Britons migrating to Australia happy with house prices

Thu, 2005-11-24 11:13 AM

Australia is crying out for immigrants to bring their skills. That's good news for Britons, who will be pleasantly surprised by house prices in cities such as Melbourne. Catherine Moye of the Telegraph reports.

Australians have won the hearts of thousands of Britons looking to begin a new life. According to research by the financial specialists Moneycorp, 38 percent of all those emigrating from the UK head to Australia, lured by a better climate, an outdoor lifestyle and attractive immigration packages for skilled workers. When the newcomers arrive, they can find property prices a pleasant surprise, especially in Melbourne.

At last month's Opportunities Australia Expo in London there were so many electricians queuing to ask about Aussie life that it might have been their annual convention. Now in its second year, the event is designed as a one-stop shop to help skilled British workers immigrate to Australia.

"You can process your visa here, open an Australian bank account, organise your move and even have a job interview," said organiser Helen Vincent. So acute is the skills shortage in the country that this year the Australian government has increased the number of places on its skilled migration programme by 20,000 to 87,000.

"Like most western countries, we have an ageing population and are looking to broaden our population base with skilled workers," explains Adrian Hawkes of the Australian High Commission, as a crowd of people under age 45 (the cut-off age for migration without a professional sponsor) shove completed visa applications in his direction. Most are applying to Perth, Sydney and Melbourne and, conscious of the competition, each state government laid on additional inducements to lure medical workers, mechanics and even pastry chefs.

Why Victoria?

The state government of Victoria will sponsor workers high up on its skills demand list for instant permanent residency visas - an eligibility that formerly took two years. Accountants, hairdressers, radiographers and everyone in building from bricklayers to plumbers are in such high demand, especially outside the state capital, Melbourne, that one wonders whether there will be any left in Britain.

Victoria has one of Australia's strongest economies. More than 17,000 migrants made Victoria their home last year, compared to 6,500 in 1999.

Why Melbourne?

With its elegant Victorian architecture, old world charm and less ferocious sunshine, Melbourne has long been the most seductive of Australian cities for the British. More cosmopolitan and kinder on the eye than Sydney, it is also the country's fastest expanding city with a population of about 3.6 million set to grow by at least a million by 2030. Next year the city will host the Commonwealth Games.

The good news from the outside investor's point of view, is that 23,870 new homes are expected to be built here over the next 12 years.

Australian housing market

The average house price in Melbourne is 363,000 Australian dollars (£153,000), compared to 500,000 dollars (£210,000) in Sydney and 310,000 dollars (£130,000) in Brisbane. Prices rose by 4.3 percent between March and June of this year but have since dropped 0.2 percent. Like the UK, Melbourne and Sydney have had a strong run over the last few years and the market is now exhausted and trying to catch its breath. In the most popular areas more than 30 percent sell at auction.

Where to buy

Toorak and South Yarra are the Chelsea and Kensington of Melbourne and have beautiful stand-alone houses with sweeping driveways. Prices tend to be in the millions of dollars. Pahran and Albert Park are frequented by young professionals and have lots of cafes. Expect to pay from 200,000 dollars (£85,000) for a one-bedroom apartment. The average sale price for a two-bedroom Victorian timber cottage on a tree-lined street close to the water is around 700,000 dollars (£300,000).

The west of Melbourne remains undervalued compared with the east but still has lots of attractive period housing. Expect to pay 450,000 dollars (£190,000) for a house that would cost you 600,000 dollars (£250,000) just a fifteen-minute drive away.

An hour further away, Geelong is Victoria's second city, but prices are 30 to 40 per cent cheaper. The Great South Coast includes the beautiful Great Ocean Road, as well as an increasing number of jobs. It's easy to see why a better life beckons.

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