Every other week we see articles and TV programmes with a new take on the age-old fantasy of swapping grubby concrete and long commutes for fresh air and simple country living.
Fed up with the demands of urban life, thousands of Australians are abandoning capital cities in search of a little serenity.
But is the grass really greener on the other side? Is a moving to a rural town the new Australian dream?
The country is brimming with opportunities
Gone are the times when only those who knew how to use an exploratory drill or herd cattle could make a living in rural Australia. In fact, in the 10 years to 2017, Australia’s population outside big cities grew by 10.6 per cent.
Nowadays, with multiple online industries booming, ‘digital nomads’ can set up shop virtually anywhere that has a stable internet connection.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home, a rural town has plenty to offer, especially if you want to:
- Break into the property market: While the median house price in Sydney is around $1 million, you can snap up a three-bedroom house two hours from Brisbane for under $250,000. When you buy in the country, you can expect to pay your home off before your city-dwelling counterparts have even made a small dint in their mortgage repayments.
- Be part of a community: If city living has left you feeling isolated or disconnected at times, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of opportunities to forge strong social connections in rural towns. Whether you join the Rural Fire Brigade, volunteer at the local school or just take the time to learn the names of locals at the pub or IGA, your friendliness will be noticed and reciprocated.
- Get healthy: Cliched (yet true) adages about fresh country air aside, a move to a rural town provides many opportunities to improve your health. You can redirect the time you used to spend commuting into regular exercise; living away from the temptation of fast food delivery services will force you to cook at home and plan your meals; and, if you live ‘in town’, you can usually walk or cycle everywhere you need to go.
- Stay connected digitally: The NBN is finally delivering on its promise to give all of Australia world-class internet, and rural areas are not being left out. The NBN is going further than just bridging the gap between city and country, in fact, NBN downloads in many regional areas are just as fast as the cities. And, anecdotally, sometimes even faster.
Getting down to brass tacks: What does a rural move involve?
Convinced it’s time to escape the hustle and bustle? Great! Let’s talk logistics. When you live in the city, hiring a removalist to get you from one suburb to the other is a piece of cake. But a move to a country town or interstate requires a little more planning.
Common tree change relocation pitfalls include:
- Buying a ‘fixer-upper’: Sure, many houses in regional Australia are cheap as chips, but you might want to think twice before you commit to purchasing one that requires extensive renovations. Not every country town has a plumber, electrician or carpenter – so you’ll pay more for deliveries and wait longer for tradies to tend to your property. The upside of this, of course, is that if you are a tradesperson, you will have plenty of work in your district – so long as you don’t mind driving further between jobs!
- Paying top dollar for removalists: Don’t be fooled! There’s a good reason many removalists are happy to travel far and wide for their clients: they charge per hour, including the drive there and back. If you’ve got the requisite muscle, consider renting a truck and going the DIY removal route. Most local truck rental companies will offer one-way truck rental services that are cheaper than the cost of hiring removalists. So, not only will you save money, but with multiple days at your disposal, you can move at your own pace.
- Not doing enough research: When deciding which rural town will best suit your needs, there’s no such thing as too much research. Write a checklist of all the goods and services you currently use. Are they available in the locations on your shortlist? How far will you have to travel for medication, education or a mechanic? How often do you plan to leave town? How much money are you willing to spend on filling up the car every month? You should know the answers to all these questions before you settle on one location.
What are the drawbacks of bush living?
While gumnuts and glorious afternoons spent watching the sunset from your deck certainly have their appeal, life in the slow lane isn’t for everyone. Before you start planning your relocation, make sure these drawbacks aren’t deal breakers for you:
- Your social life could suffer: If you’re leaving the city behind it’s likely you’ll also be leaving lots of your closest friends there too. There’ll be opportunities to make new friends in your new home town, but you need to be prepared to miss your loved ones and not see each other as regularly as you used to. To remedy this, you may want to consider having a spare guest bedroom in your new digs so friends and family can visit easily on weekends and holiday periods.
- Rural properties take longer to sell: It’s not so easy to flip properties in remote postcodes. If you do decide that country life isn’t for you, you’ll have to grin and bear it while you wait for your home to sell. Expect to stay in the sticks for anywhere from a couple of months to a year after your house is listed.
- You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature: When you live in the city, you probably don’t think twice about the weather, you just adjust the aircon or heating as required. In the country, however, fires, floods, dust storms and drought all wreak havoc as the seasons chance. You can’t stop Mother Nature, but you can mitigate your risks by getting good insurance and investing in thorough conveyancing for your property purchase.
The bottom line: follow your dreams…once you’ve done your homework.
Rural towns offer so many opportunities to become healthier, wealthier and wiser. So, if you’ve done all your research and are still convinced that country life is for you give it a shot.
Draw up a budget, hire a truck and hit the road!