In October 2019, Canberra real estate agent Rina Everett and her partner Jack packed up stumps and left the capital for Goulburn.
The couple realised they could rent a three-bedroom house in the regional NSW city for the same price as a one-bedroom unit in Canberra – an important factor given they were expecting their first child at the time.
Now, Rina works in administration and marketing for a Goulburn-based real estate agency while Jack commutes to work for Telstra in Canberra.
Their story is mirrored by hundreds of young and middle-aged couples, families and singles who are fleeing Canberra to find land and rentals for half the price in Goulburn.
The latest real estate data shows the average house price in Goulburn is $450,000 compared to $855,530 in Canberra, while the average rent per week in Goulburn is $380 compared to $600 in Canberra.
In fact, Canberra is currently the most expensive capital to rent a house in which may explain why more people left the city than moved there between September 2019-20, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Taylor Keat is another Canberran who discovered she could purchase a 970-square metre block, about 2.7 kilometres from Goulburn’s centre, for $430,000, while her mother purchased a 702-square metre block in the Canberra suburb of Calwell, about 20km from the centre, for the same price.
Goulburn real estate agent Carol James says as well as the cheaper prices, investment in the city’s new ambulance station, swimming pool, hospital, police station and performing arts centre is attracting Canberrans.
“We’re a growing city but with that country charm – it’s not as fast-paced as Sydney or Canberra, and people still smile and say hello on the main street,” she said.
Carol said Goulburn also offers heritage properties that are hard to find elsewhere.
“This is one of the oldest inland cities and we should be proud of that,” she said.
“I just sold a property on Cowper Street, one street back from the main street, to a couple from Canberra. It was a newly renovated federation house, with all the mod cons for $735,000. They couldn’t find anything like that in Canberra.”
Lindy Hooper and her husband were also impressed they could buy a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1930s Art Deco house when they moved to Goulburn 14 months ago for $450,000.
Around half of the Canberrans living in Goulburn that Region Media spoke to have found local work, however, those who still work in the capital don’t seem to mind the commute.
Sharon Cooper moved from Queanbeyan to Goulburn after her divorce in 2011. She is renting a three-bedroom house for $380 per week and commuting to work in the capital between Monday and Friday.
“The commute is great, easy on the highway, it takes me just over an hour to get to work,” she said.
And when it comes to the weekends, Sharon is happy to break free from the city’s hustle and bustle.
“I love it. I didn’t have any family or friends when I moved here but I’ve found making Goulburn friends easy – Goulburn people are much friendlier,” she said.
“My hobbies are camping and four-wheel-driving, so I tend to get out of town to find fun.”
Likewise, Claire Pearce and her family moved to Goulburn four years ago and said that spending less on their property has meant they can afford tennis, swimming, karate, basketball and guitar lessons for their children.
“We are not limited for our kids’ activities by budget – whatever they want to do, we do,” she said.
“We found the problem in Canberra was there was plenty for little people but nothing for teens. We moved here for the affordability of options. My sister in Canberra pays over $30 for a 15-minute swimming lesson while we pay $12 for an hour of swim squad.”
While Canberrans are reaping the benefits of country life, some Goulburn residents are worried this will inevitably inflate prices.
Domain’s latest House Price Report shows that while the average house price didn’t increase by much in the past year ($450,000 in December 2020, compared to $449,500 in December 2019), it has risen by 32.4 per cent in the past five years.
While this is bad news for those hoping to get a foot in the market, agent Carol James says it’s good news for those wanting to sell.
“Prices are rising because of the demand, there’s not a lot to buy. This means it’s a seller’s market, so now is the time to take advantage if you’re an owner,” she said.