Why you couldn't pay me to move to Sydney

Have the chance to take a step or three up the ladder at work but wondering whether it's worth it if it means relocating to Sydney, the city of stratospheric housing costs?

You're not alone.

An increasing number of corporate types are crunching the numbers and concluding that moving to a city where buying a place to call home necessitates a seven-figure budget doesn't add up, no matter how attractive the promotion or career opportunity on offer.

Last December saw Sydney's median house price hit a record $1,123,931, according to the Domain Group. The median house in Melbourne was valued at $795,447 while in Brisbane a roof over one's head could be had for the relative snip of just $540,758.

Thanks but no thanks

It's a factor which made it easier for Gold Coast hospitality executive Carl Taranto to turn down an offer to move up the ranks at the Sydney head office of his former employer, a global provider of serviced office accommodation, a year ago.

Why relocate somewhere where it's so expensive when we can really enjoy the surroundings here and still be successful?

Carl Taranto

He instead elected to strike out for himself, taking over the management of a function venue and resort in Kingscliff in northern NSW.

While the chance to advance in his previous role appealed, trading down on lifestyle did not.

"It's a wonderful city and I'm sure it provides a lot of opportunity but the lifestyle I have and the hotel that I now manage ... we love our life and our lifestyle is fantastic and the opportunity is here," Taranto says.

"Why relocate somewhere where it's so expensive when we can really enjoy the surroundings here and still be successful?"

Lifestyle reboot

Taranto is part of a growing trend according to Gregory Robinson, managing partner of executive recruitment consultancy Blenheim Partners.

While some C-suite executives may be able to cop Sydney prices without wincing, senior types two or three levels down are typically less well placed – and willing – to do so.

"Those executives are having to make the move to Sydney and probably in an internal move receive a $50,000 to $60,000 pay rise but could be leaving their homes, which in comparison to Sydney prices are valued at $500,000 to $600,000 less," Robinson says.

"So they are being asked to move for a pay rise but to then take on a mortgage substantially greater and, when examining some of the numbers, it could be argued that the pay raise wouldn't and doesn't pay the interest on the mortgage for their Sydney home.

"Therefore candidates are having to think a great deal more about advancing their career, or actually departing the company, as the numbers don't stack up and if they are going to consider the move to Sydney it has to be a very compelling offer, not just financially but in career progression."

Cost of living large

Fellow head hunter Deanne Tindale tells a similar tale.

"It's really become an issue right across the board, trying to tempt people to go to Sydney now," she says.

Recent examples of the phenomenon include a candidate working in the mining industry in WA, on a remuneration package of around $250,000, who made no bones about what it would take to tempt him to take a role over east.

"He said 'where I am now I get a three-bedroom house with a swimming pool and a car but if I have to come up with the money for that myself in Sydney, I'm going to need at least another $100,000'," Tindale says.

"Of course my client's not going to pay that."

The new FIFO worker

Long the norm in the mining sector, fly-in, fly-out arrangements are becoming more commonplace for executives who are happy to perch in Sydney on weekdays and return to their families in one of the lower priced capitals on weekends.

"At that level, people are used to doing travel. Melbourne, Sydney … travel is regular at a national level," Tindale says.

"I even had a guy who was flying across from northern WA over to Sydney and you kind of think, 'this is getting ridiculous'."

While some senior folk are prepared to meet their own costs for such arrangements, C-level executives typically demand their employers pick up the tab.

"There's a lot more people saying 'I'm happy to stay in Melbourne, you pay for me to go up' or 'pay for me to go down from Brisbane'," Tindale says.

"It's a very expensive on-cost to the client and I think it's an unseen cost.

"The fact that Sydney always used to be the place that people wanted to go career-wise and now that the housing has got so expensive it's turning people off, that I find really interesting.

"I've been doing this gig a long time and I haven't seen this before in 25 years."

Have house prices turned you off a career move to Sydney, or are you one of the new breed of corporate FIFOs? Share your experience in the comments.

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