As much as we have enjoyed living there the past 20 months, the lack of storage and the fact I don’t want to carry a baby (plus anything else) up three flights of stairs every day has made it clear that it is time to move on.
I’ve been wanting to write this post because the process of apartment hunting here is quite different than what I’m used to in the States, and I know when we were planning our move I had a hard time finding many useful resources. So this is my unofficial guide to apartment hunting in Brisbane (photos from last year’s apartment and neighborhood tours).
When we moved here two years ago, we were partnered up with a relocation agent who held our hand through the whole process. We started off by driving around the city and checking out the different suburbs, or neighbourhoods. In Houston, if you say you live in the ‘burbs”, it means at least 20 minutes outside the city, here it is just what they call the different parts of town. Each suburb has it’s a postcode and that is what you put as your address (so for us instead of Brisbane, QLD we would write Teneriffe, QLD).
After checking out several areas and getting the run down on each from our relocation agent, we decided to focus in on a couple neighbouring suburbs for our search.
Where to Start
If you don’t have an agent showing you around the suburbs there are other ways to figure out where you want to live. Ask around if you know people in the area or do some online research. I used City Hobo before we even left Texas and already had our list of potential suburbs narrowed down before we landed.
Once you have that sorted, I have found there are several places to look for available units (apartments). Websites such as Homesales.com.au provide listings of units for rent as well as for sale along with the leasing agent’s information, so you can arrange an inspection. You can also go directly to the real estate leasing agency and they can show you what properties they have available. There are a number of major agencies in Brisbane and you can access all of them either directly or through the agencies profile in Homesales.
You can also use one of my favourite methods, go on a nice walk (or bike ride) around your desired suburb and see what apartments have signs outside. Most places will list any availabilities and sometimes even upcoming inspections.
Independently Owned Units
Another difference we found was that the majority of the apartments (units) are independently owned. The owners use real estate agencies to manage their apartments. So that means when you are looking at apartments you actually have to schedule an inspection (or tour) with the leasing agent in charge of that particular place. In Houston when I rented apartments, I would just show up at an apartment building’s leasing office and have them show me whatever was going to be available when I was looking to move in. There are also open inspection times that you can show up for that range from 15 minutes to an hour.
Having an independent owner also changes the way that maintenance issues are handled. Some units might have an onsite manager that takes care of any problems, but others (like ours) go through the leasing agent to the owner and then to the respective tradesman who would come out to the property. This means when things come up like a leaking roof or broken dishwasher (both of which we have had in the past two years) you have to wait for the request to be passed down the pipeline before anything is resolved. Depending on your leasing agent and your owner this may take longer than desired.
Another difference is when you can start looking for a new apartment. We have known for a while that we needed to move out around May or June, but it is still too early to look at most places. Most places only require you to give two weeks notice before you move out, and if that is before your lease is up then you have to pay your lease (plus a fee) until they find someone to move in. We are lucky that our owner was flexible with us and let us go month to month at the same rate, but in return, we have to give two months notice before we leave.
Since owners want a quick turnover so they aren’t losing rental income, most places you will find available online will be ready for someone to move in immediately. Even a month out from our move out date, most places and owners don’t want to wait. Which leaves us crossing our fingers that we can find a place for us (and Baby A) to rest our head sometime before we have to move out.
Once you’ve found a place that you like, you then have to turn in an application. If you are new to the country, be aware that this requires several pieces of identification that are all worth a certain amount of points. If you are working with a relocation agent some places will waive some of these requirements however make sure you factor this into the cost of moving. Once you have submitted your application, it is then up to the owner to decide if they want to offer you the apartment. This can take a day or two depending on when you submit. When we were looking the first time, we did this twice, and then turned down one of the units when it came time to choose.
When I have lived in apartments in the US, both in college towns and big cities, they have come equipped with a washer, a dryer, and all kitchen appliances.
Well, first of all using a clothes dryer is not standard practice here and you will find some places (especially older homes) have only a hook up for a washer and a clothes line outside. In newer places you will typically find the dryer is included, but the washer is not. That was different in our case because as you can see in the picture, there was no way for them to remove the washer without tearing down the shower.
Wherever we move next though, we will have to purchase a washer. That’s not all, refrigerators do not come with apartments and neither do microwaves (we have gone without one for almost two years). So, before you move in be prepared to take some measurements and head to your local appliance store or IKEA, luckily most will deliver.
Another thing I hadn’t experienced as a renter were random inspections. Every few months your leasing agent will schedule an inspection to document how you are taking care of the apartment. We have always had easy experiences with these, but I have heard horror stories of overly meticulous agents or owners that have been very critical. Once again, I think this all depends on the personality of your leasing agent or owner. Either way, if you have one of these coming up it is best to give your unit a thorough clean before.
As you can see, finding an apartment here in Australia is a much more involved process than I am used to coming from the US. Hopefully, I will use my school holiday time wisely and sweet talk some unsuspecting owner into letting us sign a lease a month out. I have a nursery to get started on :).
This post was written in collaboration with Homesales, all information is based on my personal experiences with apartment hunting in Brisbane.