30 October 2017 2 min read

A new waterfront home near Brisbane or a one-bedroom “house” on the 25th floor of an apartment building in Sydney?

It was a “no brainer” for the Palmer family, who relocated back to the Sunshine State last year. For half the price of a shack down south, the family-of-five will build their castle 35km north of Brisbane.

And they are not alone in making the move north. Recent data shows that interstate migration to Queensland more than doubled between June 2014 and June 2016, reaching 11,581. 

And sky high house prices were among the leading reasons why, with Sydney ranked as the second least affordable city in the world earlier this year. 

Brisbane came in at number 18, according to US-based consultancy Demographia. Housing affordability and financial planning expert Robert Snell, who lives in Sydney, said there was little doubt buyers got more bang for their buck in Brisbane.

But he said the biggest issue was the widening gap between median wages and house prices, with Sydney increasingly out of reach for the average Aussie.

“That’s why I think you will continue to see that migration north,” he said. “Quality of life due to housing in equality, in my opinion, is a real risk.”

But Sydney’s loss could be Brisbane’s gain, at least in the short term. Mr Snell sees Brisbane offering a huge opportunity for younger people to get a foothold in the market.

RPS Brisbane regional technical director for economics Mark Wallace said the median house price in Sydney was “effectively half” that of Brisbane, and interstate migration had reached its highest point since the 2002 to 2004 period, when Queensland recorded its largest ever influx from interstate. 

“We still have a long way to go to get back up there (2002-04 figures) but I would say we are very much at the start of the cycle,” he said. 

“Back then our response was reactive so we really need to ensure we are ready for another population increase and that we learn lessons from Sydney.” 

Position Property director Richard Lawrence said his agency was already seeing huge demand from interstate markets. “We are seeing a lot of people, particularly from Sydney, buying within 10km of Brisbane CBD,” he said. 

“They are moving for work but lifestyle and affordability are big factors, with many reclaiming up to 15 hours of their life by cutting commute times.” 

Mr Lawrence said the trend had “really ramped up” in the last 12 to 18 months, with interstate movers happy to relocate for a lower pay check as it was often offset by lower cost of living. 

Stockland’s Queensland residential communities general manager Kingsley Andrew said they were also receiving a steady increase in homebuyer inquiries from interstate. 

“This trend is becoming evident in all of our key corridors, including the Sunshine Coast, northern Moreton Bay region, western Brisbane corridor and on the northern Gold Coast,” he said. 

So what can $1.1 million – a rough estimate of the cost of a house and land package with waterfront views at Newport – get you within 40kms of Sydney? Not much. You could get a one bedroom, one bathroom “house” on the 25th floor of an inner-city apartment complex for $1.18 million.

Or you may be lucky enough to get a two bedroom cottage in Balmain for around $1.1 million at auction, or a Surry Hills terrace with “courtyard”.

Mr Wallace said it was “not a case of if but when” the great southern migration would return to Queensland. “When this growth does happen, the big question is how do we ensure we have enough housing and infrastructure, maintain affordability and avoid too many negative impacts on the existing community,” he said.

In its latest quarterly business outlook, Deloitte said “good news is building in Queensland”. “The big fall in project construction has now stopped, Sydney housing prices are sending refugees north of the Tweed, gas output is set to soar, and numbers of students and tourists flocking here haven’t (or haven’t yet) taken damage from the frisky Aussie dollar.”

When the Palmer family began the search for their new home, the decision was an easy one. A $2 million cramped, rundown pad in Sydney or a spacious new waterfront home on the Redcliffe Peninsula.

“It was a no brainer, really,” Adam Palmer, a chief information officer for a transport firm, said. Mr Palmer, his wife Peta, a senior accountant for a major insurer, and their three boys, Louis, 5, Benson, 3, and Wil, six months, moved back to Queensland last year, after spending six years in Sydney. swimming and collecting shells. “I already have my eye on a boat,” he laughed.

The family has bought a 450sq m block. They were able to move back in to their Scarborough home, but were keen to make their waterfront dream come true.

That search found them at Stockland’s $590 million Newport community.

“We wanted somewhere that was still close to family and friends but like somewhere you would happily go on holidays,” Mr Palmer said.

He said the boys enjoyed fishing, overlooking what will be a 23ha, non-tidal lake with access to an existing canal.

They are working with builders and designers on their new home and hope to start construction mid-2018.“Our dream home will be a two-storey, open plan house that looks out over a poo land the lake,” Mr Palmer said.

“There will be a floating 40sq m deck over the water and a 17m jetty connected to that with a 15m cruiser hopefully moored there.

“And there will be heaps of family and friends enjoying the entertaining spaces.

“That’s the dream.” It’s a long way from the cramped apartment the family-of-five shared in Sydney.

Stockland regional manager David Laner said they had seen strong early demand from potential buyers. “A total of 26 direct waterfront lots have already been snapped up at Newport, together with another 27 waterside lots in the Quay at Newport precinct,” he said. Construction of the first lakeside lots has commenced, with completion expected in the second half of 2018.