There has been plenty written about the strength of Australia’s regional property markets over the past two years in particular. However, some major regional centres were making property waves long before that because of their growing populations and significant new or upgraded infrastructure. A case in point in Ballarat, which is only just over one hour’s train journey on the new and improved line north of Melbourne.
Ballarat has been classed as one of our nation’s strongest regional cities from a property investment point of view for some time because of its diverse economy, low unemployment, population growth, as well as it being seen as a commuter city for Melbourne.
The city’s former mining industry reliance has long ago been supplanted by other economic drivers such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, as well as an emerging hub for information technology.
Plus, it’s a region with a number of major wind farm projects.
Of course, Ballarat is also the centre of the historic goldfields’ region, attracting tourists throughout the year.
Compared to property prices an hour away in the Victorian capital, Ballarat suburbs have median house prices from $450,000 for a basic three-bedroom house.
This means that the city is appealing as an affordable lifestyle alternative for homebuyers and investors with its property market becoming increasingly busy over recent months in particular.
Infrastructure Aplenty for Ballarat
Ballarat has more infrastructure projects on the go that you can point a stick at, which I will outline briefly below.
Melbourne fast train
The fast Melbourne train service now cuts the journey to and from Ballarat to about 60 minutes, which is faster than driving! Plus, the completion of the Regional Rail Link in 2015 brought further transport improvements.
Following this, the Federal Government allocated a further $503 million for upgrades to the Ballarat line. These upgrades, which included line duplication, new passing loops and an upgraded Wendouree Station, are now complete, enabling an extra 135 services on the Ballarat line. In the future, trains will run every 20 minutes during the peak times and every 40 minutes between the peaks.
This is one of the main reasons why many so homebuyers are now considering Ballarat as a viable alternative to Melbourne.
The improvements also pave the way for the eventual electrification of the line to Melton, which could be completed by 2026, and there is a push by local businesses to resurrect a $130 million project to open a dual-gauge freight corridor through Ballarat
Ballarat is seen as an emerging “knowledge city” – a regional hub for data processing services as well as research and development. Federation University Australia, formerly the University of Ballarat, and the Greenhill Enterprise Centre are both associated with the development of Info Tech.
According to council, the region is home to some 9,000 businesses and has had an economic growth of 45 per cent over the past decade.
The Ballarat West Employment Zone is a staged development of 438 hectares near the local airport. The zone is an industrial estate for a range of manufacturing, agribusiness, construction, freight and logistics and research uses. It includes large lots, a freight hub, access for high-productivity freight vehicles and infrastructure.
Education and healthcare sectors
Federation University has three campuses in Ballarat with some 1,500 staff and 25,000 students. The Ballarat Technology Park also employs 1,500 people and contributes $100 million to the regional economy each year.
Ballarat also has a TAFE Institute and numerous schools. Indeed, it’s well on its way to becoming a “university town”. Federation University also recently opened a tech school and an $11 million renewable energy training facility. Construction is also under way on a proposed IBM Emerging Technologies Hub in the CBD.
Ballarat is western Victoria’s largest provider of healthcare, delivering services to 250,000 people. Health industry numbers are also expected to rise to 10,300 employees by 2031, as retirees from nearby regional Victoria move into Ballarat’s suburbs for aged health care.
2026 Commonwealth Games
Ballarat will also benefit from the 2026 Commonwealth Games, with Regional Victoria hosting the games in March of that year.
In a Commonwealth Games first, Victoria 2026 will also introduce a new multi-city model, bringing global sport to four regional hubs – Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, and Gippsland.
Each hub will have its own athletes village, and together they will deliver a 16-sport program in world-class regional sporting venues.
Hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games will create a legacy for Regional Victoria that extends well beyond the competition period. This will include significant investment in community infrastructure in regional Victoria, including housing and world-class sporting facilities. Ballarat itself will host athletics, para-athletics, and boxing, as well as T20 cricket.
Ballarat Population Growth
Ballarat’s population was expected to grow by 40,700 people, to 144,000, in the 25 years after 2021. However, this forecast may be too low given the lifestyle changes that have been underway during the pandemic.
While many other regional areas have only started to experience strong property markets over recent years, this is not the case for Ballarat, where most suburbs have posted annual price growth of about seven to eight per cent over the past decade.
Land prices in the region, in particular, have experienced exceptional growth, with a 36 per cent increase recorded in 2021 and land prices nearly doubling in the past five years. Compare this to Melbourne, where land prices rose 45 per cent over the same five-year period, and you can see Ballarat’s property investment potential in action.
The region’s rental market is also extraordinarily strong with an average vacancy rate of just 0.9 per cent, according to SQM Research, along with asking rents having increased by 10 per cent over the past year alone.
All of these factors are the reasons why I am so bullish about Ballarat.
If you’re looking for an affordable property investment, with strong current and future capital growth and yield potential, this booming locale should be on your short-list of hotspots to investigate.