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City dwellers with deep pockets look to Queensland’s Southern Downs for tree change

| Colin Lee
The article below is owned and published by ABC and News Explorer, where Property Advisor Colin Lee has provided expert opinion on the property market.

Nestled a few hours’ drive from the bustling lights of Brisbane, the Southern Downs is luring city dwellers with deep pockets looking for a lifestyle change.

Key points:

  • Well-off city dwellers are moving to the Southern Downs looking for a change in lifestyle
  • The close proximity to Brisbane and Gold Coast is attractive for buyers
  • Retirees and investors are also capitalising on the rural lifestyle and cheaper prices
  • Adrian Dundas and his wife, Nancy, left their life on the Gold Coast and moved inland, chasing the steady pace of regional living.

Now calling Warwick home, Mr Dundas said it was the perfect location.

“We’ve always looked for a place to possibly shift to and/or invest in and this is a bit of a gem out here,” he said.

“It’s the environment, the geographical position of it, how friendly the people are out here, and how generous they are. The cost of living is a lot better out here too.

The vacancy rate on the Southern Downs is 0.1 per cent — one of the lowest in Queensland.(Supplied: Adrian Dundas)

The Dundases have followed a well-trodden path it seems.

Migration to Queensland’s Southern Downs went up by 23 per cent in the March quarter compared to the December 2021 quarter, according to data from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

Across the RAI’s migration rankings, the Southern Downs ranks 63rd out of all local government areas in the country.

With the simplicity, rolling landscapes, and an increasing ability to work from home, it did not surprise Mr Dundas.

“We know a number of people who have done that [moved to the Southern Downs] simply because of the pace of life and how it’s so much more relaxed out here,” he said.

“It’s very close to all other areas around here — heading west, heading east to all the beaches, you’ve got Gold Coast and Brisbane and obviously Toowoomba to the north.

Properties such as Braeside Homestead have attracted buyers from urban areas.(Supplied: Elders Real Estate)

Rural luxury
Properties such as the 145-year-old, heritage-listed Braeside Homestead have attracted high-end buyers with deep pockets.

Fully restored, settled on just under 405 hectares, with nearly 5 hectares dedicated to gardens, it went under the hammer last month for millions.

After 20 years in the industry, Southern Downs real estate agent Andrew Williams said it was one of the most distinctive properties he had seen.

“We had very big interest from people that were just looking for that rural retreat, rural lifestyle property, right through to professional people who had history with livestock and had the capacity to purchase something like this and enjoy the lifestyle,” he said.

The previous owners of Braeside Homestead expanded the original homestead while keeping with the original theme.(Supplied: Elders Real Estate)

“The last two owners have spent some time and effort renovating the property and bringing it back to its state today.”

The trend in city buyers was something Mr Williams had seen over the years.

“We’re certainly seeing a lot of city-based people both professional and seeking the lifestyle who have the capacity and are selling from the more congested areas,” Mr Williams said.

“They want a bit of peace, a bit of privacy, and probably some safety.

Real estate agent Andrew Williams says more city dwellers are becoming interested in the Southern Downs.(ABC Southern Queensland: Anthea Moodie)

Another demographic that is heading to the Southern Downs in droves are retirees.

After experiencing health issues, Mandy Turner and her partner, Moses McNabb, from the Gold Coast bought land in Warwick.

Although they’ve never lived on acreage before, Ms Turner said buying some land to build on was the change they needed.

“Coming from the Gold Coast, which is very hectic and very busy and the traffic’s just mad, it’s all a learning curve … but it’s a journey that we’re looking forward to,” Ms Turner said.

“It’s just a lovely little town.”

Investors’ delight
It’s not only those looking for a home who are choosing the Southern Downs, but intra- and interstate investors, who have seen the value in choosing the region.

The region has the lowest vacancy rate in Queensland at just 0.1 per cent.

Brisbane-based buyer’s agent Colin Lee said the area was value for money.

Brisbane buyer’s agent Colin Lee says the Southern Downs is good value for money.(Supplied: Colin Lee)

“When you go out to the Southern Downs, you can get a property on about 1,000 square metres for less than $300,000, so it’s certainly a very attractive region for a lot of people from Brisbane and the Gold Coast just because you can get more land for the same amount of money,” he said.

“Because there’s such a low vacancy rate, you’re looking at rental returns sitting in around 7 to 8 per cent; the average in South Queensland is about 4 to 5 per cent.

For Mr Dundas, moving back to a more laid-back lifestyle was a no-brainer.

“Rural properties are in my blood,” he said.

“I was out of them for quite some time … but I had the opportunity to get back into rural life four years ago and haven’t looked back really.”

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