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Why COVID-19 could mean a move to the regions

Why COVID-19 could mean a move to the regions

Australia is returning to business as usual, but it’s clear that some changes are here to stay. Working from home is more popular than ever, with companies moving towards a permanent out-of-office set up.

At the same time, staying home has given us a new appreciation for larger blocks and private gardens. Backyard chickens have never been in such high demand, and everyone wants to grow their own vegetables.

With land in the country so much more affordable than the city, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a rise in buyers looking for a tree change.

In fact, while COVID-19 has accelerated the trend, it was firmly in place before 2020. A new report called Big Movers: Population Mobility in Australia reports that millennials who grew up in the regions are now more likely to stay regional than move to the big smoke, while Sydney lost more millennials to the country than it gained. As inner-city living is increasingly unaffordable for the younger generation, we can expect that trend to continue.

So what makes the countryside so attractive? There are several things in play.

Working from home

If you can work from home, why stay in the city? Even as the pandemic restrictions lift in most parts of the country, the swing towards remote work looks likely to continue. Now that we’ve tasted the freedom from our long slow commutes, we’re unlikely to give it up easily. Employers like it too, since they can save money on real estate costs by keeping their work force home.

Traditionally, the need to head into the office every day has kept people tethered to the suburbs. But technological advances and a new understanding that work-from-home can be just as productive has changed all of that.

For one thing, why pay higher inner city costs if you don’t need to be close to the city? For another, working from home is smoother if you have a separate home office, with a door, for those private video calls. A separate home office means replacing the open plan apartment with a family home — and those will be a lot more plentiful in the regions.

Cheaper property prices

Unless you’re hoping for a beachfront mansion in Byron Bay, living in a regional area is almost always cheaper than capital cities.

Even if your income hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are feeling the pinch as the cost of living goes steadily up. Housing costs are often the most expensive line item in a family budget, so if you can cut those down, you can make a huge difference.

Regional property prices are significantly lower than those in the city. The median house price in Melbourne is $893,000: the same house in regional Victoria is less than half that price at $419,000. Pay off your mortgage faster without sacrificing the little luxuries in life!

Healthier lifestyles

When all the gyms and bars closed, there was a new appreciation towards getting healthy outside. Fresh country air and quiet streets invite you to take long walks away from the pollution of the capital cities, with fewer fast food delivery services to tempt you back into bad habits. In many regional towns, you can cycle or walk to work with ease — no multi-lane freeways or overpasses to navigate here! Join your local sports team or running club to build those community connections.

Desire for a simpler life

In a world that has been hit with crisis after crisis, it’s no wonder that people are yearning for a sense of control. A new push towards self-sustainability is part of the reaction, with people all over the country baking sourdough loaves and planting veggie gardens. Although supply chains were never at risk, a new appreciation for locally sourced and locally manufactured goods has entered the Australian psyche.

Moving to the country is one way to embrace those new ideals. You can own enough land to keep your own chickens for fresh eggs, tend fruit trees and vegetables, and swap produce with neighbours. If you’re harbouring off-the-grid ambitions, regional areas offer the space and freedom to get truly independent.

The Regional Australia Council 2031 has invited ten major businesses, including Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, to join in a long term initiative to encourage people to live and work in regional areas. Led by policy think tank Regional Australia Institute, the Council hopes that recent events will reinvigorate their efforts — and regional Australia itself.

With so many good things to offer, the Australian countryside has never looked so welcoming.

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