Where you can still tree-change for less than $300,000

From our Partners at Domain

Between COVID lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the NSW outback town of Broken Hill was flooded with people looking for an escape from the big cities. And even with the pandemic ebbing, there’s been no sign of any easing in numbers since.

Many Australians are still looking for a tree change for less than $300,000 and, despite the past two years’ big property price rises across the country, there’s still plenty of choice away from the urban centres.

“We’re getting so many people from Sydney and Melbourne looking for a different lifestyle,” said Tara Nadge, of LJ Hooker Broken Hill, where homes are in the top three cheapest in the country, with a median price of $170,000 – despite 19.7 per cent price growth over the past year.

“They just find it a nice place to stay where everyone’s so friendly and welcoming, and people find they fit in easily. We have a big arts community here and lots of festivals, like the Mundi Mundi Bash and the Broken Heel Festival on the anniversary of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and we have lots of jobs going.”

According to the latest Domain House Price Report, there’s plenty of choice in affordable tree-change spots for a fraction of the price of homes in the capital cities.

Another popular location in NSW has proved to be Warrumbungle in the central west, between Tamworth and Dubbo, where homes are priced around $256,500, and that’s after the stunning price lift of 31.5 per cent since June 2021.

“We had a lot of inquiry during COVID and we’re still getting a fair bit now,” said Jane McWhirter of Davidson Cameron & Co.

“We’ve got beautiful scenery here and our national park was the first Dark Sky Park in the southern hemisphere.

“We’ve also got good schools and doctors and a hospital and if you want the big shops, you go to Dubbo, and the big city Newcastle is only four hours away.”

In Victoria, one of the top tree-change picks is Gannawarra, along the Murray River just 40 minutes from Echuca. There, the median price of a house is $282,500, after a 15.5 per cent rise over the past year.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen a substantial growth in our population,” said Tanya Harvey of Nutrien Harcourt. “It’s on the river itself, which is a big attraction, and it’s close to Echuca and Swan Hill with really good shopping.

“We also have a good education system. In the cities, kids might be in a class of 40 students; here there’s only 10 to 15 per classroom so they get more opportunity to spend time with teachers. A lot of tree-changers love the nice houses and big backyards here.”

Another Victorian favourite is Hindmarsh, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, a mostly agricultural wheatbelt area with a rich pioneering heritage. Houses there are a steal at $187,500, having risen 10.3 per cent since mid-2021.

That history, since settled by squatters from the mid-1800s, also means some interesting properties come up for sale from time to time, like the 1893 Ni Ni Well School, on 1.5 hectares of land just north of the township of Nhill, currently seeing offers around $119,900.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about it from all over Australia,” said Joanne Perkins of Westech Real Estate. “A lot of tree-changers go to Dimboola, which has the river and a Daylesford vibe about it.”

Queensland is always much loved by those seeking a change of lifestyle and climate. Inland from the Sunshine Coast is the lush grasslands of South Burnett where houses cost just under $300,000, with a median of $299,500, having gone up 19.8 per cent over the past 12 months.

“We have so much on offer here,” said Leanne Tinney of LJ Hooker Esk. “We have the longest rail trail in Australia, which people love, and lots of wide open spaces and great schooling, which is good for families. We’ve had a lot of sales in the last 12 months to people wanting to get away from it all.”

Further north, a 90-minute drive west of Townsville, lies another hotspot, the classic Queensland town of Charters Towers, once the state’s second largest.

With picturesque colonial architecture, a thriving community, a strong cultural tradition and a median price of $235,000, a lot more people are now discovering its charms, especially with the latest season of the TV show Survivor being filmed nearby, showcasing the scenery.

Julia Fraser of Harcourts Kingsberry Towers says so many people have been moving in since 2020. “We’ve had people from all over Victoria, Canberra, South Australia and Sydney coming here for a tree change,” she said. “Now they can work from home, it’s so much easier, and we have everything here they’d need.

“They can buy traditional cottages, Queenslanders, 100-year-old houses, and even modern units in new complexes.”

While prices in Tasmania have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, there are still places with property under $300,000. On the west coast, with its World Heritage-listed wilderness, rivers, rainforests, lakes and wild coasts, the median price of a house is just $170,000, despite a 15.3 per cent rise in 12 months.

“We have people selling their properties on the mainland for many hundreds of thousands of dollars and then buying the same house here – or better – for a lot less, and having all that money left over,” said Rodney Triffett of Harcourts West Coast.

“They’re looking for peace and quiet and we have so much of that here, as well as a lot to do.”

In South Australia, the top pick is Port Augusta on the Spencer Gulf, with its fishing, sailing, canoeing, dolphins, galleries and parks, with a median of $200,000, and in Western Australia, it’s Coolgardie, 550km east of Perth and the birthplace of the great gold rush of 1892.

There, the median is the second lowest in the country – behind Murweh in outback Queensland – at just $130,750.

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