Newcastle harbour in a regional market

Moving to a regional market: What to expect

What does a move to a regional market look like for you and your family?

You’ve taken the year to assess your priorities and you’re settled: you’re moving. But what does a move to a regional market look like for you and your family? What can you expect and how can you prepare?

Snapshot of life in Newcastle, NSW

Newcastle, NSW is just a short two-hour drive from Sydney. Due to its accessibility, we’ve seen our fair share of people relocating. Let’s use our favourite location (and home of Verve Partners) as an example of a regional market to point out some key differences with a metropolitan market, like Sydney.

Geographically dispersed

While Newcastle is the second most populated area in NSW, the region groups together several LGAs: Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland, and Port Stephens. The area is large and varied.

The Newcastle centre is comparable to Sydney CBD, however, it’s geographically smaller and less dense and you’ll find many businesses will have their HQs outside of this centre. This changes the atmosphere of work. Your commute will be shorter and you could be working in the suburbs. Because of this, you may dress more casually and work-life balance is usually a key talking point.

Newcastle is also just a stone’s throw from the Hunter Valley. The Hunter Region groups in the LGAs named above as well as smaller towns like Dungog, Gloucester, Kurri Kurri, Muswellbrook, Raymond Terrace, Scone, and Singleton. If you gain employment in one of these locations, the differences in your work life will be much more apparent.

Newcastle coastline in a regional market

Cost of living

A quick comparison between Newcastle and Sydney shows that the cost of living is cheaper in the regional market. In a snapshot:

  • Grocery prices are 6 per cent higher in Sydney.
  • Rent is 43 per cent higher in Sydney.
  • Eating out at a restaurant is higher in Newcastle.
  • Consumer prices are 7 per cent higher in Sydney.
  • Buying a house is cheaper in Newcastle, especially in areas closer to the city centre.


In a previous blog, we’ve spoken about the most compelling reasons to live and work in Newcastle, NSW. This includes:

  • Proximity to the beach (and not having to pay for parking to access it!).
  • Less traffic.
  • Less reliance on public transport to get to the office.
  • Community feel.
  • Proximity to the vineyards.

According to the ABS, the population in regional areas is expected to grow by 26 per cent by 2026. Most of those polled who are leaving Sydney say they are chasing jobs and a better quality of life.

Looking to the future

There’s been quite a significant investment in infrastructure in the region. This includes the expansion of the Newcastle Airport, a $35 million upgrade of the Newcastle Art Gallery, the New England Highway Bypass, and city centre revitalisation.

Regional market - Hunter valley

Making the move to a regional market

If the benefits of a regional move align with your priorities, it’s time to source an opportunity.

Metropolitan job market vs regional job market

In your job search, here are some things to expect:

  • Regional skills shortages will give you greater negotiating power

Certain skills may be in high demand in the regional market of your choosing. This means you’ll be granted greater contract negotiating power. You’ll be able to stipulate the benefits that mean the most to you.

In Newcastle, for example, skills shortages include Practiced Accountants and Payroll Officers, so they are in high demand in the region.

  • More networking opportunities, with more impact

Even if you have no contacts in the regional market, you can be networked amongst senior decision-makers much more quickly (and with more impact) in regional areas.

Unlike metropolitan markets where events and networking circles are separated based on geographical location, events in regional markets usually draw all key players inside the market. For example, a Newcastle-based event will attract people from companies in Singleton, Port Stephens, and the Central Coast. If you look at it this way, events in regional markets have a lot more reach.

Metropolitan salary vs regional salary

Typically, due to the lower cost of living in regional markets, regional salaries will be lower than those in metropolitan markets. This gap is usually 20 to 30 per cent. However, regional markets are taking steps forward to close this gap.

This is for two reasons:

  • Talent retention strategies – Employers are increasing wages to keep hold of their best employees, especially in the face of growing skills shortages.
  • Talent attraction strategies – Employers are competing against premium salaries as well as remote workers living regionally but employed by metropolitan markets.

There are some exceptions to this salary rule. Positions in the C-Suite of executive space, typically draw a salary closer to what will be offered in a metropolitan market. But we’ve also seen some of these senior stakeholders accept lower salaries for other trade-offs. This includes reduced hours at work, a healthy pipeline of work, job security, reduced hours commuting, and greater flexibility.

Moving regionally, but commuting

We’ve known several candidates that have taken advantage of the lower rent and housing prices, to move regionally but still commute to a city centre (like Sydney). This gives the person the benefits of a lower cost of living while enjoying a higher salary from a metropolitan market. The downside of this arrangement, of course, is the number of hours commuting you will spend each week which will eat into the time you have to enjoy your regional lifestyle.

This arrangement also has an unintended effect on regional employers. It means that for employers to secure the best available talent for the positions they are hiring for, they will need to offer salaries that compete with metropolitan markets.


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