For people at the lucky end of the scale, there’s a new twist to the lifestyle choice of sea-change or tree-change. It’s no longer about quitting the city for good, or having a weekender to visit on the odd occasion. The new ideal is to have both – a city dwelling and a blissful retreat – and to live more-or-less equally in two not-too-distant places.

Agents in coastal and country areas of Victoria say the dual life is a growing trend, often financed by selling the big suburban family home. A smaller, inner-city base is used for work commitments, social engagements, family contact, special events and appointments; and the getaway, usually a bigger property in a more affordable location, offers space, fresh air and serenity.

Good security, low maintenance and city parking are key requirements.

The main drivers of the trend are:

  • affluence, some gained from profits made on the Melbourne property market, and some resulting from access to employee superannuation made compulsory in 1992;
  • technology, allowing people to work remotely;
  • discontent with rising levels of stress, traffic and over-crowding in the city;
  • new roads reducing travel time to the Great Ocean Road, the Mornington Peninsula and central Victoria;
  • the spread of Melbourne’s vibrant cafe culture out of town;
  • and the meteoric rise of inner-city apartment buildings that make buying a lock-up-and-leave place easier than a generation ago.

Lorne’s Smyth Real Estate agent Grant Powell says: “The landscape [of property purchase] has changed over the past 15 years down the coast. It used to be they sold up in Melbourne and moved to the coast; now they do it but retain a bolthole in Melbourne. It comes up regularly. Many people now can afford two places when they sell [the family home].”

Powell says that as well as retiring baby boomers and semi-retirees, professional couples and young families take advantage of technology, flexible work practices and being self-employed to choose their workplace.

On the Mornington Peninsula, the growth of the cafe culture along bustling bayside shopping strips means people can have the best in both of their worlds. Ilze Moran, of RT Edgar Portsea, says: “It’s definitely the case that people who can run a business, or their life, on the phone or computer will rent here then buy, to try to spend more time here, say from Thursday to Tuesday each week rather than just the weekend.

“For some people, if they have a house in Melbourne, they’re happy to have a lock-up-and-leave here, or if they have an apartment there, they want the house here. It depends on their situation. People who downsize in town tend to have their kids and grandkids come and stay here more often.”

Daylesford stalwart Glenda Rozen, of hockingstuart, says the spa country, a sub-90-minute trip up the Western Freeway, attracts many dual-dwellers, from company directors to young families seeking the space they can’t afford in the suburbs.

“Twenty years ago they’d just buy the weekender,” Rozen says. “Now it’s changed. Lots of people have their main residence here and a place in Melbourne, and some commute. Here, their priority is seclusion and peace and quiet.”

Lucas Real Estate selling agent Camilla Milic says Docklands apartments make the perfect city abode for people whose main house is out of town. “Lots of our clients do that. It’s definitely popular,” she says.

A divided life

City base
Apartment: Docklands, CBD, Southbank, St Kilda Road, South Yarra-Toorak, Port Melbourne
Cottage or terrace house: Fitzroy, Richmond, Hawthorn, Prahran, St Kilda East, South Melbourne
Unit or townhouse: Elwood, Malvern, Camberwell, Kew, Clifton Hill.

Southwest: Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne
South-east: Mount Martha, Blairgowrie, Portsea, Flinders, Phillip Island
Gippsland: Cape Paterson, Inverloch
Spa country: Kyneton, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, Trentham, Creswick
High country: Warburton, Eildon.

The pros: A change of scenery, peace and quiet, no need to book holiday accommodation, two sets of friends, a break to routine, easy access to city needs (medical, business and work appointments, dining out, sporting, cultural and other special events).

The cons: Cost of running two properties (rates, utilities, insurance, appliances, furniture, household items), garden maintenance, juggling appointments, security, driving back and forth, possibly poor internet service out of town, deciding on shopping/fridge contents, having pantry items in both places, needing two sets of clothes.

Posted by Jacqui Hammerton – The Age Domain on 24th January, 2015