The Victorian town waiting behind the scenes as the next tree change destination


Is it too far from Melbourne to have been overwhelmed by tree changers?

Do they have enough cafes to serve the digital workers who can operate from anywhere but cost outside the lifestyle hubs of the Surf Coast or the Mornington Peninsula?

Is it the quality, or the prices, of the properties that have kept majestic Hamilton, the city of 10,000 people amid some of Australia’s most fertile farmland, so under the radar – until now?

It is a 300 kilometer drive through fascinating volcanic landscapes west of Melbourne to reach Hamilton. And rest assured, there is coffee. Hamilton-born real estate agent Sonia Gillingham says, “We are spoiled for choice – the coffee culture is huge. There is also a very strong art scene.

So, must it be the house prices that have driven the crowds away?

Be prepared to be surprised. For in a well-heeled town founded in 1839 by Presbyterian Scots – with wide streets, tall churches, boarding schools, primary and secondary campuses, and respectable Victorian-era county buildings – stunning homes can be purchased for less than half of Melbourne’s most desirable neighborhoods. purchased.

Think $ 385,000 for a maintained three-bedroom Edwardian home in 757 square meters!

44 Pope Street, Hamilton VIC 3300

How about $ 650,000 for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom stucco boutique house that wouldn’t look out of place in Camberwell?

17 Goldsmith Street, Hamilton VIC 3300

17 Goldsmith Street, Hamilton VIC 3300

At 30 Burns Street, the 1800s ‘Bluestone Beauty’ with four bedrooms and three bathrooms would be, as she claims, ‘really special’ in any setting. The asking price of $ 880,000 is worth adding to any hitlist.

30 Burns Street, Hamilton VIC 3300

30 Burns Street, Hamilton VIC 3300

There are, to be fair, a few renovator’s delicacies. Still, at $ 175,000 for one of the four bedrooms on decent land, it might be worth fixing. Or (subject to approval) the redevelopment of the site in units. The high local employment rate is only expected to improve in the future, according to Hugh Koch, head of economic development and tourism at Southern Grampians Shire, which means that an investment for rental could be a good bet.

The large Nucleus sculpture in Hamilton, also promoting a beautiful old town as an arts center.
The large Nucleus sculpture in Hamilton, also promoting a beautiful old town as an arts center. Photo: dark studios

So what’s the catch here?

Darren Groves, principal of Groves, one of Hamilton’s most active real estate agencies, is unexpectedly straightforward: “Hamilton has nothing to offer. “

What he means is that there is no large urban pumping industry and the passenger rail line closed decades ago.

As a pre-industrial agrarian town, Groves explains that Hamilton’s fortune rests on rural productivity in a region of reliable rainfall “and good season after good season.” On breathtakingly valuable farmland, “fat lambs, calves, and crops (flaxseeds) are all gangbusters.”

Indeed, in a county behind the Grampians, where squatter-scale properties change hands for millions and big lambs are worth $ 200 a head, “the city supports the farming community. It’s stable and secure, and things are moving more slowly here ”.

Although there has been a detectable trickle of Melbourne relocations over the past four years, and “when COVID prices suddenly started to rise”, a comparative lack of housing stock kept the real estate scene on the boil. slow.

“It didn’t really take off,” Groves says. Even though it has “immense educational and sports facilities and is the regional health center, it is like a small fishing village”.

Hamilton Sheepvention, 2013
Hamilton’s fortune is built on the surrounding farms. Photo: Dave Langley

Although there are small industries serving mainly rural areas, the council investing in the creation of a more complete industrial zone “by Christmas,” says Hugh Koch, the attraction for business investment and, therefore, more jobs could change drastically.

He says there has already been growth in the digital economy, and the imminent relocation of the Australian Wool Handlers from Portland to Hamilton will create more direct jobs in warehousing “but also, all logistics and transportation that resulting”.

Generic photos of Hamilton in western Victoria July 31, 2014 Photo by Jason South
Hamilton drew a net of Melbourne tree changers. Photo: Jason Sud

With an unemployment rate of just 3 percent, “there are jobs for everyone in a variety of industries; engineering, health, education, chefs, cleaners, digital… it’s in the whole range.

“Hamilton’s size depends on its economy, and transit is failing us. But we have all the facilities and a city designed for 20,000 people ”. It is twice the size it is today.

Being so in love with her ‘beautiful’ hometown where dogs sit on mud-spattered utes, and where ‘in the streets every few minutes you see someone you know’, Sonia Gillingham is ambivalent to About Hamilton coming on the radar. “You hope he remains a little unknown.”

Generic photos of Hamilton in western Victoria July 31, 2014 Photo by Jason South
It’s common to see someone you know on the street – and their dog. Photo: Jason Sud

But she knows it’s attractive in so many ways, and yes, with more land made available for housing, “it has the potential to take off. We are already receiving a lot more [property] demand of people who can now work remotely and who want to come to a charming place ”.

Darren Groves points out that the inherent stillness may require some adjustment for Melburnians on the move, and Sonia says the key to feeling at home is connecting with the many active community groups – 500 at last count.

“If,” adds Hugh Koch, “you don’t play sports or are in the arts and culture, you have to work harder to connect with the community”. But, once you turn the keys to the community, “you will come and never want to leave.”

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