Going Bush, Beach or Country in the City - December 2020
Some of us will inevitably reach a point where we begin imagining a quieter life in the country, by the beach or in a sleepy little bush town.
Perhaps it’s when we start a family and watch our little ones try to explore an ultra-urban setting amid choking traffic, aircraft noise and rowdy neighbours. Maybe it’s when the hustle and bustle of city life becomes grating and the countdown to a weekend out of town is more and more urgent.
Or maybe it’s after a difficult, uncertain and challenging year where a global pandemic forces us inside and confined us to our suburbs…
Indeed, there have been many reports of weary and fed-up city slickers in Sydney and Melbourne fleeing their once-loved lives to find a peaceful patch in rural or coastal settings. I’ve written about it here myself.
It’s an understandable response. City life is many things – convenient, exciting, colourful and busy. But it’s also tiring at times, especially when your priorities shift, not to mention expensive in property price terms.
What if I told you there was a way to have it all? What if you could get your home among the gum trees, by the ocean or in a charming village, without fleeing the city?
Although it’s sometimes hard to look on the bright side all of the time, Australians really are exceptionally lucky when it comes to our lifestyle. It’s worth keeping this in mind, especially when we assess how we live.
Here’s a brief reminder of what we have within our reach.
If you were an alien who’d just arrived on earth and plonked yourself in the middle of the Sydney CBD, you’d see what looked and felt like any other city. Busy streets full of cars, buses and trams, with hordes of pedestrians rushing by, beneath a canopy of skyscrapers.
Loud, active, thriving any time of day or night. Rarely peaceful. Just like other classic world cities, such as New York.
But jump in a car and head north, south, or west for 45 minutes – in moderate traffic – and you’d be in a vastly different world.
To the north, you’d find enclaves that feel like sleepy beach towns a million miles from civilisation where the pace of life is cruisy and the people are friendly. There’s no smog smell here – just the sea breeze and wafts of fish and chips from oceanfront cafes.
Head south about the same distance and you’d be smack bang in the middle of thick green forest, where natives stretch high into the sky, and the only constant noise is from birds and insects, not planes, trucks and cars.
Or, travel west and you’ll soon enough be in postcard perfect historic villages full of grand sandstone buildings, overly wide boulevard streets, school fetes and CWA fundraisers, locals in RM Williams and a sense of tight-knit community usually only found in the regions.
Try to find that same level of environmental variety and sheer range of lifestyle options within the same proximity of New York City!
The truth is that those in search of a bush, blue sky, tree, or sea change can do so within the city limits, giving the absolute best of both worlds.
Within the Greater Sydney area, there are plenty of pockets where suburbs border massive national parks, beautiful waterways and peaceful communities that feel country but are actually suburban.
Depending on your budget, you really can have your cake and eat it too. You just need to know where to look and have the knowledge and know-how to find the opportunities and make them yours.
If I was working with a client who was desperate for a beach life within commuting distance of the CBD, I’d begin my search on the northern beaches. Its recent coronavirus brush with fame aside, it’s known for its idyllic setting, lovely homes, great communities and family friendly vibe.
There are the iconic suburbs like Avalon – stunning homes, high-end boutiques, exceptional dining and beautiful streetscapes. The median house price is a cool $2.3 million and competition for properties that hit the market is always tough, no matter the market conditions. But there are alternatives.
A stone’s throw away you’ll find Cromer, which has the proximity to the beach and the slower pace of life without the mammoth price tag. The median house price is $1.6 million and demand isn’t quite as strong. The demographic mix is a bit more families than retirees too. Or try nearby Elanora Heights with excellent ocean views where the median house price is $1.85m or North Narrabeen at $1.68m and close to one of Sydney’s best surf breaks.
If my client was keen for a life among the trees, I’d head to the Sutherland Shire. God’s Country, as the locals call it, is famed for its golden sands and coastal vibe but it’s surrounded by national park and has a bunch of areas that feel more bush than beach.
Take Grays Point. It’s not far from Cronulla and you’re just down the road from Miranda, boasting a mammoth Westfield shopping centre and exceptional public transport links to the Sydney CBD, but it doesn’t feel like it. You’re almost in the national park and the residential streets are towered over by beautiful old trees.
Homes are setback far from the road, giving them a regional feel, and the community vibe is peaceful and friendly. The median house price here is $1.3 million, giving those with a good budget plenty of bang for their buck. Or try Kirrawee which adjoins the Royal National Park with a median of just $1.15m.
If my client wanted a country town atmosphere, I’d head west – not to the second CBD of Parramatta and its bustling urban surrounds, but to suburbs like Camden. Here, it feels like you’ve stepped onto the set of a period Australiana film, with historic old buildings in the centre of ‘town’ and stunning homes from yesteryear.
The charm here is off the charts. Every direction you turn, there’s something historic, quintessential or awe-inspiring to see, from the blooming jacarandas in the middle of the main street to the church steeple and classic architecture. And the locals are delightful. You could be in Bowral or Berry.
But it’s not really that far from urban hubs like Campbelltown, and there’s a train line that can get you to the city or the western suburbs.
Depending on which part of Camden you’re looking in, the median house price is between $700,000 and $1 million. Properties are tightly held and demand is high, so new listings don’t tend to last long. There’s a great variety of homes, from cute cottages to sprawling Victorian-style estates.
If you want the best of both worlds, enlist the services of a qualified, experienced and independent buyer’s agent who can help you find potential deals that fit the bill.
This is especially useful in areas where supply is low and demand is high.
In many cases, a buyers' agent can help you source properties that aren’t on the open market and that you’d never hear about on your own.
A buyers' agent can find out what your needs and wants are, shortlist some potential areas, including those you didn’t even consider, and then search for possible homes and negotiate on your behalf with agents for the ones you fall in love with.
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