If you ignore the mud, this year’s season of The Block portrayed a lovely view of rural life – huge homes, spectacular views, expansive gardens (pools, kitchen gardens, vineyards, tiny homes!).

It seems that COVID and its accompanying trend of working from home has created a boom in city dwellers moving to the country. According to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 43,000 Australians (net) moved to regional areas from capital cities in 2020. Australian regional centres have become the latest real estate hotspot, with some regions experiencing unprecedented growth.

However, if the wide open spaces are calling, here’s a few things to consider before you start scouring acreage properties.

Work opportunities

There’s no doubt that career opportunities are more limited in rural areas. The good news is that some professions are in high demand – medical and nursing staff, teachers and trades, in particular. However, many rural roles offer lower salaries than their big-city counterparts. It’s worth researching the job opportunities in your town of choice before you move to make sure you can ensure a financial future. Another option is to find a semi-rural property just outside one of the large capital cities and work part-time or in a hybrid arrangement. A long commute can be totally doable if it only needs to happen once or twice a week.

Health care

Smaller populations in rural locations mean that they often don’t offer the same level of health care, including medical and hospital facilities. If you think you might be needing more medical help in coming years, investigate the services available in the area where you are planning to move. Many rural residents face long waits for elective surgery, or long travel times to access specialists or treatment. Aged care facilities can also be limited, or close to capacity, which is worth noting if you are of retirement age.

Natural disasters

If the last years have taught us anything, it is that nature can be unreliable. Rural communities are particularly vulnerable to drought, floods and weather events, which can be disastrous to homes. Rural communities also have fewer services close by, so help can be delayed. Regions are also prone to extreme temperatures – with scalding summers and freezing winters. Make sure your home is well-insulated and sealed, to help keep you comfortable inside. Mudrooms are also a good idea in the country. Like their name indicates, they can stop the mud from travelling throughout the home and are handy places to store boots, raincoats and other assorted outdoor accoutrements. Take inspiration from Scott Cam’s home and consider brick flooring for the ultimate in low-maintenance materials.

Cost of housing

The price of homes is generally lower in the country, which makes it an attractive starting point for first-home buyers. It can also be appealing to empty nesters, who might be able to sell their home in the city and have enough money to buy a rural home without a mortgage and some cash left over to fund their retirement. Country homes are also often built on a larger scale – with more bedrooms, more land and less neighbours. The challenge is that it can be expensive to move back to the city if you change your mind and many country people find it hard to give up their space for the confines of an apartment or inner-city cottage.

Living in a small community

One of the pluses about moving to a country town is that everyone knows everyone else. Community spirit is strong in rural centres, and many people like the feeling of having lots of support around them. The minuses? Everyone knows your business. If you are a private person and don’t necessarily want to meet your child’s teacher, your doctor or plumber at the local supermarket on a regular basis, then the anonymity of the city might be a better choice.

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