News & Property Markets

Escape Sydney: The Regional NSW Spots With Better Value Than Their Famous Neighbours

From Byron Bay to Bowral, certain hubs outside Sydney are synonymous with holidays and sea changes.

But with the median house price in some of these areas exceeding $1.3 million, savvy buyers may find it pays to look slightly further afield.

While these bridesmaid towns and villages may not have the same cultural cachet as their more famous neighbours, they make up for it in stunning scenery and cheaper property prices.

Lennox Head

With its sandy shoreline and fine surfing break, the beauty of Lennox Head is hardly a secret. But the village has not seen the same exposure as Byron Bay about 21 kilometres to its north, where the median house price is more than $500,000 higher.

“Byron has always been a lot more expensive,” said Michael King from Elders Real Estate Lennox Head.

With the median for houses sitting at $845,000, prices in Lennox Head vary widely. A property on Ballina Street sold for $3.8 million in August last year, but buyers can also find some homes in the low $300,000s range.

Mr King said the village had retained a relaxed feel. “People are always likening it to [what] Sydney’s northern beaches would have been like 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s still very laid back, which is what everyone loves about it.

“Byron has some very high prices [and] it’s a bit of a party town … The beauty of Lennox is that it’s only 15 minutes’ drive away [and] there’s a real sense of community,” he added.

Moss Vale

Moss Vale scenery in the cooler months. Photo: Campbell Jones Property Bowral

Day-trippers heading to the Southern Highlands will likely have Bowral on their hit list. Packed with cafes, antique stores, fashion boutiques and wineries, the town’s desirability is reflected in its $910,000 median house price.

Buyers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by driving about 10 kilometres further south to reach Moss Vale, which has a $685,000 median house price.

Moss Vale has seen significant price growth over the past five years. Values increased by more than 70 per cent, outpacing the 55.8 per cent growth seen in Bowral over that period.

Property values also declined at a lesser rate over the past year, dropping by 0.4 per cent compared to Bowral’s 4.2 per cent.

Steven Berlyn and Rosanna Webb of Highlands Property said Moss Vale was keeping up with the growth in demand, with new subdivisions and an increase in medium and low density options on offer. The town also has original cottages and small acreages.

The shopping hub had also transformed in recent years, with a flourishing homewares and arts scene and a new Aldi, Mr Berlyn and Ms Webb said. Highlights include the Southern Highlands Brewery and Birch Restaurant.

They pointed to family homes priced between $500,000 and $900,000 as most popular. The town’s affordability particularly appeals to young families, as well as first-home buyers.


Woonona Rock Pool with Woonona Beach in the background. Photo: Dignam Real Estate

From trendy surf shops to quirky bars, Thirroul is the hub of Wollongong’s northern suburbs. Located within reasonable commuting distance of Sydney CBD, the suburb has been well and truly discovered by those looking for a sea change or a weekend escape.

Its house price median sits at $1.1 million, having risen by 61.8 per cent over a five-year period but dropping by 1.2 per cent over the year to March 2019.

Travel four kilometres south, however, and buyers can pay closer to $830,000 for a house in Woonona.

The suburb may not have the same glamorous reputation, but it boasts a picturesque coastline and a budding foodie scene. Top attractions include At all and sundry cafe, as well as Samaras Restaurant, which serves up delectable Lebanese cuisine.

“Sydney buyers’ acceptance of Woonona really started to take place in the past five years,” said Troy McNeice of Molenaar & McNeice. Many had wanted to purchase property in Thirroul, and then started to explore Bulli and Woonona as affordable alternatives, he said.

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“Woonona is about five years behind Thirroul,” he added. “You’re seeing the gentrification and getting beautiful knock-down rebuilds. The streetscape is also changing dramatically, with organic coffee shops and restaurants popping up.”

Mr McNeice said about 60 per cent of his buyers were from outside the area, most of whom were from Sydney. In Woonona, average family homes will generally sell from $750,000 to $1.1 million, with first-home buyers swooping on medium-density townhouses and villas.

Buyers may need to be proactive to take advantage of that affordability. “The price gap for a standard house between Woonona and Thirroul has closed a lot in the past few years,” Mr NcNeice said.

Umina Beach

A coastal stretch in the Umina Beach area. Photo: The Agency Central Coast

Photogenic Avoca Beach is one of the most popular pockets on the Central Coast but, with a median house price of $1.005 million, buying property in the area can cost a hefty sum.

About 16 kilometres south-west in Umina Beach, the median house price sits at a more palatable $690,000. This is better value than in March 2018, when the median was $720,251.

According to Cathy Baker of Belle Property Killcare, Umina Beach was historically a cheaper part of the Central Coast and had high unemployment. The past five years have brought about dramatic change.

“People and particularly families originally looking to buy in the northern beaches are now looking at Umina Beach instead, for its affordability and because they can still commute to the city,” she said. “Prices went up quicker than a lot of other areas on the coast.”

Having experienced the peak of its boom in 2017, Ms Baker said the market was now seeing high stock levels and fewer active buyers.

While homes near the water usually exchange for more than $1 million, Ms Baker said the beachfront market was still undervalued, and that investors could find good buys in backstreets for $600,000 to $700,000. “In Avoca Beach, you won’t buy much under $1 million any more,” she said.

Local foodie destinations include Sounds on West, The BOX on the Water, and Young Barons in nearby Woy Woy. Ms Baker said the arrival of The Boathouse Hotel in Patonga had also caused a flow-on effect. “Umina is now appearing in a different way to people,” she said.


A tree-lined street in Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains. Photo: Ray White Blackheath

The Blue Mountains may offer good value compared to prices in the heart of Sydney, but knowing which towns to focus on can save buyers a significant sum.

Leura has the highest house price median in the area, at $800,000, but property hunters could save close to $210,000 by heading about 14 kilometres north-west to Blackheath.

Despite being similar in population size, Leura has a much greater number of high-end properties, according to Belle Property Leura agent Matt Grima.

Although properties in Blackheath can exchange for more than $2 million, these are few and far between. Mr Grima said premium properties more commonly exchange for around $1.5 million.

He said the town was starting to become more popular with buyers hoping to live in Leura, but seeing good value for money in Blackheath.

He said buyers drawn to Leura’s village atmosphere will find a similar vibe in Blackheath, as well as natural attractions that lure bushwalkers, rock climbers and sightseers.

Turn-of-the-century weatherboard homes were particularly coveted, with buyers typically paying between $550,000 and $758,000, Mr Grima said.

“The shops and cafes are just getting better,” he added. “I remember working in Blackheath 18 years ago and on Sunday it was absolutely dead quiet. Now there’s a choice of nice eateries.” He pointed to Anonymous and The General Store as favourites.


Trever Molenaar
Trever has worked in the industry selling property for over two decades. This lifelong profession has enabled him to master the art of negotiation. Trever’s own personal values relate through to his professional life 
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