Take pause before considering a tree/sea change

If you have been living in an urban area and done the sums about the value of your house compared to country areas, in almost every scenario, it sure does pay to downsize to the country.

And a tree change or sea change is generally seen as a dream outcome for your retirement. All you need to do is swap your busy, city existence for a life of gazing into beautiful sunsets in the country area of your choice.

It can be that simple, but there are also plenty of traps for the unwary.

Here’s a guide on what to think about before selling up and moving a bazillion hours away.

Your health

Unfortunately, both sides of the government have systematically run down rural health to the bare bones. 

In the regional centre I grew up in, the local hospital had a nurses’ home, a well-regarded midwifery training centre and plenty of accommodation for people who had moved to the area for a job until they got on their feet. 

Absolutely none of that exists now. And it’s the same story in most regional centres. 

If you have any existing health problems, you need to consider what health services are in the area you plan to move to and whether they can support you.

Most decent-sized towns have at least a hospital, but some of them don’t have an emergency department or specialists on call.  

When my father was in his terminal illness, every time he had to see a doctor who was not his GP, he had to fly to Melbourne. 

So, do your research, and consider carefully what health supports are available before you take the plunge. 


A secondary consideration is public transport services. If there are no suitable health services in your area, you may need access to public transport. 

But it’s not just about your health. As you age, your desire to drive five hours to the city may have waned. I’m tired of thinking about it.

Unfortunately, like regional public health, this has also been neglected. 

The ideal would be to live in a town on a train line or reliable bus service, and a quick online search should set you straight.

Moving experience

Moving away from the city could also mean moving away from your family. Are you prepared for that wrench?

You could be missing out on valuable grandkid time or even just support for your children. 

And it’s not just your human family. Will your pets be okay in their new location?

A dog used to the confines of their yard may not behave so well if you buy acreage without secure fencing, while cats hate moving and it may not be suitable for them to be outside at all. 

Will you even like it?

I would dearly love to retire to the country, but I know my husband would not enjoy it.

Don’t make a massive move like selling up before you have explored your favoured destination.

If at all possible, try and rent for at least six months before you make a decision you can’t reverse. Maybe even hire a caravan or camper van to explore towns in your target area at your leisure.

You may get bored

You will often have to rely on your own entertainment in rural and regional areas. While this sounds ideal for some, it could be a dealbreaker for others.

Many country areas have busy communities, a feast of festivals and are close to other attractions. However, many do not. So, once again, do your research.

If you are considering still working in some capacity, the employment prospects will be limited, especially for older people. 


You do not realise it, but you have been spoilt for choice for housing in metropolitan areas. 

Country areas are currently undergoing a shortage of housing due to rental increases and lack of new builds and tree/sea changers soaking up a lot of stock. While housing may almost always be cheaper, you may have to lower your expectations when it comes to standards. 

Things you should do if you make the plunge:

Make an effort to fit in. Join a club or become a volunteer. You can be guaranteed the local footy club is always looking for extra support at the very least. You may even make some good contacts if you are looking for work. 

Dial down your expectations. Moving to the country is not one long episode of A Country Practice mixed with Sea Change. There is often a lot of poverty and disadvantage. Unless you have moved to a particularly wealthy area, you will probably not be living the bucolic existence you expected and housing may be scarce.

Do your research. Does the area have health services, transport options, housing options, and things to do and places to go? Is it in a high-risk fire zone? Tailor your search accordingly. 

Everyone will know you. This can be a blessing and a curse. Great in hard times, bloody annoying when gossip overtakes facts.

Have you made a tree/sea change? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: How outdoor adventure could save your life

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. We made the tree change 10 years ago at age 66 and 76 from Sydney to the other side of the Blue Mountains to a 5 acre property with a home that was at least double our Sydney home.
    We had a 100 acre hobby property at Tarago (near Goulburn) for about 12 years and loved the quietness and healthy benefits of cleaning up the property.
    We then had a holiday house at Lake Conjola on the water for a similar period and it provided us much fun with swimming, canoeing, etc and fabulous holidays for 4 of our grandkids.
    Having experienced both tree and sea when we decided to move from Sydney the tree change won. We took our time looking at various areas before we made our choice.
    We are relatively close to Sydney – 2 hours about – serviced by a train line – there is a hospital and several medical practices.
    On the medical side we find the Doctors rotate about every 2 years as they are usually required to do some rural work before being able to work in Sydney. This does lead to disjointed visits as the Doctor does not really know you. Fortunately, we are both in really good health.
    We found most of our family and friends wanted to see the new place and visited for the first few years. Except for our daughters we now do not have regular visitors, perhaps because we are now 10 years older – 76 and 86. My two sisters have only ever been here once, and I need to go to Sydney if I want to actually “see” them. So, this could be classed as a “minus”.
    Bored – not possible when you live on 5 acres – there is always something that requires doing. We inherited 26 fruit trees and lots of vege beds – at least we eat more healthy than when we lived in Sydney.
    We are currently planning our next move and it will be difficult to give up the acreage and probably have to live in a “normal” house again with close neighbours.

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