The great migration debate: Return to cities or stay in regional areas?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes in various aspects of our lives, and the real estate industry was no exception. As cities shut down and remote work became the norm, many people flocked to regional areas in search of space, tranquility, and a change of lifestyle. However, as cities reopen and offices welcome employees back, a question arises: Are these pandemic-induced migrations to the regions reversing, or are people choosing to make these new environments their permanent homes?

Unearthing real-time data on population movements is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. However, we can utilize housing market data as a valuable proxy for understanding the shifting tides of migration patterns. By examining home prices and rental vacancy rates, we can gain insights into whether people are moving back or staying put.

   The Pandemic Boom and Bust:

During the pandemic, certain regions experienced a surge in population, especially those boasting desirable "lifestyle" factors. Areas like Byron Bay in New South Wales (NSW), the Central Coast, Mornington Peninsula, the Illawarra, and Southern Highlands in Victoria became magnets for city dwellers seeking solace amidst uncertainty. Housing markets in these regions soared, with prices skyrocketing and rental vacancy rates reaching all-time lows.

Temporary Reversals and Resilient Regions:

As the pandemic's grip loosens and urban centers regain their allure, some regions have witnessed a partial reversal in migration trends. Housing markets in the aforementioned lifestyle regions have shown signs of softening, with rental vacancy rates rising and prices falling more than the national average. It appears that some individuals are heeding the call back to the cities, seeking the familiar buzz and convenience they offer.

However, this phenomenon does not hold true for all regional areas. In Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA), home prices remain steady, and rental markets continue to be tight. Similarly, regional centers in Victoria and NSW, such as Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, and Newcastle, have weathered the storm relatively well. While prices have dipped slightly and rental markets have eased, they have not experienced the same magnitude of change as the lifestyle regions.

Unveiling the Permanent Shift:

Though definitive conclusions await population data, housing market trends hint at a mixed bag of temporary reversals and permanent shifts. It seems that a portion of the population that migrated during the pandemic is choosing to remain in regional areas, particularly in larger regional centers and in states like Queensland, WA, and SA.

The Future of Regional Migration:

While the pandemic accelerated migration patterns, it remains uncertain whether this reshuffling will endure in the long term. As life inches toward normalcy, people's priorities and preferences might shift once again. Only time will reveal the true impact of the pandemic on real estate and the decisions people make about where to call home.

Tips for Navigating the Changing Landscape:

  1. Assess your long-term goals: Consider your lifestyle preferences, work requirements, and personal aspirations when deciding whether to move or stay.
  2. Research regional areas: Explore different regional locations to find the ones that align with your needs and offer the amenities and opportunities you seek.
  3. Stay informed about housing market trends: Keep a close eye on real estate data, including home prices and rental vacancy rates, to gain insights into the dynamics of the market.
  4. Plan for contingencies: If you're considering a move, factor in potential changes in work arrangements, commute times, and access to essential services.
  5. Consult with professionals: Seek guidance from real estate agents, financial advisors, and relocation experts who can provide tailored advice based on your unique circumstances. Property Mates is a valuable resource that connects you with a diverse array of real estate agents, enabling you to find the perfect professional to assist you in your specific needs. Their platform provides a convenient way to browse and connect with real estate agents who can help guide you through the process of buying or selling a property.


In navigating the complex decisions surrounding the great migration debate, it's crucial to have access to a wide range of trusted professionals who can provide valuable guidance. Property Mates, with its extensive network of experts, is poised to assist you in making informed choices about whether to return to cities or embrace the benefits of staying in regional areas. The pandemic has reshaped the real estate landscape, and with the support of knowledgeable professionals, you can confidently navigate these changes and find the perfect place to call home.