Median house prices in 111 Australian locations have trebled (or more) over the past 20 years, according to new research from market research firm Propertyology.

Analysis was conducted over the 20 years to the end of 2018 on more than 180 Australian towns and cities, all with a population of at least 10,000 people. The research shows that regional markets have been competitive with capital cities on long-term capital growth.

“Whether someone purchased real estate in any of our eight capital cities 20 years ago or in a majority of Australia’s non-capital locations, today it’s worth at least three times what you paid for it,” Propertyology head of research Simon Pressley says.

“An average annual capital growth rate of circa 6% across 20 years sounds damn good to me, especially at a time when Australia’s two largest cities have dropped 10 per cent in value in the past 12 months.”

Pressley says the median house price in Sydney two decades ago was the most expensive in the country at about $220,000 – however, anyone who bought in a major regional location back then would have paid a fraction of that price and achieved a similar growth rate over the same period.

He says that, contrary to generalisations that ‘regional’ means ‘high risk’, local economies of numerous regional towns and cities are more diverse than several capital cities.

“There’s risks and opportunities within every location,” he says. “For capital cities and non-capitals, the years when a location’s property market performs best are when local economic conditions and buyer confidence are strong.

“Generally speaking, locations with a more affordable median house price have more upside potential for capital growth. For that potential to be realised, the real skill is being able to identify the locations with positive leading economic indicators.”

Pressley says it’s worth considering why 8.4 million Aussies prefer not to live in a capital city – and why median house prices of 103 regional cities and towns trebled over the past 20 years.

Pressley says regional Australia’s population has increased by an average of 1% per year over the past 17 years (when ABS records began) – that’s a higher average annual population growth rate than Adelaide and not too far behind Sydney’s 1.4% annual average over the same period.

“Personally, I love investing in these locations. Instead of sinking large amounts of capital in to one expensive asset or loading up with multiple properties in the same city, I prefer to minimise my risk, while taking advantage of more opportunities.

“It’s smarter to break the investment capital into smaller pieces and invest in multiple affordable properties in a diverse range of locations.”

In addition to the historical evidence confirming that there’s capital growth potential inside and outside of capital cities, Pressley says the higher rental yields from more affordable properties provide better cash flows, which means that big is not better.