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Big cities, is this goodbye?

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For a long time, we’ve been drawn to the big city lights. But the COVID-induced work from home life has sure made us re-look at where we can live – and tree changes and sea changes are on the rise. Over the past 18 months, many city folk have been heading for the hills far, far away from urban living.

Economists say there is still plenty of attraction to living in big cities, mainly being the amenities not available in smaller towns, but uncertainty over lockdowns and the current ability to work from home is meaning homeowners aren’t in a hurry to head back to the city. Why would they when half the year is spent at home in lockdown?

By the sea or in the trees, there’s plenty of opportunity to keep yourself busy – even during lockdown. Lifestyles are virtually unchanged when lockdown orders are in place. Of course, this is all new to us and will, in time change. It does remain to be seen whether the novelty of living and working in the country will wear off.

One thing we’ve seen is Melbourne and Sydney have been impacted by lockdowns more than anywhere else in the country. Office occupancy in both Melbourne and Sydney is still extremely low. Down the track when Melbourne and Sydney stop having these lockdowns, we would expect to see office occupancy increase. When that happens, there could be more pressure on workers to return to the office – so that could really kill the work from home, sea-tree-change dreams.


Will Sydney’s ghost town vibes have a lasting impact on city prices?

Many Sydney agents are keeping any eye on progress in the city but they’re yet to see any reinvigoration given the current lockdown.

Just before the latest Sydney lockdown, we were noticing people coming back to the city. The rental market was reasonably good and rents were increasing for the first time since COVID. From the sales point-of-view, the majority of people who were interested in buying were first-home buyers. Buyers living in the suburbs were coming to the city to purchase their first home.

Once we get over this lockdown, it’s likely things will build again. It was becoming busy, the streets were busy, the restaurants were getting busier, offices were opening – but that has all stopped for the moment and Sydney has returned to Ghost Town mode.

It’s hard to say what will happen next. It will all depend significantly on whether the lockdown is extended beyond August 28. If NSW can get on top of the outbreak and lift lockdown before spring, it’s likely we’ll see conditions improve significantly as the market makes up for lost time. More stock will come onto the market, sales will rise rapidly, and price rises will recommence.

Optimists see the current Sydney lockdown more likely to be a speed bump rather than a break-down for the housing market. While they expect activity to slow as sellers choose to wait until the market resumes full operation, the result of this may well be a bumper selling season once restrictions ease. 

The lockdown in Sydney has restricted much of the normal functioning of the property market since the 26th of June and looks to continue for the coming weeks. While properties are still able to be sold, open-houses and in-person auctions are out and one-on-one inspections and online auctions are in.


What does the future look like?

Current lockdowns may really get people thinking about moving out of the city, but we still expect strong capital growth in the city of Sydney in particular. It’s a city on the world-stage after all, no virus can change that.


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