©2024 Propertyology Pty Ltd

Complete this form and we'll be in touch


From Rags To Riches, A Real Estate Boom And Premierships

From Rags To Riches, A Real Estate Boom And Premierships
October 12, 2022 Propertyology Head of Research and REIA Hall of Famer, Simon Pressley

Over the last decade or so, this region has undergone an urban and economic transformation that now places it among Australia’s crème de la crème. The evolution is closely linked to the rise of the nation’s most successful sporting team along with one of Australia’s best-performed property markets.

I like to describe it as the golden triangle situated within a 1 to 2-hour drive south-west of Melbourne.

Geelong and surrounding districts Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast, Golden Plains and Moorabool collectively produce a regional resume that is hard to beat.

Australia’s 10th largest of 400 townships, Geelong’s remarkable success over the last 10-years is reflected in higher growth rates for both total job volumes and total population than 8 out of 8 capital cities.

Whereas capital city population growth has long been determined by overseas migration and offset by net population declines to internal migration, the broader Geelong region attracts year-after-year people relocating from other parts of Australia.

Strong economic growth plus the high quality (and diversity) of lifestyle offerings have attracted 45,000 (net) new residents from internal migration to Geelong and its neighbouring municipalities over the last decade.

For comparative purposes, Brisbane and Hobart were the only capital cities to produce a population gain from internal migration over the last decade.

Geelong’s property market was so strong that the median house price doubled over the decade. And the average annual capital growth rate over the last 20-years is superior to 7 out of 8 capital cities.

A standard house in Geelong today is worth circa $800,000.

The increased demand for housing has also added 20 percent to the asking price to rent a standard house.


Related article: Propertyology forecasts property boom


Promoting the region’s idyllic lifestyle has become part of a very clever recruitment and retention strategy which now sees the 2022 AFL Premiers, Geelong Football Club, the envy of all Australian elite sports.

Quite frankly, capital cities cannot compete with the lifestyle offerings in the broader Geelong region.

In addition to the very strong sense of community, the ocean, rural landscapes, wineries, quality restaurants, umpteen cultural experiences and the arts are all within a 30-minute drive of Geelong’s city centre.

It does not have the congestion and stresses of capital cities, but a population of 270,000 people is plenty of substance.

Geelong’s A-grade infrastructure lacks nothing.

This includes quality retail facilities, passenger rail direct to Melbourne, quality highways, elite education opportunities at Deakin University, multiple hospitals, Avalon airport and one of Australia’s biggest cargo ports.

Highly respected buyer’s agent, Cate Bakos, has first-hand experience with Geelong.

“Period housing, stylish buildings, a very pretty waterfront precinct and a high array of amenity have put Geelong on many Melburnian’s radar. Interstate attention has also been directed to this great city by the bay. COVID amplified Geelong’s attractiveness.”


A transition to applaud

Geelong’s history is fascinating.

The beautiful Corio Bay was the destination for Geelong’s first colonial settlement in 1838. Land sales commenced a year later.

Agriculture production was the original purpose for colonisation, although manufacturing fast became the dominant industry.

In the Gold Rush of the 1850’s, Geelong played an important role in exporting the valuable metal from Bendigo and Ballarat.

With a focus on textiles, wool, rope, paper and wine, before too long Geelong was one of the largest manufacturing centres in Australia.

Directly after the completion of World War 1, Ford Australia was founded in Geelong in 1922. A few years later, Target opened its first ever drapery store. And urban development in the Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road districts also commenced in the 1920’s.

Industrial growth continued to be relatively strong through to the 1960’s before a series of significant economic hits over the next half century.

High tariffs contributed to the closure of the region’s wool industry in the 1970’s, leaving hectares of factories and warehouses empty and large-scale job loss.

The early 1990’s was incredibly challenging and saw Geelong’s unemployment rate exceed 10 percent.

On top of Victoria being in one of its deepest ever recessions, globally uncompetitive labour costs along with the advent of synthetic fibres triggered the collapse of numerous textile manufacturers in Geelong.

As if that was not enough, Pyramid Building Society, founded in Geelong in 1959, also went under, leaving more than 200,000 deposit holders with more than $1.3 billion in debt.

Consequently, Geelong real estate values completely flatlined with the same ($96,000) median house price in 1990 to 1997.

The next major period of significant adversity was a few years after the Global Financial Crisis when Geelong’s industrial sector felt the brunt of globalisation.

The 5-years ending 2016 saw the closure of several major employers, including Ford car manufacturing, Shell oil refinery, Alcoa aluminium smelter and Target Australia’s headquarters relocation. Approximately 2,500 direct jobs were lost and even more indirect jobs.

“The negativity and fears for the city were short-lived and the transformation can only be described as stunning,” recalls Cate Bakos.

Geelong today is an emerging healthcare, education and advanced manufacturing centre with an underrated tourism sector.

The city centre has experienced much gentrification with its beautiful character buildings proudly displaying the region’s history.

The restoration of the now home of the National Wool Museum and the spectacular redevelopment of the Waterfront were among my personal favourite experiences when I visited Geelong in April.

“The increase in the number of restaurants, cafes and bars is noticeable and Little Malop Street’s redefinition as a restaurant and bar laneway illustrates how this industrial city has transformed,” said Ms Bakos.

She adds that the rise of technology and internet connectivity helped Geelong’s rapid transition into an entrepreneurial and professional centre.

A large portion of the internal migration influx over the last decade were young families and white-collar professionals.

Approximately 10,000 students are enrolled across two Deakin University campuses, including the beautiful conversion of a collection of former wool stores into a modern learning space overlooking Corio Bay.

Consequently, Geelong’s demographic has become more diversified with a smaller ratio in the over 65yo and trade labour brackets. Understandably, Geelong birth rates have also increased in recent years.

The evolution of the Avalon Airport, located 15-minutes north of town, must not be underestimated.

Founded in 1953, the then government-owned facility originally focused on manufacturing light aircraft. Privatisation of the infrastructure in 1995 became the trigger for commercial flights.

The real gamechanger occurred when national transport logistics giant, Linfox, purchased the airport in 1997. Since then, over $100 million has been invested in infrastructure upgrades, including construction of a new terminal in 2013 and runway capacity capable of fitting an Airbus A380.

Jetstar became a carrier in 2004 while international flights commenced in 2018. It was an important part of the economic growth.

Within the less than 2-decades, Avalon Airport’s expansion meant it was servicing more than 1 million passengers annually directly prior to the pandemic (domestic and international combined).

In recent years, the development of an adjacent industrial precinct has already attracted high calibre tenants such as a major distribution centre for clothing giant, Cotton On.

But Geelong’s roots will always be front and centre, perhaps no more glaringly than the city’s port which now manages 600 vessel visits and $7 billion in trade per year.

The history of Geelong is a wonderful testament for resilience, vision and success.

Despite all of the adversity, the city’s population growth of 121 percent over the last 50-years is superior to the national average of 95 percent.

To help accommodate Geelong’s growing population, urban sprawl corridors include the suburbs surrounding Lara (north), Leopold (east), and Armstrong Creek (south).


The community ‘connector’

The one constant for the region throughout the last 163-years was the Geelong AFL team, officially Australia’s second oldest football club and the most successful elite-level team of all sports over the last 15-years.

In a similar way that Don Bradman provided a positive sense of purpose for the nation during periods of otherwise doom and gloom, the Geelong Cats has provided unity and connection for this community (literally) more than anything else.

72,000 paid-up members, a majority of whom live in Geelong, and countless other casual supporters is a compelling common purpose for a community of 270,000.

After breaking a 44-year premiership drought in 2007, the sustained success of the Geelong AFL team over the last 15-years is unrivalled in this country. 4x premierships, 2x runner ups and 12x Top 4 finishes across 15-years is next-level elite.


Related article: Elite performance is not defined by capital city status


The sporting brains of the nation are now closely analysing Geelong’s template for sustained success within the constraints of player salary caps and an equalisation drafting system.

The region’s idyllic lifestyle, relatively affordable housing and work-life-balance ethos are now proven X-factors which help to attract and retain AFL athletes in a similar way to 45,000 residents of the general public that relocated over the last decade.

Over the last decade, more than $200 million has been invested in upgrades to Geelong AFL’s stadium, which is proudly sponsored by national health care and insurer, GMHBA, whose headquarters is in Geelong.

Geelong’s recent investment in stadium infrastructure, along with associated benefits to the visitor economy, local business and consumer confidence and health benefits is a powerful combination which Propertyology recently flagged for other Australian Watch-List Locations, including Townsville, Hobart and Launceston.


Lifestyle diversity

Whereas big cities have increasingly followed a high-density town planning model, this great region maintains a strong understanding of what helps make it such a special community.

Detached houses are very much the real estate of choice in Geelong. According to the 2021 Census, 86 percent of the 102,000 residential dwellings in Greater-Geelong were houses.

83 percent of the 26,530 new dwellings approved for construction over the last decade were detached houses.

The city oozes culture.

“Eastern Beach’s park, and in particular, the Botanical Gardens are stunning parks on a national measure. And the recent upgrades to the Arts precinct has put Geelong on the map for national shows and exhibits,” said Cate Bakos.

The Werribee Open-Range Zoo, Bannockburn wine district, beautiful rural settings (beef, lamb, wool, fruit and vegetables) and the world-renowned Great Ocean Road (surfing, fishing and idyllic holidays) are all within about 45-minutes of the Geelong CBD.

As for real estate types, Ms Bakos says many of the inner-ring suburbs offer period houses and special architecture.

“Many of the streets have dramatically beautified as proud residents have renovated and upgraded the Victorians, Federations and Californian Bungalows on offer.”

Luxury living by the river is enjoyed in affluent suburbs such as Newtown and Belmont. Highton is also popular for mid-high-income families.

Bell Park and Grovedale are examples of traditional blue-collar suburbs, while Waurn Ponds and the waterfront are popular for university students.

For work or pleasure, the connection between Geelong and Melbourne is close.

Commuters have the option of efficient highways, regular trains ($3.6 billion Regional Rail Link was completed in 2015) or ferry services from Corio Bay to Docklands.

Ms Bakos references having more time in the day due to short local commuting as part of the region’s lifestyle appeal.

For example, Tom Hawkins, the incumbent AFL All Australian captain, lives 20-minutes west of town on a rural property at Barrabool where he breeds angus beef.


Related article: Here’s how to pick locations for property investment success


A similar distance south to the Bellarine Peninsula, is the home of legendary captain, Joel Selwood. What’s not to like about a secluded seaside village of Barwon Heads and a luxury golf course.

50 kilometres south of Geelong is the municipality of Surf Coast – Great Ocean Road country. The median house price here has doubled over the last 5-years to a lofty $1.5 million. In 2015, Brownlow medalist and 8-time All Australian representative, Patrick Dangerfield relocated from Adelaide to here to join Geelong AFL and whet his fishing appetite from the seaside hamlet of Moggs Creek.

Prized recruit, Jeremy Cameron, lives on a nearby farm at Anglesea. Cameron gave up significantly higher-priced offers from other AFL clubs when he decided to leave Sydney for the high-quality lifestyle of the Geelong region.

Other celebrities who are among the residents of the broader Geelong region are retired tennis great Mark Philippoussis, Master Chef’s Matt Preston, Tour de France champion Cadel Evans and Getaway host Catriona Rowntree.

Just 15-kilometres inland from Torquay and Bells Beach is the township of Modewarre. The development of a $350 million elite sports hub and wellness centre could soon see visits from the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Indian Premier League cricket teams and American NBA teams.

It is hoped that this report by Propertyology about this outstanding region helps to open one’s mind to opportunities outside of capital cities for great lifestyles, employment opportunities and property investment.

Propertyology are national buyer’s agents and Australia’s premier property market analyst. Every capital city and every non-capital city, Propertyology analyse fundamentals in every market, every day. We use this valuable research to help everyday Aussies to invest in strategically-chosen locations (literally) all over Australia. Like to know more? Contact us here.

Here’s how we combine our thought-leading research with Propertyology’s award-winning buyer’s agency services.