The cost of living is reportedly about 20% higher in Australia compared to the United States, so we find ourselves comparing what we could get for the same money in the US. That's a discouraging game that I don't recommend. Couple that with the fact that cities are typically higher priced than the countryside or smaller towns. We are moving from a small town in the Midwest to a city the size of Chicago. That's two hits against us in the price category.
Let's talk location next. If we were moving to Chicago, I would have a fairly decent idea which part of the city I would want to rent an apartment. Even if I didn't, I would a least know someone who could point me in the right direction. Researching areas to live in Brisbane felt so far away while we were in the States. I only know 2 people in Brisbane and they tell me that all the areas are safe, so anywhere we pick will be fine. That's comforting to know that it is a safe city, but it doesn't help us narrow down the search. Like Chicago, there are little towns/neighborhoods in every direction. But in Brisbane, the names don't even sound like real places. Fortitude Valley (sounds like a spiritual journey), Kangaroo Point (isn't that a ride at Silver Dollar City?), Moorooka (sounds like the noise an antique car horn makes), Fig Tree Pocket (definitely need to name a children's book after that area), Indooroopilly (that's what I would name an indoor trampoline park), and we can't forget Wooloowin (that's just fun to say three times fast - try it).
Availability is also an issue. We have been using several websites to search furnished rental property. One is www.airbnb.com. Another is www.vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner). Yet another is www.gumtree.com.au which is the Australian equivalent of Craigslist in the States. And finally www.aussiehousesitters.com.au. Already booked, too expensive, not enough bedrooms, too far from work, etc. The last website I mentioned is our most recent endeavor. Thanks to another one of Troy's discoveries online from another blogger, he suggested that we look at house sitting. I never would have thought about it, but it sounds like it has potential. Here is an example...a family from Brisbane is spending a month in England and needs someone to watch their house, get their mail, and feed/walk their family dog while they are away. If the location and dates fit, we could live rent free as a house sitter. Very tempting.
I will provide an update on living arrangements as more information becomes available.
We are finally settled in an apartment. We went from a hotel for a week, to a temporary Airbnb unit for 2 weeks, to an apartment. If I were to do it again, I would choose temporary housing for at least a month to allow more time to look for an apartment. 2 weeks wasn't enough and made us feel pressure to settle and just get in a place.
We must have toured 20 or more units until we finally narrowed it down to 2 units, both in the same suburb. Do we choose the larger one with a view or the smaller one with a better pool?
We ended up choosing the larger one with a view. But it was the wrong choice. After about a week of living there we started to regret our decision.
Since we are homeschooling the kids, there is a need to get out of the house daily. Since summer is hot in Brisbane, the pool was a big part of that 'something to do' plan. However, it was over the kids' heads, so they just wanted to hang on us the whole time. Not fun. Also, the view from our deck came with a wind tunnel. Yes, this had its advantages when hanging laundry out to dry, but it was impossible to enjoy any time out there. Everything blew away and our grill wouldn't even stay lit.
Even though we had a 6 month lease on the unit we began looking for something at the other place that we liked down the road. After 6 weeks we found the perfect unit on the ground floor next to the pool. However, we knew we would have to break our lease and lose some money if we wanted to make the move. In the end, we were able to break our lease, find a new renter for our unit, and secure the new unit for us in the other location. It all happened in less than a week. So we moved in and couldn't be happier. As I write this, I hear the kids playing outside on the patio which connects to the pool area. There is a hot tub (which isn't really that hot), so the kids have a place to swim even when it is too cool to swim in the big pool. The kids have made some friends, and we love that the whole area is very active and social.
We are finally 'home' in Australia.