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Is a tree or sea change the right move for you?


It’s something many of us consider – packing up the city pad and heading to the hills, the beach, or the country. Whether we’re dreaming of a more affordable home or an abundance of space and quiet, there are many reasons to explore the option of a tree or sea change.

But what’s it really like? Houses may be cheaper but is that offset by the cost of commuting to the city for those still working? Or if you’ve retired and have days to fill in your new town, is there enough to do? Do you miss old friends or is it easy to make new ones?

We get the lowdown from two people who’ve made the move: the pros, the cons and whether it was worth it!

Tree change with a commute

Ben and his family followed the well-worn path of many a Melburnian when he packed up and moved to Castlemaine. After renting for many years, he was ready to purchase a house but with prices commonly over a million dollars for the suburbs he desired, he was forced to think outside the box.

“It was definitely because of house prices that we considered the move but there were other factors drawing us to the idea too – having a change of scene and an adventure were pretty appealing,” says Ben.

With children in primary school, the move wasn’t too disruptive and Ben managed to find a house opposite a great school for under $450,000 – unheard of in most big city suburbs nowadays.

“One of the things we love is how easy it’s been to meet people and connect with the community,” says Ben. “Big cities are so anonymous.”

Ben has also loved reconnecting with nature and “not contending with the everyday issues of a big city such as the noise and the endless search for a car park”.

While not regretting the move, there have been frustrations since relocating. Ben’s main complaint is the commute. At one hour ten minutes, Ben asked his workplace if he could work on the train and count it towards his hours but they’d said no, so it does increase the length of his already long workday. It also limits his options for going out after work.

Ben also says that while he’s made friends in Castlemaine, he misses seeing his old gang. “They’ve got kids and weekend activities and don’t come and visit as much as we’d like. So we do try to get back to Melbourne for the weekend, sometimes. Last time we came down we put our house on Airbnb, so we made some cash while visiting friends!”

Sea change after semi-retiring

Ginny and John had spent many a holiday on the Sunshine Coast before they decided to head north to Mooloolaba permanently. They’d been tempted to make the move for years but a daughter in school, an ageing mum and full time jobs kept them tied to the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

When they were finally ready, they asked a few estate agents to send them properties so they could gauge what was available and once they found one they were interested in, flew up to have a look.

“We absolutely love it here,” enthuses Ginny. “We’re warm weather people so for one thing it’s the climate. But also the size and newness of the area and the house makes for such an easy lifestyle. There’s easy transport, easy access to shopping and an easy trip to the airport!”

Ginny and John benefitted from the “extortionist house prices” of Sydney when they sold up and are now mortgage free and also have an investment property. Ginny says the Sunshine Coast also offers a better cost of living than Sydney. “My gym only costs $7 a week,” she exclaims.

Having given up full time work before they moved, Ginny and John have both happily transitioned into casual work – Ginny returns to Sydney sometimes to do some casual work at a Steiner College while John does tutoring at a university.

“We don’t feel we’re lacking for friends,” says Ginny. “John’s a good networker and I’ve found a group of people who, like me, wanted to learn Italian so we all gather at my house once a week. I also see old friends when I get back to Sydney and a lot of our friends come and stay! The only con is being away from our daughter but she’s about to move to the UK for 18 months so the inevitable would have happened anyway.”

Ginny’s advice to people thinking of making a sea or tree change is to get to know the area well first. “Living somewhere is very different to taking a holiday there and we felt lucky that we knew this area so well. If you want to take a punt on somewhere try renting first,” she suggests. “Then it doesn’t feel like too much of a big thing if you change your mind.”

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