Sydneysiders are cashing out of their million-dollar homes in favor of cheaper houses in the tropical north, says Macquarie Bank Ltd.
The emerging exodus is part of Australia’s latest wave of interstate migration to Queensland, where house prices are half Sydney’s and job creation is on the rise. When similar factors were at play in the mid-1980s and mid-2000s, an average 134,000 people made the trek north over a three-year period. They were mainly from New South Wales, Macquarie said.
“People have been leaving New South Wales at a faster pace over the past couple of years and movement into the traditional destination of Queensland is picking up,” Macquarie's wealth management unit said in a note. “When the cycle turns, the acceleration occurs rapidly based on the experience of past cycles.”
The shift will likely leave Australia’s overall economy in better shape: selling high down south and buying low up north will help curb mortgage-driven debt – currently at a record 194 percent of income and a key deterrent for central bank rate hikes. Such deleveraging will potentially boost consumption that accounts for more than half of gross domestic product.
Queensland is known for its golden beaches and tourist hotspot Surfers Paradise just over the border from New South Wales. Macquarie estimates the migration shift could inject A$8.1 billion ($6.4 billion) into the Brisbane and southeast Queensland housing markets, equivalent to 25 percent of current turnover.
In contrast, little would be lost in Sydney, as A$8.1 billion represents about 10 percent of its annual turnover and isn’t enough to affect the market, according to Macquarie. The city’s median house price has sailed past A$1 million.
Queensland is "so much better value for money and a much better lifestyle" according to Kim Brown, who moved with her family from suburban Sydney to a town 100km (62 miles) north of Brisbane in 2015. Their new property was A$100,000 cheaper but is almost double the size of the one they sold in Sydney. They lived off some of that money until her husband found work, and also paid off debt, bought a jetski and went on holidays.
Critically, an exodus to the so-called Sunshine State could strengthen the national property market by spreading housing equity around the country, Macquarie said. Queensland consumer spending could also see a significant boost as heavily indebted Sydney households turn into cash cows.
The Australian economy has almost completed a transition out of the biggest mining bonanza in 150 years, which was concentrated in Western Australia and Queensland and fueled internal population flows. At the peak of the boom, Western Australia drew 3,000 people per quarter; the same number is now leaving there for other states, Macquarie says.
While the downturn was less severe in Queensland due to a more diverse economy, its internal migration intake was flat by 2013, the lender said. That’s since been recovering, according to Macquarie.
— With assistance by Kimberley Painter, and Matthew Burgess