline, Esperance is renowned for a beautiful lake with pink water, stunning surf beaches, the Cape Le Grand national park, a port which exports some of the state’s ore and grain, and a variety of great fishing experiences. And there’s a lot to like about the value of Esperance real estate.


Cassowary Coast QLD

(20yr population: +2%)
House prices: $125,000 in 2003 to $350,000 in 2023 (+280%)

Halfway between tropical Cairns and Townsville, this region is officially Australia’s rainfall capital. The townships of Innisfail, Cardwell and Tully provide goods and services for communities which produce a significant portion of Australia’s bananas and sugar.


Goondiwindi QLD

(20yr population: +1%)
House prices: $135,000 in 2003 to $335,000 in 2023 (+248%)

4-hours south-west of Brisbane and along the NSW border, Goondiwindi is an important supplier of raw produce such as cotton, wool, grain, lamb or pork. Housing supply is so tight in Goondiwindi that the rental vacancy rate has been zero since September and rent prices have accelerated to approximately $420 per week.


Mount Isa QLD

(20yr population: -5%)
House prices: $109,000 in 2003 to $292,500 in 2023 (+268%)

900-kilometres west of Townsville might feel like the middle of nowhere, but its home to the world’s most valuable province for precious metals. Accelerating global demand for commodities such as copper, zinc, lead and rare earths will continue to depend on the very important role that the city Mount Isa plays.

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