‘Tis the season when Aussies love to go on holidays, wind down and dream of a better life. One without a crippling city mortgage, where work doesn’t equal stress, with plenty of time for afternoon surfs and relaxing with family and friends. Ahhhhh, the serenity…

After Christmas we make our annual pilgrimage up, down or along the coast and it doesn’t take long until we find ourselves staring longingly at the windows of real estate agents. We then sneak a peak in the property section of the local paper, check out a few open houses and before you know it we are seduced by how much we can get for our money! The planning starts – we figure out how much our city home is worth, imagine selling up and moving to the coast to start our new, unencumbered life.

Tree and sea changers often fall into the trap of thinking that their whole life will be like a holiday if they can move to their favourite part of the country. But often the reality is far from that. In fact, a large number of people who make this move realise within the first year that they have made a mistake. So, this is NOT a decision to be made in haste.

I have met a lot of sea/tree changers whilst filming Relocation Relocation Australia and Location Location Location Australia. My experiences with them have taught me a great deal about the risks entailed in making such a big move and what to do to mitigate them. The very first step is to remove the rose coloured sunglasses and have a realistic look at all the pros and cons. Advertisement

A sea or tree change needs to be approached in two stages: firstly, make sure that the move is really the right thing for you in the long term and, secondly, if it is make sure that you make wise real estate decisions. Because one of the biggest lessons that I have learnt through helping people on the show is that urban real estate rules simply do not apply in regional areas.

Even though it’s such a big move with potentially huge ramifications, plenty of people love the idea of a sea or tree change. So if the drawbacks aren’t scaring you off, following are seven things I believe you should consider.

1. Start with a plan and invest in research. This is not the time to take a plunge and “see what happens”. You need to consider things like employment, access to health care, finding new friends. And if you are planning your retirement, how will you feel once your adult kids start to have their own children and you won’t get to see them regularly?

2. Visit the area many times in different seasons so you can fully appreciate what it’s like in both busy and quiet times. Try to go where the locals hang out and imagine the daily grind rather than holiday excitement.

3. It’s crucial that you learn local property market dynamics and pricing. Property will probably take a lot longer to sell than in the city and you need to know the features that locals look for in real estate and what they shun.

4. Never buy a property after only one inspection! It doesn’t matter where it is. It is always cheaper to get on a plane and take another look than to make a mistake and buy the wrong property.

5. Be critical about property values. Don’t overpay through having a city mentality. Just because you get a lot for your money in relative terms doesn’t mean it’s good value.

6. Be wary about selling out of a stronger market because capital growth in regional areas is not assured. You don’t want to be trapped there if it turns out to be the wrong thing for you.

7. It may sound odd for a buyers’ agent to say this but don’t be afraid to move there and rent for a while. It seems like a massive upheaval to do this but it’s nothing compared with the stress associated with having to sell a short time after buying if it doesn’t work out. No amount of research and planning will prepare you better than actually “living the dream”.

Now if you carefully plan and do not rush this process you will increase your chances of making a wise decision and living with no regrets – so you can truly enjoy life in the slow lane.

Posted by Veronica Morgan – The Age on 29th December, 2014