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Starting a new life in Australia, part 1

by Chris Lang on February 11, 2009

Woman with a  suitcase going down the escalator in an airportBefore you say anything, let me explain: yes, this is a blog about real estate in Australia, and most of the articles here are talking about buying, renting or building a home.

But it is also my blog and if you’re reading it, it means that you’re interested in my view of things. I realize that this is not a life journal, but still think that my readers would like some background – who the heck is Chris Lang and why should I listen to what she has to say about Aussie real estate? So here we go, this is my story about settling in Australia.

My partner and I came to Australia carrying nothing but two suitcases. It was a conscious decision; we were starting to build a life here – from scratch. With some money in the bank transferred from overseas, a dog in the quarantine, a lot of dreams to travel and see different places and the determination – to make it here, to never go back with our tail between our legs.

Our plane has landed in Melbourne late October 2006 and I remember walking through the anxious crowd anticipating their friends and relatives, agents carrying signs “Johansson family”, “Jeff Baker” and knowing – no one is waiting for us. We’re on our own in strange country where we don’t know anyone.

A taxi took us to the hotel where we were staying. Initially the plan was to find and rent a house via Internet from overseas, but it was just too hard to do. Even though we compared the prices and knew that hotels are more expensive than rentals, the real estate agencies we contacted didn’t want to help people from overseas, who are physically not in the country yet, to rent a house in Melbourne and we were left with the only option – hotels.

Searching for an affordable hotel we have found a decently looking one in Preston (one of the Melbourne’s northern suburbs), it was certainly affordable and close enough to the train station so that we could easily get to the city or the quarantine station to visit our dog. When we got there and saw the hotel with our own eyes, the pictures were a bit too optimistic. It looked pretty depressing and the room was tiny, the bed, little fridge and the little desk took pretty much all the space. What to do, you get what you pay for!

First purchase in Australia? A power adapter for my laptop and an Internet account – to get in touch with the family overseas and be able to begin my house and job search. With no mobile phone or car, both were kind of tricky. I quickly realized that in Australia a car is a must, there are places where you literally can’t get without it. Walking is nice, but 20 minutes of carrying your groceries from the market are quickly putting you off eating :). Calling 10 estate agencies about the houses for rent on the payphone in the middle of a busy street are not my idea of fun either.

It took me about two weeks to understand how renting a house works in Australia. In the beginning I was very surprised that the real estate agents were reluctant to help prospective tenants, and that a person couldn’t just walk through the door, state that they were looking to rent a house and expect the agents to quickly find a suitable home. But hey, bitching never really helped anyone and I had to quickly learn how things are done in Australia.

This is not nearly the end of it – expect part 2 a couple of days. Meanwhile, why not subscribe and get it to your email?

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