Is a ‘tree change’ right for you?

Each year, more and more Australians are making a move to the regions skirting our capital cities. For many, the idea of more space, more privacy and achieving a better lifestyle has been their long-term motivation.

However, as property values continue to surge on the back of record low interest rates, large numbers of city-dwellers are looking at the incredible capital gains they’ve made and are tempted to sell up, quit the city, retire and head for greener pastures.

Whichever group best describes you, do you ever worry whether the ‘tree change’ location you’ve dreamed of will actually deliver the idyllic lifestyle you’ve long envisaged? After all, if you’ve grown up, raised a family, and spent most of your life living in the city, how can you be certain country living is for you?

Here are some steps you can take to immerse yourself in your country locale before you take the plunge.

  1. Plan a long weekend or short sabbatical and spend it in the location you’ve considered to be ideal

  2. Visit the cafes and local businesses and talk to the locals. This is where you’ll quickly find out what type of people live in your potential new community and whether they’re remotely like-minded

  3. Pick up local tourism leaflets and magazines and explore the venues and attractions they outline

  4. Take a walk through shopping centres and decide if they offer what you need

  5. Chat to locals about the climate, lifestyle and local attitudes 

  6. Have a real estate agent show you some different types of properties

  7. Use Google to check reviews of the area and its services

Does living in the country take time to adjust to?
So, having taken these steps, you remain convinced that a tree-change is what you’re looking for but your anxiety about being a city-slicker at heart still gnaws at your innermost thoughts. That’s completely normal; everybody experiences some angst when planning to step outside his or her comfort zone. Living in the country does take a little time to adjust to but if you’re clear about what you want to achieve from your lifestyle change, you should anticipate enjoying the transition.

However …

  1. Your expectations must be realistic. It may take some time for you to fully exploit the benefits of your relocation

  2. Living in retirement in itself is a major adjustment, if that’s what your Tree Change will involve. Adding a change of location can invigorate but it also adds challenges

  3. It’s important to extend yourself to meet the members of your new community

  4. Joining regional associations or groups like Rotary can be a great way to make new acquaintances and start building new networks

  5. Adapting will take a little time so some patience is necessary

  6. You need to be flexible and prepared to make changes in your normal routines. In most cases, this is what you’ll have been seeking anyway, so it’s all good news

  7. Don’t assume the country is always more quiet than the city

Are there any guidelines for choosing a country property location?
Naturally, people seek a wide variety of different types of country property. Depending on your ultimate goal, consider things like…

  1. What’s important? List the things that inspire, motivate and compel your thinking
     
  2. What you want less of in life i.e. crowds, heat/cold, high prices etc.

  3. What you’d do more of when you have more time

  4. Where would you feel invigorated? Describe the climate.

  5. What’s within your financial reach?

  6. What services and infrastructure are important? i.e. Internet, health services, clubs, social groups

  7. Do you have a car or will you need to use public transport?

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Life in the country certainly has its benefits, but have you considered the challenges?

What are the key differences between country properties in villages or on their outskirts?
Houses located within a country town or village’s built-up area usually offer similar modern conveniences to those of their city cousins i.e. grid electricity, phone, town water, town gas, garbage collection.

Properties located on their fringes frequently don’t offer all of these features. Consider carefully whether a more remote retirement location will suit your longer-term needs.

What about serious lifestyle space, away from country villages?
You’d better be envisaging some serious self-sufficiency.

Properties located outside country village boundaries are less likely to offer modern utilities and the further they are located from telephone exchanges, the slower and less stable your internet connection may be.

Tradesmen and services are further away and you will need to be capable of doing more for yourself. Your probable utilities are listed below in order of most likely to least likely…

1. Telephone services with ADSL internet

2. Electricity

3. Town water

4. Sewerage

5. Town gas

In many cases, serious lifestyle space means serious work, so make sure you have the physical and psychological capacity to meet the demands of land care, property maintenance, commuting to service centres and being on your own if something goes wrong. For some, this is the perfect choice. For others, isolation and loneliness can be an issue.

What are the longer-term considerations of moving to the country?
Growing older in the country entails planning outside the norms of suburban living and resilience. If your car breaks down, you need to be able to afford taxis (where available) because public transport is sometimes absent or schedules infrequent.

If you stop actively pursuing social or lifestyle activities you enjoyed in the city, you may find yourself under-stimulated. Smaller communities sometimes offer narrower social diversity. Be prepared for less contemporary viewpoints.

Medical specialists are fewer and farther between so traveling long distances to attend appointments can become a major inconvenience and, ultimately, force you to move to a major regional centre or back to the city.

One of the best things to do is simply start a conversation with an estate agent about the specifics of the locality. You’ll generally find country agents have more time to chat about the generalities of their region and are keen to share their knowledge. They’ll be able to outline the services typically available in key areas so you can make a much more informed decision about how successful a tree change could be for you.

Are you interested in making a ‘tree change’? Let us know in the comments section below.