Moving to Australia was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also something that I look back on with a huge sense of achievement – we felt the fear and did it anyway – and now we’re living a life we love.
Moving to another country, and leaving our family and friends behind, was gut-wrenching. And I won’t lie – trying to figure out what to do when we landed when we were feeling so emotional was hard.
It was such a busy time that I didn’t have chance to blog much about the whole experience as it was happening. We’re now approaching our first anniversary in our own home in Australia, and we aren’t far off our two-year anniversary in the country too, so it feels like a great opportunity to reflect on how we set up home in Australia.
Why we moved to Brisbane
I talked a bit about our reasons for migrating in this letter to my kids. But deciding to move to Australia was only part of the process – next we had to decide WHERE exactly to move.
Hubby and I LOVE Perth and I have family there, but he had a work contact in Brisbane. Our heart said Perth – we felt at home there and we’d loved so much about WA during our time exploring as backpackers. But our head said we were more likely to have the life we were dreaming of in Brisbane.
We weighed up the cost of houses to buy and rent in both cities using online research tools and listing portal sites like Homesales while we were in the UK, because being able to afford a larger house was part of the dream. We also spent time online checking out the job market.
In the end, our head won out – we realised we’d get more affordable housing in Brisbane which was important as we were moving for a better quality of life and wanted more space, plus there were more work opportunities along the east coast. Having online research at our fingertips made decision-making so much easier – I can’t imagine how difficult everything must have been for my family members who migrated to Perth about 30 years ago with no way of finding out anything until they arrived. Terrifying.
We didn’t know Brisbane as we’d literally just driven through it when we were backpacking. Luckily, Hubby’s ex-work colleague (who had migrated over a few years earlier) was a great help to us, giving us advice on everything from schools and jobs to finances and suburbs.
For us, the most important part of the move was to find a suburb close to a beach, good schools, parks, shops and near enough to commute to the airport where we hoped Hubby would secure a job. Brisbane isn’t well known for its beaches, but there are a few nearby. We quickly narrowed our search area to the Redcliffe Peninsula which is about 45 mins north of the city. It has some pretty little beaches, plenty of parks and has affordable family housing plus some great state and private schools to choose from. Being further from the city made a big difference to house prices too – if we’d decided to be closer to the CBD it would have pushed our rent up a lot.
When we landed, we spent four weeks in a holiday let in the suburb of Brighton while we explored the area and decided exactly where we wanted to live.
Inland or beach suburb
We were quickly faced with another head versus heart decision. While we wanted to live next to the beach, we knew that rent would be higher in the desirable beach-side suburbs. After a few days of exploring and checking rental prices online and driving around areas, we decided to go for a more modest rental in a beach-side suburb as the inland suburbs just didn’t have the same pull for us.
Once we’d decided on a location – Scarborough – we started checking out the local schools so we could get ready for our twins to start prep the next year. We found a few good options a short drive away so we booked school tours, and we started to seriously look at houses in the area. Setting up alerts on the home websites was a big help as it meant we could act as soon as houses came on the market. The rental market moves very quickly over here so you need to stay up to date.
Viewing rental properties in Australia was an eye opener. In the UK, you book an appointment to view a rental and are shown around by the estate agent. In Australia, houses have an open house running at certain times. Sometimes this is listed online and other times you need to call the real estate agent to find out when this is. Then you show up along with lots of other families and view the property. If you like it, you take an application form and fill it out. You could find that lots of families apply for the property, so you need to put in the best application possible and have your Aussie ID ready to go (Medicare card, driving license, bank cards etc.).
After viewing a handful of properties, we were lucky to find our perfect first home in Australia. It was a four-bedroom, two bathroom house with double garage a short distance from the beach and a short walk from two parks. It wasn’t huge but it gave us more space than we’d ever had before. We were lucky to get an individual viewing which meant we were the only ones putting in an application. We moved in just four weeks after landing.
Although we were focused on getting settled, we kept an eye on the house websites and learnt a lot more about sale prices in the area.
Six months later, when we were in a stronger financial position and it was time for us to buy, we were able to hit the ground running as we knew exactly what we were looking for and what prices were fair. When it came to buying, although we loved living by the beach, we wanted bit more space and a pool so we started expanding our search a few minutes inland so that we could stay within a short drive of the boys’ school.
The moment we arrived at the front door of our house I knew it was the one. We’d viewed probably ten other properties before this, but something about the space wowed me as soon as I stepped into the hallway. And it just got better and better as I walked from room to room. We put in an offer the next day and 30 days later we moved in (the house buying system in Australia is just INCREDIBLE!)
So we now live about 15 minutes from the beach, but because of that we’ve been able to buy a five-bedroom house with a pool on a larger plot – something we couldn’t stretch to in Scarborough. It’s classed as an older property which is hilarious as it’s only about 14 years old and our UK house was built in 1930!
How living in an Australian home changed our lives
I’m not a ‘things’ person. If given the choice of a holiday or a new car, I’d go with the holiday every time – I’m all about experiences. We didn’t move to Australia for a flashy lifestyle or to live in a gigantic house, but we did want more space to enjoy our family life and having the right home helps us to make the most of the lifestyle here.
There are compromises to make about house buying and renting wherever you live in the world, and Australia is no different. We couldn’t have afforded a house like this by the coast and for now it feels like we made a fair compromise. This feels like it could easily be our forever home – we’ll never outgrow it – but part of me always dreams of a beach-side property so you never know, one day we might make it back to Scarborough, or it’s lust-worthy canal-side neighbour – Newport.
It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on the house websites. Everyone should dream and have big goals, right? But at this moment in time, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here.
This post was written in collaboration with Homesales.com.au, a site which provides buyers, renters and investors with hundreds of thousands properties to choose from.
If you’re thinking of making the move, sign up now and be the first to hear about the launch of my new migration website, Smart Steps to Australia – COMING JULY 2016. When you subscribe you will also receive my decision-making cheat sheet so you can quickly decide if moving to Australia is the right move for your family.