Ballarat is in the thick of a second golden rush. This time, it’s for real estate, rather than shimmering nuggets. The population is about 106,000 and Ballarat is the fourth fastest-growing city in the country. Real estate agents say between 40 and 47 per cent of inquiries are from Melbourne-based prospective buyers.
New Ballarat resident Eloise Brown rented a home in Brunswick East for almost eight years due to the difficulty of affording a suitable Melbourne property.
Fast forward to 2018 and Brown, along with her husband and two young children, are among the growing cohort of first-home owners establishing themselves in Ballarat.
Three months since moving, Brown loves the city, including its many events (which can be accessed on foot without the hassle of public transport or being stuck in traffic), her husband’s job at the local high school, and the community atmosphere.
“It’s wonderful and we’re very excited to have landed on our feet … we have more space inside and out.” Brown says. “Everyone has been so open, welcoming and friendly.”
Brown’s Ballarat tree-change story is not uncommon.
“We are seeing all types of buyers visit our open homes, including young first-home buyers, who are … eligible for the regional Victoria first home owner grant,” says Buxton Ballarat director Peter Burley. Ballarat city council is one of the municipalities where first-home owners are eligible to receive $20,000 when building or buying a home valued at up to $750,000.
“I see Ballarat today where Geelong was four years ago,” he says. “What appeals … are the comparably low prices, high rental yields and similar proximity to Melbourne’s CBD as what Geelong offers.”
With a median house price of $433,000 according to Domain Group data, Ballarat property is about half the price of Melbourne’s. However, this is quickly increasing. For example, in late 2017, Ballarat’s median house price was just $325,000.
While there is the occasional grumble from longstanding residents about the boom. Overall, locals are appreciative of the thriving culture and increasing amenity.
Hocking Stuart Ballarat director Tim Valpied says Melbourne buyers are drawn to Ballarat’s period homes as well as the new housing estates in Alfredton and those around the Delacombe and Lucas town centres.
“Young families are coming for the education because there’s a good mix of schools and Melbourne private school fees are now often unreachable,” he says. Ballarat Clarendon College is a particular drawcard following last year’s VCE results, which saw a quarter of students score an ATAR above 95.
Another factor that’s driving the boom is the city’s train line that connects Melbourne workers to the western suburbs and CBD.