Update: I moved to Sydney!
I covered my thoughts on airline status in Part I of this perenially ongoing series about becoming a TExpat (I’m from Texas and I’m an Expat HAHA GET IT), today will be about my random and hilarious journey finding an apartment here in Sydney and the adventures I’ve been on since.
The Sydney Housing Market
[disclaimer: I’m about to say a lot of things about how different my experience was in Sydney versus a typical experience in the USA. I’m not saying Sydney is weird or wrong or anything, just trying to give you my initial reactions in their pure unvarnished form. Different, not bad.]
Any Sydneysider (locals are called Sydneysiders isn’t that so cute) will tell you Sydney is in a housing crisis at the moment. Believe them. Prices to own real estate have skyrocketed as investors across Asia have bought up houses and condos here. This has trickled down to the rental market as well, with rental prices similarly skyrocketing.
I knew that things would be on the expensive side, especially compared to Dallas, and decided that I would rent a place for at least the first year I was in Sydney. I looked up a few areas I had heard about (Manly, Bondi, Surry Hills, Newtown) to get an idea of how much I would be spending.
wait, these prices are per WEEK?!
Yep. All of the listings are priced per week here. It’s similar to London and many other places, just different from what I remember about renting a place in the USA. Different, not bad I guess, especially when I figured out that you could pay monthly, which made sense. The thing is, though, there are not exactly 4 weeks in a month because of science. So what you have to do to forecast your monthly rent is take the weekly price, multiply it by 52, then divide that by 12, then you’ll be in the neighborhood of what your monthly rent will be.
My Journey Finding a Place
Phew. Ok, so I found a few places I liked in my online searches. But then I found out that Sydney doesn’t have large corporately-owned apartments like we do in the USA, where you just show up to the Leasing Office, pick your floorplan, and move in. It’s more like what Americans would experience purchasing a home. You have to go look at the apartment (during an inspection/open house period that lasts exactly 15 minutes) and then decide if you would like to make an offer on the apartment. You fill out an application, which asks for just about every piece of information about you short of a DNA sample, and then you can make an offer.
Your offer might be accepted, it might not. Or (more likely) you will find yourself in a bidding war against other applicants. So not only do you need to write a personal statement on your application talking about how you never have guests, never have owned a pet, and how your landlords named their kids after you based on how enjoyable it was having you as a tenant, you may get outbid by a random bloke who just moved here from abroad and has no budgetary awareness yet (ahem…).
And so it went with me. The day I arrived in Sydney I went almost immediately to the Manly area to look at apartments. I ended up walking with a group of about 10 or so people from apartment to apartment and looked at seven that first day. There was only one apartment that everyone skipped but me. It was on Manly Beach but was at ground level along a very busy street.
But still, it had a lot of character and I thought I could get a deal on it. I casually stayed for the ENTIRE 15 minutes of the inspection and nobody else showed up to take a look, so I figured I had a good chance to get it.
I made an offer (below listing price!), kept my fingers crossed for a few days, and I got it! I’ve been told by colleagues and friends that getting an apartment that fast is almost unheard of, so I was pretty happy with myself.
The area I live in: Manly Beach
Manly is a suburb of Sydney and the gateway to the Northern Beaches region of the massive city. By car Manly is about an hour away from central Sydney, which sounds like a long time because, well, it is. Plus I wasn’t planning on buying a car. So how would I get to the office? By boat.
The ferry from Circular Quay (central Sydney) to Manly runs frequently and only takes about 20 minutes. So that would be my plan. Live along a beach and, on days that I went into the office, I would walk to the wharf and hop on to the ferry. Seemed easy enough, was my line of thinking. Thankfully, I was right.
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Manly is a beautiful beachy town with great seaside cafes, an absurd amount of quality coffeeshops, and all of the charm and touristy nonsense you would expect. Bondi Beach is Sydney’s premier beach, but Manly isn’t far behind.
Did I mention it’s absurdly beautiful?
Working through my jetlag on morning walks has been such a pleasant change from my life in the USA where I spent so much time in my car (and I didn’t even have that long of a commute back in Dallas).
The drone shots have been so much fun to take as well!
The hilarity of moving into my apartment and getting settled
I made the decision not to bring any of my furniture from Texas and sold about half of it to the gentleman who purchased my condo back in Dallas and
sold almost gave away the rest of it to friends and family. I lost a MASSIVE amount of money by selling furniture that wouldn’t be coming with me, but if I had shipped it to Sydney I would’ve ended up paying probably $6000 USD and it would have taken roughly 20 weeks, so I would not have had furniture anyway. Tough call but I do not regret it.
It did mean, though, that a lot of the things I took for granted back home would not be making the trip with me. My company put me up in a corporate apartment for 30 days, which was very nice and had everything I needed, which gave me time to start building out my apartment in Manly. My first move was predictable: I made an enormous purchase from IKEA. The closest IKEA store was very far away from Manly but luckily they delivered.
Furniture Delivery Day
Unfortunately, I live on a very busy street along a beach in a very popular part of Sydney. On delivery day, the truck had nowhere to park, and their box truck was too tall for our loading dock at the apartment. They were going to leave, so I had to get creative. I live near a hotel which has a no parking zone in front of it. I told the delivery truck driver to just put his blinkers on and hopefully the hotel wouldn’t mind. He told me that, in addition to the great beach, Manly was also known for its Traffic Rangers, who were aggressive and relentless. He asked if I would pay the parking ticket if he got one, I agreed, and he said “ok, so let’s go. You’re helping unload.” Okey dokey, we got to work…unloading 59 packages.
Before too long, a worker from the hotel came out and asked me if I knew where the owner of all the furniture was because he wanted to talk with him. I did what any of us would’ve done in the same situation and said “I dunno man, I’m just a delivery guy” and told him I would send over the furniture purchaser once I found him (still haven’t, crazy huh).
I was left with this.
Time to break out the power drill.
No power drill. I didn’t bring mine.
No worries, let me fire up Amazon and order one.
Wait, Amazon Prime doesn’t transfer across regions.
Ok, sign up for Aussie Amazon Prime.
Wait, surely there’s a hardware store close by.
Ok, found a hardware store.
Wait, don’t have a car.
Ok, Ubered to hardware store. Bought a power drill. Ubered home. That was an expensive power drill.
Time to build the furniture. This Instagram reel has a bad language word in it but was my attempt to make one of those videos where they do a wipe transition to show a fully outfitted apartment.
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A peculiarity about Aussie apartments
Dryers are quite rare in Australia but my apartment had one already, which was nice. Here’s the thing though: appliances, aside from dishwashers, are rarely included with apartments. So I had no fridge and no washer. No worries, ordered a fridge and a washer from one of the appliance shops here.
Appliance Delivery Day
I don’t want you to think I’m a dumb person (jury is still out, honestly) so I wanted to make note that I learned from the IKEA delivery situation and made sure everyone was aware of our loading dock height so they could bring a smaller truck.
I got a text that the truck was en route when I had a sudden thought: I had never measured the refrigerator opening in my kitchen.
Wait, I didn’t bring a measuring tape.
Ok, jogged over to the grocery store and got a measuring tape.
Crap, the fridge would be too big.
Called the guys in the truck and told them to only unload the washer and return the fridge.
Ok, they unloaded the washer and started to hook it up.
Wait, the taps on the wall aren’t labeled. The delivery guy recommended getting a bucket and seeing which tap was which so I didn’t mess up the computer in the washer.
Ok, so now I need to buy a bucket. Uber back to the hardware store…
and so has gone my move to Australia.
But here’s the thing
Even though I’ve had to build all this furniture myself (aside from one night when I had a friend come by to help), and even though these little hilarious moments have been frustrating, this is all part of it. When I decided to make the move to Sydney, I wasn’t signing up for only the good stuff, I was signing up for the annoying stuff too. I was complaining about it all to a friend the other day and they chuckled and said, “haha that sounds frustrating, anyway you know that nobody feels bad for you right?” Good point, all in all. The inconveniences have been mild and hilarious while the weather, the beach, and the vibe have all been tremendous so far.
It’s hard to put into words how pretty Manly is. This drone tour hopefully does a decent job.
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I’m nearly done getting my place set up, finally. Only thing left to do is to go out and live!