Being cooped up at home during the pandemic has encouraged more Sydney homebuyers to ditch inner city apartment living for a house near the beach or bush.

A review of greater Sydney’s popular suburbs for homebuyers in the past 12 months revealed families were increasingly looking in further-flung locations.

These included houses near beaches, reserves or national parks, according to the realestate.com.au study of “high intent” buyer activity online, which included inquiries on listings.

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The most popular suburbs were beach areas to the far north and south of Sydney spread across the Central Coast, northern beaches and Sutherland Shire.

Families’ embrace of areas further from the CBD was also evident in a recent surge in popularity of suburbs on Sydney’s southwestern fringe.

There was a particularly strong spike in buyer demand in Leppington, Austral and Gledswood Hills, where inquiry levels were double what they were last year. This was largely because these suburbs offered ample opportunities to find properties eligible for government buyer grants.

These included first homebuyer stamp duty exemptions and the federal government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder cashback for purchasers of new properties under $750,000.

Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said demand for house and land packages on the city outskirts was increasing after having dropped in previous years.

“It’s clear that a longer commute doesn’t bother people as much as it might have before, which makes sense if you’re only going into the office once or twice a week,” Ms Conisbee said.

“First homebuyers seem to be more willing to purchase house and land packages in fringe suburbs and more people want space.”

The most in-demand suburb with buyers overall was Wamberal on the Central Coast, about 80km north of the Sydney CBD.

Most of the houses in the suburb are less than a kilometre from a waterway – either Wamberal Lagoon or Wamberal Beach.

There was a similar coastal lifestyle on offer in the other suburbs most popular with buyers such as Collaroy, Newport, North Narrabeen and Gymea Bay. Many of the most in-demand unit markets were also close to the water, such as Freshwater, Kirribilli and Cammeray.

Ms Conisbee said the greater time families were spending at home may have encouraged more buyers to put a higher priority on lifestyle over accessibility. Inner suburbs were not as popular as they once were because proximity to the CBD was not as prized, she said.

Graham and Maija Tyler recently purchased a house in Collaroy and said it was more competitive than they had hoped.

“We thought it was a good time to buy with all the uncertainty at the moment, which we hoped would mean there was less competition from other buyers,” Mr Tyler said.

“There were a lot of serious buyers … we had to stretch our budget a bit.”

Mr Tyler added that it was worth it to get a house in the area. “We love it up here, it’s a bit more laid back and every day feels like a holiday.”

MOST POPULAR SUBURBS

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