Updates from Down Under – November 6

I posted a brief update on facebook as a note and realized this is probably a good excuse to start using a blog again.

Yesterday’s update:

It appears my tweets haven’t been feeding properly so I’m posting this here.

Apartment update: a lot of frustration and dead ends. Red tape all over for applying (how do you give references when you first move to a country? Or an employer when you’re self-employed?). A list of places to see tomorrow, hoping something turns out.

Also just dropped into a helpful estate agent who has a place coming available Mon he thinks would be perfect. Question now is do I apply for tomorrow’s place ASAP or wait til I see Monday’s? What happens if I don’t get approved? (or do?) Sigh.

And today….

Well, actually, first, let me start from the beginning.

I landed Thursday morning after a flight that was a million times better than the last time I flew here (glad I chose Air Canada over United – I will never fly with the latter again), but still far from perfect. That said, I lucked out and changed my seat last minute so I ended up with an empty seat beside me which meant no one stepping over me to use the bathroom, and no need to step over anyone else to do the same.

I arrived and got selected for a full search of my bags at customs. They were suspicious that I had TWO suitcases (imagine someone actually using the luggage capacity limits provided!)… after what was easily a half hour search of all of my bags along with a series of questions that seemed never to end, I was on my way. I hopped in a cab that had no idea where my hotel was, I entered its location on his GPS and he still managed to drive around the block 5 times before I assertively explained to him that the address of my hotel was higher than the numbers we were passing so he really needs to stop turning left onto random side streets before he gets to the hotel which is ON the street we were driving on. Thankfully he gave me a ‘discount’ (it was still a $70 cab ride) (assuming all figures are in AUD – CAD is about equal to it right now, unfortunately!)…

My hotel more than kindly let me check in early (before noon!) since my room was already available. After a badly-needed shower and brief internet check (using the vastly overpriced internet here — $12 / hour or $18 / day… I just bought the 3-day $54 pass as I finally decided I need it) I headed into the city to look around for places to live. I brought my laptop so I could find a cafe with WiFi since most places are listed online.

My first task was to get a SIM card for my iPhone. That was remarkably easy – and a life saver. $19 bought me “$50” worth of airtime (they have this weird practice here where airtime costs a lot but when you top up you get way more “value” than you actually pay for), as well as free domestic txts and 1GB of data. Seriously. I’ve been using it excessively since so I hope I don’t use up that gig. It’s helped me navigate; even though I know the city relatively well for someone who doesn’t live here, finding exact street addresses is definitely far from easy. It’s also helped me respond to emails quickly, and it means I have a local phone number to leave with people.

Anyways, back to the rental. I had already emailed a bunch of places and started emailing more…. that is, once I found a cafe that actually had free WiFi. Apparently that’s far from standard here — though I’ve since found a site that lists a lot of hotspots so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of it in the long run!

This is what I’ve gleaned about the rental process here so far – and it’s less info than I wish I had. Virtually all rental apartments are privately owned – rather than having big rental buildings that are entirely owned, operated, and leased by one company like in Canada, each building (‘strata’) is very similar to a condo building in Canada. The units are owned by private individuals or investors, and are in turn leased out to third parties through real estate agents.

This is good and bad. Good, because virtually every available place is listed through a centralized website, realestate.com.au. Bad, because there’s virtually no consistency, and you have to deal with estate agents who, while generally helpful, have a lot of different properties to deal with. Also, vacancy rates seem to be relatively low here — almost every apartment I’ve looked at has had at least half a dozen, sometimes more, people looking to rent it. They schedule viewings (“Open inspections” or “open houses”) in 15-minute predetermined blocks for everyone who wants to see the unit. They also seem to schedule almost all of them on Saturdays. I had about 6 different places to view today and got to 4.

But anyways, back to Thursday. I emailed around a number of places and started hearing back from some of them. Most of the places I saw were already taken but the agents had open inspection times listed on their websites for all available properties (this became incredibly helpful!) I quickly filled my schedule for today (Saturday) with locations that were within my price range (I’m aiming for $350/week or less but it’s becoming clear that’s a little on the unrealistic side… still hoping though!), that were available immediately (or within the next week), and had a time listed. There was one place that was listed for Friday (yesterday) too so I decided to check it out as well. I passed an estate agent’s office in Darlinghurst just off of Oxford Street and it was the first I passed that had anything within my price range on its listings board so I made a point of emailing them asking for assistance… they never responded so I ended up going into the office on Friday and the guy that was there said there was a property they hadn’t listed yet that they wanted to turn over quickly – the tenant moves out Monday so he’s supposed to call for me to come see it. I hope he does call as not hearing back would further complicate the situation.

I went to see the first place yesterday and it was just okay – the tenant was still in it, and the estate agent didn’t even bother showing up so he showed it to me and the half-dozen other people who came to see it himself. I emailed the agent to find out about applying and she referred me to the application on their website… which asked for various things like employers and references — none of which I have in Australia — so I followed up to get more information and haven’t heard back from her since.

This morning, though, went much better. The first place I saw (in Woolloomooloo) had only three people seeing it, including myself. One of the viewers was a couple who already lived in the building and was looking to switch apartments – it sounded like they weren’t going to take the one we looked at, or another apartment which was conveniently in the same building. I got to chat briefly with the agent and to ask all my stupid questions, like how one goes about applying! I got a paper application and he seemed somewhat sympathetic to not having any real connections in Australia – it seemed as if bank statements, as well as copies of my passport and visa will hopefully suffice. Either of the two apartments he showed would be fine (though I definitely have a preference!) and while I’m a little hesitant about the location it’s really not all that bad. The next place was in the CBD (Central Business District), above a store. It was a 4-storey climb with no lift, but the location was great. Unfortunately there were over a dozen people there to see it, and there was one girl from New Zealand who looked particularly keen to take the place – amongst lots of others. I did get an application though. Next was back to the East and a place in Potts Point. There were, once again, a whole lot of people there to see the place. It was a great unit, unfurnished but a good view, full bathroom (with tub) and a nice kitchen. I grabbed an application and she said she’d be looking at them on Monday, which I assume to be true of the other places too. On the way out I chatted with a guy who said he was disappointed it didn’t have a bed… at which point it occurred to me that furnished apartments are far more common here than back home – and that perhaps an unfurnished place might be easier to get anyway. Not that that’s a problem – I’m used to unfurnished from back home and had planned to furnish whatever place I got. Finally, I trekked back West to Pyrmont, which involved an LRT trip. It’s a nice little neighbourhood a little off the beaten track but not too far either. Unlike the others that were all studios, this place was sort of a studio + den which was interesting. There were only a few people looking at it too so it’s also not unrealistic.

SO – now I have decisions to make. And I’ve messaged the small handful of people I know that might have any insight in the hopes they can help. The place I’m supposed to see Monday, assuming he calls, sounds like a virtually sure thing but I know nothing about it (other than, in the estate agent’s words, that it would be perfect for travelers which suggests it would not be difficult to get). The four places I saw today would all be acceptable too. At this stage, I have no idea if I should a) apply for them all and then just go with whatever I get accepted for; or b) apply for the one I want most and hope I get it. The former sounds safer (I extended my hotel so I’m supposed to check out here Tuesday morning – I could extend but would rather not – this isn’t cheap!), but I worry about whether or not the information is shared amongst agents… and whether applying commits me to anything that would involve problems if I backed out of whichever one accepted me. The latter feels dangerous – if I don’t have ANY place that’s a huge problem.

For now, I’m going to spend the evening collecting the data required with the various applications as well as filling them out (also, catching up on work email since I’m behind). Some applications need to be scanned, some faxed, and some possibly delivered in person. Having no scanner makes this difficult! Hopefully I can make do with a digital camera but I may need to make a trip to somewhere that I can do some scanning. Sigh.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you been looking for this information.

    Reply

  2. […] Updates from Down Under – November 6 November 2010 1 comment 4 […]

    Reply

  3. I just dug this entry back up for a Twitter contact who’s planning a move soon and realised a brief update is in order… besides the one I provided in the next entry. That agent who promised to call me on the Monday to find me a place in Surry Hills never did call – I should’ve known as much.

    Reply

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