Moving to Australia? Part 1: Compare the Cost of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne

If you’re moving to Australia – or even just moving states – knowing how much it’ll cost you to live in one of the three biggest cities in the country is important. We’ve collated the data so that you can understand how much it will cost to buy and live in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

The Price of New Apartments

The price of new apartments varies vastly across Australia.

In the greater Brisbane area, you can get apartments as cheap as $4,000/sqm, whilst the upper end of the greater Sydney area will see you forking out over $26,000/sqm!

Brisbane is the cheapest of the 3 major capital cities to buy with an average cost of just over $7,000/sqm. Brisbane apartments sit leagues below the average prices for Sydney and Melbourne. The average cost per square meter in Melbourne is slightly less than $10,000 with Sydney another big step up at an average of $15,000/sqm. Melbourne, even at it’s most expensive, rarely gets to that cost, and Brisbane doesn’t even pretend to get that high.

For people entering the market, you’ve got some choices (or not) due to this data. If you’re moving to Australia because you love the country, then you can use the above averages to figure out which city is in the right price bracket for you. However, if you’re moving due to work-related reasons, then you probably don’t have as many options. If you have to move to Sydney, we recommend moving into an apartment as the house prices are a little on the high side.

New Apartment Price Range and Indicative Rate (from the Knight Frank ARDR 2018 Report)

The Price of Residential Land Lots

Across the major metropolitan areas of Australia 55,270 new residential land lots were released in 2017. Overall, the median land lot size was 422 sqm in 2017; 16% smaller than in 2014. As expected, the greater Sydney area has the highest median lot price at $476,000. This is almost double the media lot prices in Melbourne and Brisbane, which were $281,000 and $264,000 respectively. So again Brisbane is the cheapest, but not by a huge margin over Melbourne, and Sydney, of course, is in a totally different ballpark.

Residential Land Lots (from the Knight Frank ARDR 2018 Report)

Cost of Living (excluding rent)

Of course, purchasing an apartment is just half the story. We believe you also need to look at your expected average wage you can expect in each city, and your average cost of living, which in terms lets us understand the relative affordability of each city. In this instance, affordability is really the ability to service the loan on the property you purchase.

In terms of the raw cost of living there isn’t too much of a difference between the three cities.

If you choose Sydney, the average living costs (without rent) for a single person is $1,287.77. If you have, say, a four-person family, then your average living costs are $4,640.95 every month (excluding rent).

Living in Melbourne is less expensive than living in Sydney, though not by a great deal. A single person’s monthly costs would sit around $1,237.12 (without rent). For a four-person family, it’s only slightly less expensive than Sydney at $4,402.74 without rent. So about $50/wk less expensive for a single person.

Cost of living in Brisbane is lower again and is the cheapest option of the three. At $1,183.99 for a single person, and $4,194.61 for a four-person family, it isn’t much cheaper than the other two options, still another (coincidentally!) $50/wk cheaper than Melbourne, and $100/wk cheaper than Sydney.

What this tells us is that living in Sydney or Melbourne is not significantly more expensive than living in Brisbane. The cost of renting, however, makes this a different story.

How much does it cost to rent?

As the tables below show, renting in Sydney is a completely different ballpark to renting in Melbourne and Brisbane. This may impact some people’s decisions on where they decide to live, as the cost of rent is added on to the costs we listed above for living in these cities. If you’re thinking of buying an investment property in one of these cities, it’s definitely worth looking at what you can expect if you’ll be renting it out.


Rent Per MonthAverageRange
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre2,667.94 A$2,000.00-3,400.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1,921.81 A$1,250.00-2,400.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre4,592.42 A$3,500.00-6,000.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre3,091.37 A$2,173.91-4,000.00


Rent Per MonthAverage Range
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre1,743.35 A$1,300.00-2,000.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1,314.14 A$1,000.00-1,739.13
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre3,167.66 A$2,173.91-4,200.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre2,057.89 A$1,500.60-2,911.00


Rent Per MonthAverageRange
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre1,688.63 A$1,304.35-2,160.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1,278.79 A$1,000.00-1,600.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre2,962.75 A$2,391.30-4,000.00
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre1,947.67 A$1,500.00-2,391.30

Without doubt buying and living in Sydney is far more expensive than buying and living in either Melbourne or Brisbane. This is equally so whether you consider purchasing an apartment or land to build on.

Next week, we look at the relative wages you can expect in each capital city, and how this affects relative affordability for those considering buying and living in each of the 3 cities.

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Written: 15 May 2018, Updated: 6 April 2020

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6 years ago

Having lived in both Sydney and Brisbane its chalk and cheese. I’m surprised the difference isn’t higher