Friday, 23 May 2014

The Joys of Moving in Melbourne

We are moving out of our first Melbourne flat today. Exciting, but a bit sad, and shocking to realize we have been in this flat for almost 16 months, which means we've been in Melbourne 16 months. Crazy how fast time flies. In four weeks we will be heading to London and Spain for 3 weeks to see our friends, Andy's family, and to go to the wedding of one of Andy's childhood friends. I am so so so looking forward to the trip. But first things first, we must get through this move.

The pool in our old flat... I will miss this!
The area we are moving to is called Prahran, which is the suburb just south of where we live now (in South Yarra). So, it's not a huge move in terms of location, about 1.5 km south of where we are now. Our main reason for moving is we are tired of not having any outside space. There is a communal area outside our building for residents but it is not the same as having your own private area. We also have absolutely no view, our flat looks onto the roof of the Woolworths at the bottom of our building. We have been missing out on way too many beautiful Melbourne sunrises and sunsets. The third reason is that our landlord is trying to sell our flat so there are people constantly coming around for viewings. That in itself is pretty annoying, but we also didn't know if it would be another investor buying the flat or someone wanting to actually live here, so we might have been kicked out at some point anyway. Interestingly, we have found out our landlord is having a very hard time selling... I'm sure the view onto the roof is not helping things. He bought it about 2 years ago brand new for over $500,000 and we overheard the real estate agent saying he is willing to accept around $460,000. I was surprised to hear that, as it seems the real estate market is pretty healthy here in Melbourne. Just goes to show that real estate is not always a sure investment, especially if you find yourself in a bind to sell. 

Ah, a lovely view of a roof. I will not miss this!

Nice rainbow, crap view. This was taken by Andy, I am not tall enough to see those buildings over the roof!
Our new place is in another new build, I think this complex opened in August 2013, so we are only the second tenants. The rent is cheaper, so we will be saving some money, and we are on the 9th floor with a nice big balcony and uninterrupted views out to the bay (I sound like a real estate agent...). The flat itself is small, although pretty comparable to what we have now. I think we have realised since moving here that we don't actually need that much space or that much stuff (and if you have a lot of space it just compels you to buy more stuff). I constantly shake my head at all the things we shipped here from England only to throw away or give to charity. Having outside space was a priority when looking for a new place, and we also wanted to save some money, so this place ticks those boxes. Oh, we also have WINDOWS in the main bedroom which we don't have right now. I know, bedrooms without windows, how awful. They are surprisingly common in the new builds around here. 

I really really hope we like this place to stay for a few years as moving pretty much sucks. First of all the process of flat hunting here is just ridiculous. I long for the days of flat hunting in London, which I found pretty dire at the time - however I didn't know how good we had it. Oh, to walk into an estate agent, give your budget and specifications, and to be taken around to view flats (sometimes the agents would even drive you there). Sure, you saw some crappy flats, but there was something nice and personal about the service. You felt the estate agent was actually doing something to earn their commission. Ok, maybe I didn't feel that when we were in London, but I do now!

Here in Australia you spend hours on websites like realestate.com.au or domain.com.au looking through the rental listings. Don't even bother going into an estate agent as they will just tell you to look online. Each flat will have an 'Open for Inspection' which is a 15 minute time slot where the 'estate agent' will open up the flat so you, and anyone else who is interested, can have a look around. Sometimes there are 40-50 other prospective tenants there for the inspection. I am not sure what the purpose of that estate agent is, except to unlock the door, as they never have any additional information about the flat. Sometimes they don't even turn up or they turn up with the wrong keys, and the whole thing will have been a major waste of time. Usually it will be the first time they have been inside the flat themselves. With older places the flat barely resembles the pictures on the website, as pictures have all been retouched or taken years ago when the flat was in better condition. In one case Andy questioned the estate agent as the flat looked nothing like what was advertised online and she admitted they had used pictures of a different flat. Surely that can't be legal?!

If you like the flat, you then have to fill in a lengthy application form, detailing your salary, current and former places of employment, current and former residences, and a few references. They are a pain to fill in, although some places now use an online form through the realestate.com.au website which takes a while to fill in but then can be used for multiple applications. The process is fairly competitive if you are applying for a popular place, and people often say they are willing to pay more than the asking rent in order to secure the place. We have never done that, but we know people who have offered an extra $25 per week for a place they really liked. Other than extra money and secure employment, I'm not sure how the tenants are chosen. Before we found our new flat, we applied for one other place we didn't get, and we felt pretty rejected! For this one, after some prompting from Andy, I called the estate agent a few days after we put our application in. The agent happened to go to the school I teach at now, so we had a nice little chat about that, and he said he thought we'd be good tenants and would phone the landlord to check. Half an hour later, the flat was ours. If we hadn't phoned who knows if we would have got it. So, if you're reading this and flat hunting in Melbourne, it's always good to phone the estate agent after you apply. 

Moving is also ridiculously expensive as you usually have to get the flat professionally cleaned - including steam cleaning the carpets. I don't mind that too much as it also means you move into a nice clean flat. It's also usually necessary to hire movers as most flats are unfurnished and so moving furniture yourself (including fridge and washing machine) is not really doable unless you have super helpful friends who don't work during the day also happen to own large vans. So even though we are saving on rent it will be about 2 months before we start saving if you count all the moving costs.

Ok well I'd better get back to it - the movers will be here in about 4 hours and Andy has had to work for the morning so it's just me doing all the last minute things. I have just finished my coffee so its time to pack up our beloved Nespresso machine. I think I am mostly done but want to be prepared for any last minute jobs. I am looking forward to a nice wine tonight on our balcony (that is, if it stops raining...)

2 comments:

  1. I am also an expat in Melbourne and have enjoyed reading your blog! It's given me lots of great info so far. I totally sympathize with the moving process-we have had a nightmare trying to get into a new place! It's crazy competitive- I feel like I'm
    applying to jobs!

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    1. I know! It's awful. Thankfully we really like our new place as I don't want to have to move again for a long time. Good luck with your flat hunting!

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