WFH pushing population spread, experts say

·2-min read

COVID-19 has hastened the work-from-home transition for countless Australians but less obvious is the potential impact on suburban sprawl.

Experts are convinced at least some of the flexible pandemic arrangements could become permanent, meaning many employees will avoid returning to an office full time, or at all.

Workers are therefore concluding there's less need to live close the traditional workplace and more to gain by relocating to the city fringe where land is cheaper and more plentiful.

Pete Wargent, co-founder of property agency network BuyersBuyers, expects a continuation of current WFH trends well into 2022.

By then they could be "so entrenched that they may not reverse in full", he said of the WFH community.

"We are getting increased levels of inquiry from buyers seeking to buy in peri-urban locations, away from the major city centres but still within a reasonable travelling distance" Mr Wargent said.

"These trends were already in evidence a few years ago but the pandemic has accelerated them."

With Sydney in extended lockdown, there has already been an impact on consumer confidence, although it hasn't fed through to property market sentiment surveys.

With another negative quarter of GDP growth expected, much of the economic improvement seen early in 2021 is being reversed.

Amid a tight employment market for skilled workers demanding more flexible conditions, hybrid models of workplace attendance could endure beyond lockdowns.

RiskWise Property Research CEO Doron Peleg said the Australian population has spread itself further over the past year due to the increased ability and, in some cases necessity, to work from home.

He said his company's studies show "coastal markets have fared best of all since the pandemic began, though numerous inland tree-change markets have also fared very well indeed".

The top-performing markets over the past year were NSW's Byron Bay and Sunshine Beach at Noosa in Queensland.

Orange and Mittagong in regional NSW have also been tight while Buderim on the Sunshine Coast has been major growth area.

Mr Wargent said southeast Queensland has been a popular choice for buyers - from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast - with interstate migration at its highest since the 2000 Olympics and beginning of the mining boom.

"Many of our clients want to buy in regional areas at the moment, generally close to the capital cities, such as Cessnock in NSW or Southport in Queensland," he added.

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