A life-transforming tree change may be easier than you think, but doing your homework is the key to avoiding costly mistakes.
Thousands of Australians quit the city each year for a life in the country. But if you thought it’s only retirees uprooting for a tree change, think again.
Almost 80 per cent of tree changers are under 50 years of age, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Australian Social Trends report. They could be professionals looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, graduates wanting to get a foot in the door of their chosen field, or families relocating because it’s more affordable.
The dream doesn’t always live up to the reality though. According to McCrindle Research, an estimated one in five of these moves do not work out. Uprooting your life and home can be costly, so choosing the right location and doing your financial homework before you make the move is crucial.
Possibility to Reality founder and executive coach Caroline Cameron has been helping people do just that for the past seven years. She says the first step is to write down what you do and don’t want from a location.
Your “don’t want” list might include a big city mortgage or a two-hour daily commute. Your “do want” list might include a bigger house or a smaller mortgage.
If you have ageing parents in the city or kids at university you may want to remain within closer range of your family. If you are moving further afield, being near a large regional centre with good transport links such as an airport or medical facilities may be desirable.
Obviously, if you have young children, proximity to good schools is important. And if you are older or have poor health, access to health services is a must.
Visit the location you’re interested in at different times of year, not just during holiday season.
Talk to locals
Coffs Harbour-based financial planner Dacian Moses also suggests talking to the locals at every opportunity to find out what you don’t know.
“You can’t do that over the internet. It’s what you don’t know that will bring a tree-change undone,” he says.
If you’re used to a café culture and it’s a 20-minute drive to the nearest espresso, it could be a shock to the system.
What will it cost?
The more detailed your financial preparation the better. So draw up a budget detailing your current and anticipated future income and expenses. Housing may be cheaper in the country, but what about other costs? Everyday expenses from fuel to groceries are often more expensive.
If you are buying a hobby farm, what are your fixed costs and forecast income? And how will you tide yourself over until it becomes financially viable?
Unless you are retired or taking a break from work for a while, you will need to earn an income. “There are fewer jobs in the country, but at the end of the day you only need one job,” says Cameron. Start by identifying your transferable skills and check for skill shortages in your chosen location.
You may even be able to take your old job with you. Advances in technology and more flexible work practices are making it easier to move to the country and maintain a connection to city jobs, but check locations for reliable and affordable internet and mobile coverage.
“If you are self-employed and have a business that can be transplanted, that’s an advantage”, says financial planner Dacian Moses. He did just that when he moved from Sydney to the New South Wales mid-north coast so his children could enjoy a country upbringing, and hasn’t looked back.
Think long term
Is this a five-year plan or your forever place? If it’s forever, aged-care facilities and health services need to be factored in.
And don’t forget superannuation. If you earn less in the country, do you have a financial strategy to achieve your retirement savings goal? The sooner you create a financial plan, perhaps with the help of your financial adviser, the more secure your future lifestyle will be.
Making a tree change is not for everyone but when it works people often wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. “It’s not as hard or as overwhelming as it might seem,” says executive coach Caroline Cameron.