Considering a sea or tree change? Ask these questions first.

Written and accurate as at: 12 January 2023

A move to the country or coast used to be a dream held mainly by retirees. But, things have changed since the pandemic. For many, working patterns, values and priorities in life may have shifted, and with this, more Australians are choosing to relocate to lifestyle areas for affordability, lifestyle and social reasons.1 

While you might be dreaming about a house by the sea or that quiet and quaint cottage, do the practical aspects of a move make sense for you? Here are a few important questions to reflect on.

How will you earn money?

If you still have a few years of employment ahead of you, this is possibly the most important question to begin with. Remember that your working arrangements today might not be the same in the future. For example, while you may enjoy fully remote or hybrid working now, this may not always be the case. Company policies change, and you may decide, or need, to one day look for another job.

Just as important is to work out whether a potential lower cost of living will be outweighed by a lower salary. If you’re switching city life for a slower pace, you may be looking at less income if you switch employers. Can you make the numbers work? 

Also, consider whether becoming self-employed is an option. Even if this is not your current reality or plan for the future, could you work for yourself if you need to replace or boost your income?

How much do you want to spend on buying or renting?

If you’re expecting to buy a cheaper property, bear in mind that many areas of population growth have also experienced greater demand for housing, forcing up property prices, reducing the number of rental vacancies and the number of properties on the market2. So it’s important to do your research and get clear that your property price or rental expectations are in line with the local market.

How will your budget be impacted?

Once you’ve tackled the big questions around income and how much you may be spending on a mortgage or rent, take a look at your current day to day expenses and how they might be impacted. You may find that some costs may reduce in your new area (for example, you may spend less on public transport), but some costs may actually increase (for example, you may drive to work and need to cover higher fuel costs for the commute). Go through each item in your budget and put them under the new lens of living in a different area.

Will this be a forever move?

If you find yourself happy in your new home, is it somewhere you see yourself staying indefinitely? If so, it’s worth spending some time investigating whether your desired new location has the kind of amenities and community you might need as you age.

For example, are the public transport links sufficient for when you’re no longer driving? Is there a strong and supportive community spirit and social clubs you could be part of? Will you be close enough to a major hospital or aged care facilities? While these questions may seem irrelevant now, you may be glad you put your new location through its paces sooner rather than later.

How near or far will you be away from family and friends?

We can often take for granted just how important it is to have family and close friends around us. If you’re thinking about moving further away from loved ones, it’s really important to reflect on how often you may see them, and how much you may miss them.

Also consider how far the journey might be to pay them a visit. What might now be doable today, might seem more of a challenge later on in life, or if your circumstances change. And, as you age, will you need to rely on them for support?

Can you road test ‘real life’?

It can be easy to fall in love with a place when we’re relaxed and in holiday mode. Without the everyday demands of work, school runs or household chores, a new destination may seem more appealing at first glance. Road-testing real life can help you feel more confident that your new location will tick all the boxes. So, rather than putting your current home up for sale, or rushing into buying a new one, consider renting for 12 months and see if you still love your new area once the rose-tinted spectacles have been taken off.

Moving to a brand new location is a big change, and one that requires careful planning, and often, a new perspective. 

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