With house prices in Australian cities smashing records on a weekly basis, many city dwellers dream of large spaces, low prices and green pastures or rolling waves.
I was a long-term city dweller, living in some of the world’s biggest cities, including New York, London and Sydney, until one day I surprised everyone when I upped sticks to a tiny village in the Blue Mountains, 100 kilometres from Sydney. My friends assumed I’d be hightailing it back to the city in a few months in search of a decent latte and an art gallery, but more than 10 years later I’m settled into regional life.
Having said that, I do know many people who struggle with life away from the metropolis. And with regional prices growing at a much slower pace than cities, it can be difficult to make that step back if it’s not for you. So consider the following advantages of a move to the country, but think before you leap…
Wide open space
Perhaps the biggest attraction of moving away from the city is the opportunity to breathe in fresh air and enjoy wide open spaces.
Consider the size of property you really want. Think of the upkeep and maintenance involved with a large property and a big house. Are you really up for a ride-on mower? Or would you be better off with a cabin in the woods?
Bang for your buck
Whether buying or renting, what you’re paying in the city will undoubtedly get you something bigger and better in the country. In extreme cases, a box in an inner-city area might buy you the home of your dreams in the country.
Remember that your regional property is unlikely to appreciate in value as much as your city property over time. That’s fine if you’re sure your move is a permanent one and not for an investment. But you need to be sure of your decision because if you change your mind and decide to move back, that could be very difficult.
A place to chill out
Sure, it can be extremely chilled out in the country. You can sit back, relax, enjoy peace and quiet. The only noise might be the singing of birds and the humming of bees.
Will you get bored? You might think you want the quiet life but be sure that you’re able to cope without the proximity of busy restaurants, art galleries, theatres, and a thriving nightlife (you might find these things where you’re moving to, but not to the same extent).
Romance versus reality
Many of us have that dream of living on the land, growing our own food, raising honey bees, and having chickens to produce lovely, fresh eggs.
Do think about the reality of early mornings, feeding the chickens, cleaning up and weeding. It’s a romantic ideal – and it’s a great ideal – but ask yourself whether it’s truly you, or would you be better off satisfying your inner hippie at the local urban wholefoods market.
Getting away from it all
Getting sick of the hustle and bustle of the city, the traffic, the people, the general noise and congestion? Going to live in a beautiful house on a hill will certainly get you away from all that.
Could you be too isolated? If you don’t have any friends in the area you’re dreaming of moving to, will you get lonely? What is the local community like? Will you be able to make friends easily or are you to happy to enjoy the isolation?
A new career?
Have you thought about what you will do to earn money in your new home? You might be retiring or you might have a profession that’s usually in demand everywhere, such as nursing, teaching or law. Or you might take your city job with you and arrange to work remotely for some or all days. More and more employers are becoming more flexible in this regard as technology advances to make this possible.
If you are you going to follow your passion and be a remote artist or writer or designer, then are you prepared to live on less if the work is thinner on the ground? Or if you still need to go to the city, have you chosen somewhere that’s a commutable distance? And are you sure you’re ready to spend a few hours a day on public transport or in your car? You may be prepared to sacrifice a few hours of commuting for the advantages of the change but be sure to weigh it up first.
Room for kids
Many people dream of moving their kids to the country for a better life, or moving to the country and starting their families. It’s true that the air is cleaner, the kids will have space to run around and it could be a healthier existence.
Do your research into childcare, schools and high schools in the local area. Make sure you’ll be happy with what’s available. There may be far less choice than in the city. Also check that you’d be happy to bring up kids in the region you’re considering. Is there enough for kids to do as they grow into teenagers?
Room for pets
Has it been your dream to get a dog all your life, but you haven’t had the space in the city? Well moving to the country will definitely bring that dream closer to reality.
There are still all the responsibilities that go with keeping large pets. Who will look after them when you go away, for instance?
Make a list
Before making your move, and choosing your new location, make a list of everything that’s important to you and research potential areas. You might have loved a place you went to on holiday, but make sure you research the realities of living in this place. Check out the local amenities such as pools, gyms, cinemas, hospitals and libraries. Does it have bookshops, cafes, good restaurants or a lively art scene, if these things are important to you? They might be more important than you even realise when you’re used to taking such things for granted in the city. Also ask yourself if you’re a beach person or more of a bush person. What activities do you and the rest of the family like to do?
If you’re in a relationship, you both need to consider the move carefully. I’ve seen many couples where it was one partner’s decision to move from the city and the other one was dragged along, somewhat reluctantly. I’ve seen it work too, as one person gets accustomed to the idea. Just make sure you’ve discussed it carefully and you’re both willing to give it a try.
Do you need a holiday?
Before any drastic moves, have you considered that you may just need to get away from it all? It could be that it’s just getting a bit much, and you need a long break. Try taking a break in some of the areas you’re researching.
Try before you buy
If you’re still seriously considering the move, think about renting first, before buying a place. If you have a city property, you could rent it out while you rent in your desired location for a year. If you’re considering somewhere you have been on holiday, you may have only experienced the place while it was lively, the weather was good, and while you and your family were in holiday mode. By ‘living’ in a place for a whole year, through four seasons, you can really feel how living there would be – what the local community is like and how you can fit in.
Give it time
If you have already made the move to a regional area, but you’re finding it hard to settle in, remember to give it time. You’ll need at least a year – but it could even take about three to five years – before you start to feel really settled in and part of the local community.
Liz Durnan is a Houzz Australia Contributor, freelance writer and editor. I previously worked for a variety of magazines in London, New York and Sydney where I barely paid attention to the interior of my rented apartments...That all changed when I moved to a one-acre block in the Blue Mountains bush where I have built a straw bale home from scratch. This has fired my passion for energy-efficient building and solar passive design. I enjoy writing about energy efficiency for homes and business and many other topics.
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