• Matthew Carberry

Making a sea change or tree change after the bushfires

If you’re one of the many Australians dreaming of an idyllic home by the sea or among the trees, it’s important to do your homework before you relocate – especially if you’re moving to a bushfire-exposed area.

This summer’s horrific fires, followed by flash flooding, have highlighted the threat faced by many Australians living next to the bush or ocean. So, with thousands of properties destroyed in the past few months, you may be re-thinking your retirement plans to move out of a city.


Upping sticks is a major life decision, especially in the light of possible bushfire or flood risk. However, recent statistics show that many baby boomers are still choosing to make their home in Australia’s coastal or hinterland regions(1).


If you’re dreaming of a sea change or tree change, this year’s fires and floods don’t mean you have to abandon your plans – but think carefully about the issues and be prepared. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you relocate.


What’s the right location for you?

Think clearly about the right location – not only the recreational opportunities it offers and the people who will become your new neighbours, but also its proximity to regional centres and transport connections. In this year’s bushfires, many people found themselves trapped without services in communities with only one main road in or out, as was the case in Mallacoota. Remember that rural fire services may sometimes need to prioritise resources in the face of a large-scale emergency, and that isolated houses may not always be as well defended as those in a town centre.


How can you prepare for the risks?

If the property you have your heart set on is in an area prone to bushfire, there’s a lot you can do to help manage the risk – from clearing a buffer zone, to installing water tanks, sprinklers and a pump with an independent generator. If you’re building a new home, there are even more options to protect yourself with the latest in fire-resistant design and technologies. A good place to start is by reading your state fire authority’s guide to preparing your home and building in a bushfire zone.


You should also have an emergency plan in place, so you know exactly what to do in the event of a bushfire or flood. This should include your evacuation route, taking into account which roads out of the property have the best access to safety. Once you make the move, you’ll also want to have strong insurance cover to safeguard your home and belongings.


Have you visited the area in different seasons?

Before you commit to a particular destination, aim to visit it first at different times of the year – or you may be surprised when the weather changes. For instance, a north coast town’s mild winters and sunny springs could become hot and humid in summer, when the risk of fire is at its greatest.


Can you access all the services you might need?

When you’re healthy and active, it’s hard to imagine having health or mobility issues. But as you get older, chances are you’ll need more access to hospitals, medical centres and specialists. If you move somewhere remote, these services might be far away, which is even more important in times of emergency when people with limited mobility are particularly at risk.


Have you weighed up the numbers?

While selling your city home might allow you to buy your dream home in a regional area, think carefully before you dive in. Cheaper property prices in the country are a drawcard for many retirees – as it can free up money for you to spend on things like travelling or investing. If you’re looking to downsize to free up some capital, you may be eligible to make a one-time contribution to superannuation of up to $300,000 per individual, where the return on these funds would be tax free, providing a valuable source of retirement income.


However, the fact is that regional areas tend to carry a higher cost of living – so you’ll need to do the maths and make sure it’s worth it. And remember, if the change doesn’t work out for you, it might be hard to sell up and re-enter the property market somewhere else.


Get the right advice

Moving somewhere new can be a life-changing experience, but it could also have a significant impact on your finances. We can help you crunch the numbers and tailor a financial plan to see you through the move successfully.


Book your free initial financial planning consultation online or call Verve Group on (08) 8120 4877.


(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3235.0 - Regional Population by Age and Sex, Australia, 2018.


This document contains general advice. It does not take account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider talking to a financial adviser before making a financial decision. This document has been prepared by Count Financial Limited ABN 19 001 974 625, AFSL 227232, (Count). Count is 85% owned by CountPlus Limited ACN 126 990 832 (CountPlus) and 15% owned by Count Member Firm Pty Ltd ACN 633 983 490. CountPlus is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Count Member Firm Pty Ltd is owned by Count Member Firm DT Pty Ltd ACN 633 956 073 which holds the assets under a discretionary trust for certain beneficiaries including potentially some corporate authorised representatives of Count Financial Ltd.


Count and Count Wealth Accountants® are trading names of Count. Count Financial Advisers are authorised representatives of Count. Information in this document is based on current regulatory requirements and laws, as at 5 February 2020, which may be subject to change. While care has been taken in the preparation of this document, no liability is accepted by Count, its related entities, agents and employees for any loss arising from reliance on this document. Count is registered with the Tax Practitioners Board as a Registered Tax (Financial) Adviser. However your authorised representative may not be a Registered Tax Agent, consequently tax considerations are general in nature and do not include an assessment of your overall tax position. You should seek tax advice from a Registered Tax Agent. Should you wish to opt out of receiving direct marketing material from your adviser, please notify your adviser by email, phone or in writing.

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