It’s easy to understand why so many downsizers are deciding to flee Australia's capital cities and make a tree or sea change to regional areas.
With family Zoom meetings and remote working now the norm, it's so much easier to justify pulling up stumps and moving to a home with coastal views and sea breezes, or a quiet rural or bushland aspect.
This is particularly the case when you are in a position to trade in a tiny but expensive city shack for a new regional home with spacious land or glorious views.
However, as much as a regional shift is usually a good idea, it is important that downsizers do their homework before making the big decision.
This story outlines some of the issues that downsizers may seek to consider.
What are the local health services like?
It goes without saying that, as people age, health services typically play an increasingly important role in their everyday lives.
While some regional areas have top tier hospitals which provide a very broad range of services, this cannot be said for every single regional town or village.
Many smaller towns might have hospitals, but these are not like the hospitals in capital cities. They are likely to provide only basic services by nursing staff, with anything complicated requiring a transfer elsewhere.
Many State Governments are struggling to provide the health services needed by the influx of people to regional areas. A recent by-election in regional NSW resulted in the ruling party losing the seat, mainly on health service concerns.
If you or your partner does have underlying health conditions, it is well worth doing research about the local health services, and whether they can support your needs.
Will I be able to get around?
In the city, we are used to bus and train services being in close walking distance, or to be able to easily call an Uber car driver.
However, this may not be the case in regional areas where the population is not always dense enough to support these types of services.
As a result there is a chance that downsizers who moved to regional areas become more isolated in their homes, when they are no longer able to drive and there are limited public or at-call transport services available.
Given this, it's well worth considering moving into a home which is within easy walking distance to shops so you don't need to catch public transport at all, or hail a taxi.
It's also worth considering moving into a larger retirement community which may have its own regular bus service to and from the shops. Some registered clubs also have their own seniors housing villas, which puts retirees close to restaurant and sporting facilities.
Will my home be subject to hazards and planning issues
By and large, most people living in the middle of large cities don't need to worry about issues such as flooding, landslips or bushfires.
However when you move to a regional area, it is important to fully understand if you're moving into an area which is affected by one or more of these hazards. This is because so many of the homes in these areas are located near rivers, the ocean or forests.
If you're buying a regional property, as part of the contract of sale you should be supplied with a planning certificate which tells you if the property is affected by a hazard.
It may also be worth asking your future local council for any maps of local hazards such as bushfire or flood-prone areas.
The last thing you want to find when moving to a regional area is that you’re suddenly hit by flooding or fire concerns every few years, or that your future home and its insurance will be expensive because it needs to be fire or flood proof.
Better still talk to some of the locals about what they think about the area you're looking at moving into. As locals, they may be aware of some important aspects of the area's history and future, which you may be in the dark about given you're coming from the big smoke.
For instance, in some parts of regional NSW and Queensland, you are able to buy some small blocks of land, but unfortunately you’re not allowed to build a home on them (these are known as paper subdivisions). For years, unhappy existing owners and real estate sharks have been fleecing out-of-towners in these subdivisions. A local solicitor working for you, but not the real estate agent, should be able to avert this disaster.
Equally so, the home you’re looking at buying could be so cheap because a new highway extension, cemetery or council depot is planned next door.
Will I like the weather?
In the middle of winter, it's always an alluring thought to up sticks and move from a colder climate to somewhere with year-round warm weather.
However it's also worth considering whether you really want to live in an area with very high temperatures and humidity. It’s not uncommon for people to be enticed by Queensland’s marketing of “beautiful one day, perfect the next day”, only to find they don’t enjoy the State’s year-round energy-sapping heat.
Another important consideration is to make sure the warm climate home you're moving into has air conditioning and/or ceiling fans to keep cool, and good insect screens to keep the creepy crawlies and unwanted flying things out.
Equally so, a tree or sea change also provides the opportunity to move to a more favourable climate.
Will I feel lonely and isolated?
As much as the serenity of regional areas can be enticing, sometimes it can perhaps be a little too serene.
It may be a long trip back to the city to visit old friends and family. There may not be the entertainment, learning or arts and cultural options which you take for granted in the city.
It may also be that you have an expectation the family will often visit you, when in fact they don't share the same belief and the spare bedroom gathers dust.
For this reason, easy access to a good local regional airport - so you can travel to the city at short notice - may be a valuable asset. This is in part why the Gold Coast (Coolangatta airport) and Toowoomba (Wellcamp airport) have boomed in recent times.
Another important piece of research may be to see what local community groups are active in the area, and whether that's the type of group you would like to be involved in.
Will it be noisy?
Many people move to regional areas for a quiet time, not a good time.
For this reason, they are surprised when they move into a complex and find that apartments around them are being leased to groups who like to party and create noise, as part of short-term holiday letting arrangements.
For this reason, it's well worth understanding what local regulations are in place for short-term holiday letting. It may also involve knocking on the doors of other people in the complex and seeing if there is a local problem with party houses.
Furthermore, you may want to consider moving into a retirement or downsizer community which has been specifically set aside for over 50s and therefore won't have the problem of young ones having all nighters, every night.
Will my home be safe?
When you do move to a regional area, like any downsizing move, it's important that your future castle allows you to age in place.
This includes rooms with minimal trip hazards, such as hobless showers in the bathroom and sliding doors set into the floor, and step-free access to and from the front door. Solid grab rails in the bathroom are also very handy.
The idea is to move into a home which gives you greater freedom, not less.
A modern, well-built retirement community, particularly a retirement village, should have these features.
Find out more
Learn about the different downsizing options on offer, and insider tips on making the move, in our just-released Ultimate Guide to Downsizing 2022.