Many people dream of leaving the city and “downshifting” to a quieter life somewhere in the country or at the coast – but this is not a move to be made on the spur of the moment, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.
“For example, the technology that means you are no longer desk-bound in the city may actually not work so well in the countryside, where access to wi-fi and cellphone signals is often still sporadic. So if your plan is to become a remote worker, you might be better off just setting up a home office and staying put.”
If you plan to start a new career or business, he says, your choice of town should also not be made while wearing rose-tinted spectacles.
“It’s easy to romanticise. A wonderful holiday a few years ago, or the experience of a friend who has already relocated is bound to influence your perceptions. But moving to a town that is wrong for you or your family is an expensive mistake, so you really need to exercise caution, and do your own research first”.
“You may find that popular holiday towns may have good work or business prospects for you during only three or four months of the year. And a ‘retirement town’ with a high proportion of older residents might mean that the right schools are far away and that your children would be separated from most of their friends in the holidays.”
Kotzé says you should also consider the size of town that will suit your personality and family needs. “A tiny village may seem idyllic but if you’re used to the adrenaline rush of a big city or having lots of friends around, you might find the adjustment too great and end up feeling bored or stifled or lonely.”
The answer, he says, is to try to visit the country town you are considering several times – and in different seasons – before you move. “Talk to people in the shops and restaurants, contact the local chamber of business, meet members of the local professional, trade or technical associations, subscribe to the local newspaper. And if you’re thinking of buying property there, make sure you first consult with experienced local estate agents”.
“When you feel you really know the town and its people, and you have reassured yourself that it is an area which offers opportunity along with tranquility, you will be well-equipped to make the right decision about a move. And if you discover that there is a demand there for any specialist skills that you have, so much the better.”