Whether COVID is the catalyst for a change in your lifestyle or it’s always been on the cards, the dream of moving to the country or coast is no longer reserved for retirees. With working from anywhere becoming the new normal and our refreshed perspectives around what we truly value, embracing change is exciting.
With many of us thrust into working from home over the last 12 months, we have found that working from home is not only possible but gives us back some precious time in our days. With a designated place to concentrate and a reliable internet connection often all that’s needed, we no longer feel shackled to our main centres.
In November 2020 alone, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a big shift in people moving from the capital cities to the regions, including a net loss of 14,000 in Sydney and 10,000 in Melbourne in the first half of the year. The lure of a different lifestyle and a deep sense of craving for green space has left many of us considering trading traffic for a backyard full of chickens. So, what has caused this shift in perspective and is it here to stay?
The changing mindset
After months on end hold up in an urban jungle with plenty of time to think, our priorities came into sharp focus. COVID gave many of us an opportunity to reassess our lifestyles and what’s important. Spending more time with the kids, living at a slower pace, and taking things back to basics – complete with sourdough and other home baking escapades – gave a taste of something different. Where once our ability to pay for an inner-city apartment and dine on Uber Eats until our hearts content seemed fulfilling, we now want a job that works for us, and allows us to prioritise what’s profoundly important.
Increased employer flexibility
COVID forced employers to have faith in their employee’s ability to work remotely. While it’s nothing new from a technological point of view, coming to terms with employees no longer being physically present has meant a major shift in mindset and people management. With this increased ‘work anywhere’ proposition, we’re no longer hemmed in by proximity to our place of work.
Changes in employment and housing affordability
While unemployment sits at around 6.6% and there has been a quicker than expected recovery, industries like travel and tourism, hospitality and entertainment continue to feel the effects. With younger workers more likely to be affected (half of the workers in directly affected industries are aged 15 to 24), millennials are among those looking to the regions for affordable housing and a better lifestyle. In fact, pre-COVID this trend was already apparent, with millennials no longer being drawn to ‘the big smoke’. A report released in June 2020 looking at population movements and data between the last two national censuses, found that more regionally-based millennials stayed in the country or moved to other regional areas in Australia, rather than shifting to capital cities.The report also showed that Sydney actually lost more millennials to the regions than it gained over that time period. The Regional Institute of Australia is also predicting that post-COVID-19, this swing could become even greater – and not just amongst millennials.
Is a sea or tree change for you?
It sounds idyllic. Escaping the rat race, ditching the commute, embracing a pared back lifestyle with space for a veggie garden and the kids to roam. Well, perhaps it is. A 14-year study of Australian households found that people who live in towns with a population of less than 100,000 tend to have higher life satisfaction than those living in major urban areas. While it might sound dreamy, it’s important to look at a major move with a realistic lens. Here’s a few things to consider before you dive right in:
- How far is too far? – Are there family members or close friends that you’re likely to need (or want) to visit on a regular basis? Consider what a reasonable travel distance looks like for you.
- And visit again – once you’ve found your dream location, make sure it’s not just because it’s a place you associate with holidays and relaxation. Visit often (and during different seasons) before committing to the move.
- Try before you buy – if you’re not ready to fully commit – or simply want to get a better feel for the area before buying – consider renting first and buying later. You’ll get a good feel for the area and a greater handle on exactly which suburb (or street) you’d like to live in.
- Job first, move second – just like the population, the job market out of the main centres is considerably smaller. Lining up a job prior to your move will reduce stress and your employer may even help with relocation costs.
- Testing 1,2, 3 – while we take WIFI for granted, internet connections out of town aren’t always reliable. Be sure to check it’s up to scratch if you’re going to be relying on WIFI to work remotely.
- Research – if you’re looking to buy, it’s important to get a solid understanding of the real estate market in the area.
- Think of all the tomorrows – farm-life that allows littles to roam free amongst chickens and goats might suit your family now, but it’s important to think long term. Consider future schooling options, career prospects and anything else that might be in your not-so-immediate future.
- Getting around in a smaller town – moving from a well-connected city where public transport is a breeze to relying heavily on your own car is a big change. If you’re not already a confident driver, you might want to brush up on your skills. Moving away from public transport will mean a whole lot more time behind the wheel.
- More land = more maintenance – while you might be saving time on the commute, moving from a low-maintenance apartment block to a block of land comes with additional work. Make sure you’re aware of what you’ll need to do on the daily, and how this will fit into your new lifestyle.
- Crunch the numbers – you can often be left with some change when selling up a metropolitan home and buying regionally, but it requires some serious homework. Assess recent sales in your area and compare them with prices in your dream country or coast location. If you get the balance right, you could end up with a few hundred thousand dollars off your mortgage and a lifestyle you can’t wait to experience.
The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.
About Tamara Wrigley
Media commentator Tamara Wrigley is a successful award-winning businesswoman. A fashionista, TV presenter, former magazine editor and property mogul, when she’s not rubbing shoulders with celebrities on the red carpet, Tam can be found in her real estate office Carolans First National Nambour or renovating homes and commercial buildings. Tam purchased her first property at the age of 21 and now has an empire of 30+ properties. To keep up to date with Tam, follow her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/tamwrigley_page/