House prices boomed in some very unexpected Australian cities in 2020

Australian house prices have surged in surprising cities despite the Covid recession, with families leaving pricey, overcrowded cities and opting for more rural delights.

Idyllic coastal towns with surf beaches were far from the only areas to see property values climb last year to new record highs as more people could work from home.

Darwin, in the tropical far north of Australia, saw property prices surge by 11.9 per cent in 2020, CoreLogic data showed.

Many have been able to leave expensive properties in major cities such as Sydney behind thanks to the ability to work remotely, prompted by the Covid pandemic’s stay-at-home advice.

The marked change to working life has been reflected in the property market, as workers find more for their money elsewhere.

The Northern Territory capital’s median house price of $497,222 is now more than Perth‘s $490,810, following a two per cent increase in Western Australia, and marginally below Adelaide‘s $504,829, which itself enjoyed a 5.9 per cent rise.

Darwin property prices surging by 11.9 per cent in 2020, CoreLogic data showed, with families leaving overcrowded cities down south

Darwin property prices surging by 11.9 per cent in 2020, CoreLogic data showed, with families leaving overcrowded cities down south

Despite that impressive increase, Darwin’s median house price is still below the 2014 peak. 

Canberra saw its equivalent property prices rise by 8.5 per cent, despite the cold winters and hot summers, putting its mid-point house price at $762,608.

Regions where prices hit a record high

Geelong: $606,403

Illawarra: $681,291

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie: $610,876

Ipswich: $363,213

Gold Coast: $587,156

Sunshine Coast: $650,608

Richmond ‐ Tweed: $623,563

Launceston and North East: $363,723

Bendigo: $436,831

Source: CoreLogic, CommSec

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Regional areas were the stand-out performers last year, with prices rising by 6.9 per cent, more than triple the two per cent rise seen in combined capital city values.

Outside Australia’s capitals, house prices last year climbed 7.1 per cent with apartment values up by 5.9 per cent.

Melbourne was the only capital city to see prices go backwards in 2020, with values falling by 1.3 per cent during a year that saw declines for six straight months.

Nearby Geelong, however, reached a record high with a median house price of $606,403, as of December 2020.

Sydney property prices rose by 2.7 per cent, despite five consecutive months of decline, taking median house values to $1.015million.

A two-hour drive north, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie prices hit a new record high  of $610,876.

On the other side of Sydney, the Illawarra region covering the industrial city of Wollongong saw its median prices hit a record $681,291.

Southern Queensland was a standout performer, having 11 areas on the national list of 39 regions to see property values hit a record high.  

Even the satellite city of Ipswich did well with its median house price rising to an all-time peak of $363,213.

South of Sydney, the the Illawarra region covering the industrial city of Wollongong saw its median prices hit a record $681,291. Pictured are the Port Kembla steelworks

South of Sydney, the the Illawarra region covering the industrial city of Wollongong saw its median prices hit a record $681,291. Pictured are the Port Kembla steelworks

Brisbane’s fashionable west saw prices rise to a record $704,304.

The sub-tropical beach was unsurprisingly the place to be, as more professionals worked from home, with Gold Coast prices rising to a record $587,156 as Sunshine Coast prices hit a record $650,608.

On the other side of the border in NSW, median property prices in the Richmond-Tweed region covering Byron Bay and Ballina hit a record $623,563.

Tasmania was also a strong-performing state with Hobart property prices rising by 7.7 per cent in 2020 to $551,462, a record high.

Launceston in the state’s north also had record-high home prices, with values rising to $363,723. 

Southern Queensland was a standout performer, having 11 areas on the national list of 36 places to see property values hit a record high. Even the satellite city of Ipswich did well with its median house price rising to an all-time peak of $363,213

Southern Queensland was a standout performer, having 11 areas on the national list of 36 places to see property values hit a record high. Even the satellite city of Ipswich did well with its median house price rising to an all-time peak of $363,213

Looking at the CoreLogic data, CommSec chief economist Craig James pointed out property prices in 2020 hit a record high in 39 out of Australia’s 88 regions, covering capital city and country locations.

Despite the worst economic downturn since the 1930s Great Depression, home prices fell in only two regions of Australia. 

Still, CommSec chief economist Craig James said a premature dilution of wage subsidies and unemployment benefits could hurt property prices as the Covid pandemic continued. 

‘Risks to the housing market – prices, sales and building – include policy mistakes, the scaledown of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, new waves of virus infection and the length of time that foreign borders stay closed,’ he said.

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