Catalina Village community centre in Lake Macquarie, the village has seen a big uptick in interest from Sydneysiders looking for space and clean air.
Catalina Village community centre in Lake Macquarie, the village has seen a big uptick in interest from Sydneysiders looking for space and clean air.

COVID-19 triggers retirees to abandon cities

The coronavirus pandemic is prompting retirees wanting to move into a retirement village to abandon Sydney in favour of the clean air and wide-open spaces of regional NSW.

Many out of town retirement villages have seen a big spike in interest in the last month while city-based retirement villages have empty units for sale and prices are starting to drop.

Lighthouse beach seen from the lighthouse at Port Macquarie. This mid-north coast town is heavily sought-after by retirees.
Lighthouse beach seen from the lighthouse at Port Macquarie. This mid-north coast town is heavily sought-after by retirees.

 

The Federal government has urged people aged 70 and over not to leave their homes because of COVID-19 and fewer onsite property inspections are taking place. However in the online world, searching for retirement accommodation since the pandemic started is swinging away from Sydney to coastal towns such as Port Macquarie and Chain Valley Bay on the central coast.

According to the national online retirement property site, Downsizing, the top ten most searched suburbs for retirement villages since COVID-19 hit doesn't include one Sydney suburb, even though 68 per cent of retirement listings are in metropolitan areas.

One retirement village in Lake Macquarie, is reporting a 300 per cent rise in inquiry levels almost all from Sydneysiders.

 

One of the Catalina Village freestanding villas in Lake Macquarie. An average a three-bedroom villa costs $580,000.
One of the Catalina Village freestanding villas in Lake Macquarie. An average a three-bedroom villa costs $580,000.

 

Meanwhile there is a huge rise in the number of village places available in Sydney and some of the most popular metro sites are advertising units at reduced prices.

Mark Skelsey, of the national retirement property site Downsizing, said what he was seeing was the start of a trend towards people looking for retirement living communities outside of the Sydney metropolitan area.

In the month March 20 to April 20 last year the most searched suburb in NSW for retirement accommodation was Bayview. During the same period this year Bayview had fallen to 13th place and there are at least 18 retirement units for sale in Bayview at the moment.

According to Downsizing the suburbs that retirees are currently looking at are:

 

1. Port Macquarie

2. Chain Valley Bay

3. Newcastle

4. Kincumber

5. Windang

6. Tweed Heads South

7. Coffs Harbour

8. Fern Bay

9. Banora Point

10. Casino

 

"We have talked to some retirement living developers in regional parts of the State who are fielding strong inquiry levels, including from Sydneysiders. The early evidence is that some people, including from Sydney, are attracted to the less dense rural and regional living environment," Mr Skelsey said.

 

 

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Boyd McCallum, project director for a new retirement village in Lake Macquarie, said there was an enormous spike in inquiries from mid March, 90 per cent of it coming from Sydney.

"Our inquiry numbers online went off the scale, up 300 per cent, and we have 50 people wanting to inspect the village when they can," he said.

"A big decision like moving to a retirement village is often made after a trigger event, like a major heart attack and I think COVID-19 has been seen as a trigger event for many people," he said.

Mr McCallum added that family members comment they are wanting clean air, wide open spaces and good separation between people for their loved ones looking to move to retirement living.

Realestate.com.au reports that 68 pent cent of NSW retirement living listings are in metropolitan areas with just 32 per cent in regional suburbs.

 

REA chief economist Nerida Conisbee expects a broad shift to regional Australia in the wake of COVID-19.
REA chief economist Nerida Conisbee expects a broad shift to regional Australia in the wake of COVID-19.

 

Chief REA economist, Nerida Conisbee, said a broad shift to regional Australia is expected in the wake of COVID-19, including from retirees.

"People are looking for more space, they are nervous about being in such proximity to one another; people stuck in an apartment in a lockdown may start looking for bigger properties and you can get a big house in the regions for a lot less than the city and the way that people will work will probably change long-term," she said.

 

 

The highest level of inquiry for all regional residential real estate in March showed Wollongong, Port Macquarie and Orange were all in demand.

According to realestate.com.au the most in-demand project in NSW is Bougainvillea Bay Club Resort in Neutral Bay. The village with serviced and independent accommodation has 18 units for sale ranging in price from $279,000 to $670,000 including discounts.

Originally published as COVID-19: retirees abandon Sydney