Capital cities have lost the highest number of residents to internal migration on record, but Wagga real estate insiders say the city exodus is more a case of coming home for buyers entering Wagga's historically high market.
Bianca Vitale is a homeowner in Tatton who ditched her Sydney life for the opportunity of homeownership in the regions.
Like so many, the COVID-19 pandemic saw her able to transfer her work to almost exclusively online, giving her the opportunity to keep her Sydney-based HR management role while setting up a new life in Wagga.
But while Wagga may offer many things to the first home buyers, for Ms Vitale it was the fact her grandfather lives in Coolamon, a 50 minute drive from Wagga.
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"I definitely wouldn't have considered buying in Wagga if I hadn't visited it previously to visit my grandparents who lived here," she said.
Ms Vitale knew she wanted to buy on the regional market, but said it was the family ties that sealed the deal.
"It definitely played into my decision making when I was looking at regional markets," she said. "Moving somewhere where I already have family was a big factor and influenced my decision quite heavily."
Ms Vitale is not unusual in her rural migration - the Australian Bureau of Statistics has recorded historic city departures in the three months to the end of March 2021. Sydney lost a total of 28,439 people, 12,980 who moved intrastate and 15,452 who moved interstate while Melbourne lost marginally more with 28,540 ditching the metro hub in the quarter.
One Agency's Holly Newbigging, said that in her experience, however, Sydney and Melbourne movement hasn't been significantly impacting the Wagga market, with her metro buyers either movers with ties to the city like Ms Vitale, or investors.
"Most Sydney people who I've had dealings with are originally from Wagga and are moving home, or they have family here and have been in Sydney for several years," she said.
"I've had a lot more dealings with Sydney buyers [recently] but that's about it."
Paul Gooden, who is the director of Fitzpatricks Real Estate agreed that overall, city buyers were investors more than movers, and that the market benefited more from the prospect of their competition than from actual transactions.
"There's actually not many city buyers but the ones that are there are pushing competition," he said. "They are adding extra froth to the market, seeding the market in the sense that that extra one or two bidders or buyers have created competition that wasn't there before."
"City buyers who are cashed up and they are livening the market."
He said those who are choosing to make the move are mainly being pushed by the lockdown restrictions in high-density areas.
"From Melbourne there are noticeably as many buyers as are coming from Sydney," he said. "That was on the back of the strict lockdowns in that state and we think that had an effect on people, it stimulated people to make a move I believe."
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