Move to a regional area and bring your automotive toys with you

If you saw Ruth's story in the Property section of the website early last week (November 9) you'll have seen that the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has launched the Regional Activators Alliance (RAA) specifically for the purpose of encouraging population movement to the regions.

It's hard to argue against the need for it, on several levels. For a start, Ruth cited data that says job opportunities are growing as much as 25 per cent in the regions, while falling as much as 27 per cent in the cities. That's a good enough reason on its own.

House? What house? True car people only see the garages. Photo: Shutterstock.

House? What house? True car people only see the garages. Photo: Shutterstock.

However, location still matters. It always matters with property. It's just a question of what it is you want to be within reach of.

When it comes to work, I think it's far more about time than it is about distance. The more congested the transport network is (and that includes whether the public transport option is adequate in terms of capacity, area coverage and timings), the more time it takes and the less pleasant it is to cover a set distance.

If you're willing to live in one of the outlying villages, because you're happy to drive or, like 4.5 million other Australians who found they were able to work from home, don't really need to drive very often, the value-for-money goes up even further.

When it comes to infrastructure, the major centres have, well, pretty much everything considered essential from medical and emergency care through to schools, recreation facilities, clubs and groups of various interests, ever-increasing NBN coverage, trades and services of all kinds, living options from units to lifestyle acreages, as well as libraries, galleries, museums and much more.

As for that mention of value-for-money, you can get a lot more space to keep all of your toys (or have a lot more cash left over for those toys). Whether you have a cheap and cheerful mix of projects like me, or a collection of actual investment value, one needs a safe and suitable place to keep them (and in my case, also work on them).

So how do you find something suitable?

Admittedly, property search engines are generally clumsy at best when it comes to filtering results based on peripheral features like garages, sheds and workshop space. The agents are generally focused on the living space a home offers, after all.

Then there's the even more specific concern of getting vehicles in and out, especially on a trailer. If it's steep, or narrow, or simply quite small, you're going to have a heck of a challenge moving anything around, including large parts that need a crane or a stand, like an engine. So hilly areas are probably out, but there can be plateaus hidden away (they may just take more time to find).

When it comes to driving your toys, if, like me, you want to hit the track there are still several options around the country that you may find acceptable.

Whether you want a sealed surface such as a permanent circuit, a hillclimb venue or a karting track, or something on clay or dirt like speedway, motorkana, kanacross, or even motocross for bikes, if there's a big enough regional centre nearby you'll probably find there will be a local club with a venue that is close enough to have fun on a weekend. Just add it to your list of things to look for.

If you're keen on a state championship, you'll be traveling anyway so that can really open up your options in terms of location. You'll then be more interested in the roads and routes to your calendar of destinations (so again, you'll want fewer hills and less narrow twists when you're hauling a trailer).

Another thing worth mentioning to anyone contemplating the move to a regional area, is it's not always quite as simple as getting a few acres just outside a major town, unless the only thing you're looking for is room for big sheds and some spare yard space.

Usually, anything out of town needs to be pretty big to build a dwelling on it. In NSW for instance this will be 100 acres or more.

Those rural lots that do exist in a zoning area that still allows a dwelling on less than 100 acres are highly prized, especially by those looking to escape the city for a tree change without getting something so big they should be using it for grazing or farming.

Sam Hollier is an ACM journalist and a motoring fanatic who builds cars in his shed in his spare time.