The rate of Melburnians moving to the south-west has plummeted, new data shows, as regional and interstate buyers help to buoy the property market.
Figures for the July quarter from the Regional Movers Index show the decline in migration was most pronounced in the Southern Grampians Shire where numbers halved in comparison to the same period in 2021.
The shire also saw a sharp 45 per cent dive since the last (March) quarter.
The next biggest decrease was observed in the Glenelg local government area which saw a 47 per cent decline on the previous year and an 18 per cent reduction since the last quarter.
Corangamite Shire followed with a nine per cent loss in comparison to the previous year. The shire also saw a dramatic 33 per cent decline since the last quarter.
Least-affected was Warrnambool, where the migration rate fell by just one per cent in the past year with the biggest decrease (five per cent) occurring in the last quarter.
Ray White Real Estate agent Harry Ponting said the revelations weren't surprising.
"It doesn't surprise me at all," he said.
"It's certainly a lot less than what it was 12 months ago, there's a lot more normality in the cities now.
"As the weather warms up too, Warrnambool becomes a bit more of a sea-change attraction so it does start to ramp up a little bit more.
"Some city people come during the winter and get scared off by the wind and the rain, so it'll be interesting to see what the figures are in the next quarter."
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He said the dips could be explained by record-high migration figures which emerged from COVID-19 lock downs.
"I doubt it'll jump back up to the figure it was but I'd be surprised if it fell any further," Mr Ponting said.
"We've certainly had people from Warrnambool selling and moving to other regional cities like Ballarat, so it goes both ways.
"I'd still say our buyers are 50 to 60 per cent local and the other half is split evenly between Melburnians and interstate or other regional buyers.
"It's probably because people have been stuck in their own towns for a long time and they just want a change, the city doesn't have the appeal it probably did previously so people just want to move around but keep a similar lifestyle."
Harris and Wood real estate agent Danny Harris said there remained a steady stream of city buyers.
"What we've seen is an increase in investors that are from interstate and different regions who are considering Warrnambool as an option and an area that will achieve a better yield," he said.
"They're seeing it as a safe region to purchase in.
"Any decline comes off record-breaking numbers of city-people moving to Warrnambool. In my 22 years in real estate, aside from that unprecedented event, as we speak I'm still fielding more inquiries from city-buyers bar the past 18 months than any other time in my career.
"It's a decline, but it's a decline from record highs."
Homeseeka Real Estate auctioneer and senior agent Tim Wells said he also noticed a decline in Melbourne and regional buyers across winter, compared to the highs of the past two years.
He said the decline "coincided with day-to-day life getting back to some normality" post-COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Mr Wells said the auction period would return to its traditional spring and summer seasonality rather than year-round as had been the case in Warrnambool.
"We're thinking it's (the decline) a combination of people going back home," he said.
"What we've had in the last 18 months to two years is a market that's been stimulated due to the effects of COVID-19, whereas now I think COVID-19 has seemed to settle down quite a bit."
Mr Wells said some of those who'd made a sea-change had already returned to their previous locations.
"We've had some people who have been here for a couple of years," he said.
"Due to the growth in the market they've made good money on their property and they've decided to go back to Melbourne or where they came from."
Mr Wells said the pandemic highs were due to there being more demand for homes than supply and an increase in city cash buyers who'd sold and were familiar with the process had lifted the auction rate and clearance rate.
He said a "fairly significant" amount of south-west families who'd reassessed their lives during the pandemic were also choosing to move to New South Wales and Queensland.
Mr Wells expects the "traditional migration" of buyers from outside the south-west to return to similar pre-pandemic levels from spring onwards.
"I feel the marketplace overall in Warrnambool is in good shape," he said. "There's just not five buyers for every property like there was not long back. The high clearance rates are evident of that. There's still people out there that want to buy and sell property."
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