Live in Melbourne, but dreaming of North Queensland's tropical climate? Perhaps you're from a rural mining town, trying to determine what life would be like in the big smoke? No matter where you live or where you're going, its certainly possible to scope out your new home base from afar!
Some may be happy with just taking a risk; uprooting their lives and fitting it all into the back of their Toyota Camry before darting off across the country for the next big adventure. Others choose to make more calculated decisions, researching and planning to the most minute detail, so there's no need to expect the unexpected.
Even without actually visiting a city, the latter is more than achievable; just follow these 5 simple steps!
1. Research real estate markets
There's no point moving to an area if you can't afford to live there. Worse; imagine moving to an area where the demand is so high you physically can't find anywhere to live? Unless you want to fold down your back seat and live out of your car for months (certainly not ideal if you own the Toyota Camry previously mentioned), research is critically important.
Wondering what the median house prices are in your desired area? Websites like CoreLogic and Real Estate View should have the information you're looking for. Wondering what properties are available to rent or buy? Realestate.com.au and Domain have got you covered. And when you've found a desired home suite, check it out on Google Maps street view! If the gardens are messy and the lawns aren't mowed, you'll have a solid understanding of how well the property has been looked after. Oh, internet. You sure do come in handy.
2. Determine the cost of living
There's no point finding a property you can afford, if the cost of living is astronomically out of reach. $6 for my morning coffee?! Tell him he's dreamin'.
It's common knowledge that the cost of living in Australia is relatively high, compared to other countries. While we are no 'Zurich, Switzerland' (a city that regularly tops the cost of living index), Australia do seem to have our 'out of touch with reality' pockets, too. Expatistan.com is a great tool to determine where your desired city sits in terms of cost of living, compared to its neighbours. Click on individual cities to view interesting stats, such as the average costs of a meal, rent and transport, as well as more specific needs - like how much laundry detergent is going to set you back.
3. Assess crime statistics
Regardless of its affordable property market, great schools and abundant public transport options, if a city is renowned for car jackings, assaults and break ins, you probably won't want to move there. Thus, it is important to consider a region's crime statistics before you head on down the road. Such statistics should be readily available. For example, in Victoria you can visit the Crime Statistics Agency and view the exact number of offences in each suburb. A quick Google search should lead you to the relevant website for your state. If you want to go into more detail, consider calling the local police station and ask for a crime report. While these results may not deter your decision to move there, at least you can prepare with an extra padlock on the door!
4. Join online community conversations
Ain't no easier way to suss out a neighbourhood than hearing it from the locals! Homely offers the perfect place to pose questions, and read reviews from those who have opinions on your potential home town. The good, the bad, and the advertisements (beware of agents posting glowing reviews on the page just to make a quick sale!); this website should give you a greater insight into the benefits and drawbacks of the area. Whatever you're wondering, you can ask it here; "What's the public transport like in Maribyrnong?", "can anyone recommend a good pub in Margaret River?", "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?". Okay, perhaps not everything you're wondering. While accuracy of responses is not guaranteed, you may find some gold nuggets of information that you wouldn't get from a quick city drive through.
5. Contact a real estate agent/mortgage broker from the area
While the opinions of locals can help, those of an expert should provide you with greater orientation. Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are full of local property market knowledge; find one from your desired area and pick their brains! And when you are well-informed and ready to go, the latter can help you out with all your home finance needs - two birds with one stone!
Disclaimer: The advice provided in this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. We encourage you to consult a finance professional before acting on any advice provided in this article or on this website.