Central Victoria and Gippsland were among the most popular places to buy property in regional Victoria in 2020, new data shows.
Mildura topped the list for the most popular place to buy in the first three quarters of the year with more sales than any other Victoria town.
Despite less overall sales to September 31, median house prices also rose across the most-desired locations as people looked further afield and headed bush.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria data revealed median property prices at Maldon, north-west of Melbourne, rose 8.1 per cent in the third quarter to $550,000 up from $512,000 in the June quarter.
In Gippsland, Maffra's median house price rose 6.4pc to $298,000 while in the north-east, the median house price at Wangaratta rose by 5.3pc to $345,000.
REIV president Leah Calnan said rural property prices "boomed" midway through the year as people realised the potential to work from home during the pandemic.
"Affordability was a key factor as well and it's like we've gone back 20 or 30 years were the quarter-acre block desire has returned but in regional Victoria," she said.
"Traditionally we would see a lot of activity on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas but we saw that activity increase in regions like Gippsland, Bendigo and Ballarat and even Mildura."
The data showed Mildura was the most popular place to buy property in 2020 with 462 sales and a median house price of $330,000, followed closely by Traralgon which had 447 sales to September 30 and a median price of $340,000.
Compared to 2019, Mildura's median house price rose $20,000 in 2020 while Traralgon's rose $25,000.
"We were continually hearing experts say there would be a 10 to 20pc price crash on the property market but the buyer activity just continued like there wasn't a pandemic," Ms Calnan said.
"On the ground activity is still very strong and data is confirming there is a surge of interest in buying in regional Victoria and that's also reflected in the shortage of rentals in many regional towns. People are trying before they buy."
The Bendigo suburbs of Strathfieldsaye and Strathdale were also among the top 10 Victoria towns to experience a strong rise in the median house prices, up 6.2pc to $557,500 and 5.4pc to $530,000, respectively.
Kenington also topped the list of rises to the median house price, up 4.4pc, while Castlemaine's median price rose 4.5pc to $559,0900 to finish the September quarter.
"Even with the factors of reduced hours, loss of employment and removal of international travellers and students, it provides reassurance that property in Victoria is really resilient," Ms Calnan said.
Affordable living in regional communities
Twenty-four-year-old Emily Grant will save $4800 in rent annually when she relocates to Ballarat from Melbourne in the new year.
Ms Grant, who works for a renewable energy company, made the decision to move regionally for a number of reasons: to be closer to her partner, the ability to work from home and affordable living.
"Ballarat is quite variable but I'm definitely saving money by moving up there," Ms Grant said.
"I wasn't planning on moving up until recently given COVID restrictions in Melbourne and the flexibility of working from home, I saw an opportunity to move to central Victoria."
By moving to Ballarat, Ms Grant will be paying a quarter less on her weekly rent.
"For me I wanted to try something different and I also really like the vibe of regional Victoria," she said.
"I'm also looking at going on day trips to places like the Grampians and exploring the local regions and hiking and being able to get outdoors a bit more."
Hard to find rentals in regional Victoria
According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, since the start of the pandemic, the vacancy rate for regional rental properties has hovered at about 1.4pc with the average weekly median rent falling to $360 in October.
In contrast, Melbourne has a vacancy rate of 4.3pc with a median rent of $485.
"It seems like a nice change from the city while being able to maintain the life I have in Melbourne," Ms Grant said.
REIV president Leah Calnan said important factors such as affordability, reliable public transport and better lifestyles were driving factors for city dwellers making the move to places like central Victoria and Gippsland.
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