03-Dec-2020 • Home Buying

ME has today released the top 20 regional towns in Australia for first home buyers looking for an affordable lifestyle boost after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national winner is Nairne, South Australia, a 7-minute drive to local hub Mount Barker (which also ranked highly) and a 40-minute commute to Adelaide.

ME designed the list following a survey in June 2020 that found two-thirds (60%) of first home buyers were more likely to consider buying in a regional area due to COVID-19, to save money and improve their lifestyle.

ME commissioned the research from Ethos Urban, a national planning and urban economics consultancy, who deployed two rounds of filtering. Towns that were too small, too big or with demographics less suited to first home buyers were initially excluded. A shortlist of 83 towns were then ranked on categories most relevant to someone working from home, such as internet quality, health and education facilities, the town’s character and vibrancy, physical attractiveness of the area, population growth, employment rate and proximity to a major population centre. Housing affordability was also applied to the list with a double weighting.

The top 20 regional towns in Australia for first home buyers are:

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.

ME’s consulting demographer, Chris McNeill from Ethos Urban said the definitive list of Australia’s top 20 regional towns would help first home buyers narrow their property search and find their ideal home in the sanctuary of the bush or by the beach.

“We did a thorough search right around the nation, looking for towns with just the right mix of lifestyle, amenities, housing market and natural beauty,” Mr McNeill said.

“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. This list can help make those dreams reality. 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.”

“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.”

State findings:

Victoria boasted the most towns for first home buyers than any other state, with eight making it into the national top 20, followed by New South Wales (five towns) and South Australia (four towns) and Western Australia (two towns).

The Adelaide Hills the national winner with Nairne and Mount Barker

Nairne is the best regional town in Australia for first home buyers, according to ME’s report, followed closely by sister town Mount Barker in 4 th position. Both are located in the picturesque 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. A boom in new property developments in the town also means affordable modern housing is attainable for first home buyers,” ME’s consulting demographer, Chris McNeill said.

“South Australia has deservedly outperformed. It’s about time it was recognised. And with relatively affordable house prices, what’s not to love,” McNeill said.

“The Adelaide Hills is the top region for first home buyers. It’s no coincidence it has two towns in the top five. The Hills are driving distance to Adelaide, with attractive scenery, charming town centres, and world-famous wine.”

Victoria dominates the top 20

Victoria performed very strongly overall, with eight towns featured in the top 20.

Woodend is the best regional town for first home buyers in Victoria, placing 6th nationally, while nearby Kyneton, also in the Macedon Ranges, finished just outside the top 20 in 25th place.

“The Macedon Ranges are a perfect distance from Melbourne where you can enjoy the country lifestyle, but still commute to Melbourne if you need to,” ME’s consulting demographer, Chris McNeill said.

“It’s no surprise Victoria fares so well. 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. 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.”

NSW’s Far North Coast the most awarded region

The Far North Coast of New South Wales is the most well represented region, with Lennox Head (10th), Byron Bay (12th) and Mullumbimby (19th) all making the top 20.

“The Far North Coast is ideal for first home buyers. Stunning beaches and bushland, and close to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. There are some less expensive towns too, some of which represent good bargain buys,” ME’s consulting demographer Chris McNeill said.

“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.”

Margaret River region shines for WA

Western Australia scored two towns in the top 20, both in the Margaret River region on the South West tip of the state. The Margaret River township itself ranked 3rd and Dunsborough, roughly 40 minutes away, ranked 8th.

“The Margaret River region has some incredible options for first home buyers. It’s the best South West WA has to offer. You’re wedged right between some of the most breathtaking beaches and picturesque wine country,” Mr McNeill said.

“Margaret River or Dunsborough would be a breath of fresh air for first home buyers feeling cooped up in the cities.”

Queensland, Tasmania, NT and ACT

“Queensland’s modest showing and the absence of Tasmania and the territories from the list does not for one moment suggest they lack idyllic regional townships in which a first home buyer may find a perfect location. Rather, the results can be seen as simply anomalies of the statistical approach used,” Mr McNeill said.


Editor notes:

  • Images of featured towns available on request.
  • Home loan lender, ME commissioned Australia’s best regional towns for first home buyers with the assistance of Ethos Urban, a national planning and urban economics consultancy.
  • This is a list of Australia’s best regional ‘towns’ for first home buyers. Large regional cities with populations greater than 20,000 were excluded.
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