House Hunters Down Under

We have officially begun our home search! The housing market in Sydney is quite competitive, with apartments on the market for only a few hours in many cases. We are fortunate that Dell hooked us up with a relocation consultant who is helping us, along with a real estate consultant, to narrow down a list of properties that fit our wish list. If you’ve ever watched House Hunters, you know how crazy people can be about a house search: “We want 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, light granite that isn’t too sparkly, hardwood floors laid on a diagonal, and a northern exposure (whatever that means.) Also, our budget is $125,000.”

We fancy ourselves more practical, and came up with the following list of priorities:

  1. Air conditioning. (Central air isn’t even really an option, but after a week of no-AC in the granny flat, we desperately need some kind of aircon.)
  2. Short walk to the beach.
  3. 2 bedrooms. (We want everyone to come visit!)

That’s really all we’re after. It’s a very different process than when we were building our first house this time two years ago and I was stressed out over the specific tiles for our kitchen backsplash and finding the perfect hand-scraped hardwood.

We are specifically searching for properties in what’s called the “Northern Beaches” of Sydney. Across the harbour from the CBD (central business district– this is what they call downtown or the city centre) the Northern Beaches run from Manly (where we are living now) all the way up to Palm Beach.

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Donnie currently rides the bus to work, so we don’t want to be too far from his office in the more inland neighborhood of Frenchs Forest. We’ve focused our search mostly in Freshwater, Dee Why, and Collaroy, because they are somewhat reasonably priced and have great beach access.

According to the law here, a resident must physically visit a property before being allowed to lease it. The way most people accomplish this is to attend an “inspection” that is held for 15 or 30 minutes and generally quite crowded. Because we are working with an independent consultant, we are able to schedule private showings.

On Thursday, Donnie and I met up with our consultant to tackle 9 apartment inspections between 1:30 and 4:30. We generally had about 10 minutes to look around and ask any questions. Several agents asked if we were shipping our refrigerator or washing machine from home. Honestly, our fridge wouldn’t even fit in the entire kitchen in several of the places we viewed, and the space for the washing machine is generally about two feet. Needless to say, our American appliances wouldn’t begin to fit. It’s hard to remember all the different places, so Donnie took very detailed notes.

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After an exhausting day of searching, we’re excited to narrow down our list to two places we really like. Now comes the fun part– applying!

Applying to lease an apartment in Australia is infinitely more complicated than applying for a mortgage in America. We each had to fill out an online application for each place we were interested in, and then attach heaps of documents. They have a “100 point” identification process that requires each applicant to provide documents (each worth different point amounts) to total at least 100. You are given higher prioritization the greater points you can provide. We used driver’s licenses, passports, 457 work visa, proof of benefits, bank statements from our Aussie and US accounts, 3 utility bills, references from our realtor, mortgage statements, and our marriage certificate to establish our points. It was somewhat overwhelming, and not made any easier by our super slow and intermittent internet access.

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After several hours, we finally completed our applications! Now we just wait and cross our fingers that someone wants to give us a home. Stay tuned for updates!

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