Finding a home in Canberra

Today’s blog was going to be about how hard it is to arrange accommodation when you’re 16,000 km away. And with good reason. I’ve been trawling the various websites listing homes to rent in the Canberra area and three ‘home truths’ have become apparent:

  • Good quality rental properties are hard to find, especially in good schools districts, and particularly in the lead-up to the new academic year, when many migrants to the city try to synchronise their move with the best chance of an easy entry to their new school for any kids in the family.
  • Good quality rental properties that are open to dog owners are rarer than hen’s teeth. So much so that we have agonised long and hard about whether our smallest family member, Mr Pup, should even make the trip with us at first (we had looked into whether he could be babysat for a couple of years while we settle in Australia). Needless to say, he’s a big presence in our family and a great source of love and comfort for our kids, so leaving him behind was a choice of last resort.
  • Applying to become tenants of a rental property from abroad has other drawbacks too. In this age of internet scams and ‘you have inherited $10 million dollars from a long-lost relative’, landlords are rightly cautious about approaches from anyone whose circumstances are out of the ordinary.

In fact, recently, there was an awful example of this recently when estate agents in Canberra were duped into selling an absent landlord’s property by fraudsters from abroad.

So, when a great property comes onto the market, you can expect competition from other potential tenants to be fierce. This is where the Australian ‘renters’ dossier’ comes in.

It’s been a while since I rented a property anywhere – I’ve been lucky enough to own my own place since the early 1990s – so I’m not sure if this is common practice everywhere these days, but Aussie landlords require a high level of documentary evidence in support of applications to rent their property.

Typically, you need to supply reference letters from previous landlords, or from neighbours and estate agents if you’ve previously owned a property. You also need to show evidence that you can afford the rent, usually through payslips and bank statements. You need to provide proof of identity, character references, and finally, top it off with a covering letter stating why you think you’d be the best tenant for the property.

Dog lying in the sun.

Mr Pup recovers from the excitement of internet house-hunting.

All of this convinced us that we’d probably need to make a pre-emigration trip to Australia in September or October to scout a few properties, make our applications in person, and keep our fingers crossed that one of them would come good.

At least that’s what we thought.

Then, last week, we spotted a newly listed rental property in one of our target areas, which was open for new tenants from the end of August. That was a bit early for us, but we calculated the cost of our planned research trip, plus the costs we’d factored in for potentially spending our first month in Canberra in an apartment-hotel, and costs for the same period of finding kennels for Mr Pup – then we costed the price of paying rent for the house for September and October, even though we wouldn’t be arriving until 1 November.

It worked out far cheaper for us to pay rent on the house in advance, not to put a price on the peace of mind that we’d have by knowing we had an address to move to, in a lovely neighbourhood with a great school.

So, we made contact with the landlord, and last night, we put together our application pack – including photos of our existing house, to show we take good care of it, and a letter of introduction from Mr Pup too.

This morning, we heard that the house can be ours if we want it. There’s still some paperwork to complete, but it seems like we have a home to move to in Australia. Cue whooping from the kids, sighs of relief from the in-laws, and a nonchalant look from Mr Pup – we figure he’s saving his excitement until we arrive.

I said in my last post that the sale of our house was the ‘moment of truth’, the point where we really committed to our new life in Australia. Well this feels like the moment our move started to feel real.

As we pack up our old home, we now know that we have a new home to move into, and I can’t tell you how wonderful that feels.

9 thoughts on “Finding a home in Canberra

  1. That’s wonderful news (why does it feel so wrong typing that?). I guess, in view of the high postage costs to Australia, that you will be advising friends and family that IKEA vouchers would be the perfect house-warming gift? I’m sure that Mr Pup would be delighted if he realised that one of the other options may have involved a reunion with our dog Twix!


  2. Hi there (Canberran here) I was wondering how long Mr Pup will have to stay in quarantine? I hope its not too long. And just FYI, there isn’t an ikea in Canberra yet. One should be open by the end of next year, but there is 2 in Sydney, about a 3 hour drive. We do have a Costco tho!:)


    • Hi there, Thanks for stopping by. The rules have changed very recently and depend largely on the country you are coming from. For us, coming from Denmark, Mr Pup’s quarantine should only be 10 days if we get the paperwork right. I’ll blog about the process in a little more detail later this week, but today we just received Mr Pup’s import approval papers from DAFF, so I take that as a sign that we’ve done everything right so far.
      Ha, yes, I saw the artist’s impression of the Canberra IKEA — I think it was described as ‘a blue box in a field’, which is what they all are really. We might be visiting once it’s open though — partly for the cheap Scandinavian-style furniture, but mostly for the Swedish hot dogs, which the kids have developed a taste for.
      And I can’t tell you how much we are looking forward to having a Coles, Woolworths and Costco to shop at. Supermarkets in Denmark tend towards the small, with limited choice and really poor quality fruit and veg — as a shopping experience, they must be similar to what Soviet-era Russians had to contend with. On another note, I just took a look at your own blog — after many years of summer touring trips, I just sold my motorbike here in Europe. It looks like there’s some good biking around CBR. I wonder if I’ll be allowed to get another one once we arrive? 🙂
      Best wishes, Mark


  3. There certainly is a lot of good riding around Canberra, and it is possible to ride year round as long as you’re prepared for winter. There’s also a thriving community of riders here. There are also lots of farmers markets (a huge one every Sunday I think at EPIC Showgrounds) around Canberra, and a couple of great organic grocers and butchers. We do eat well here 🙂 I hope everything works out well with Mr Pup!


    • Thanks. Can’t wait to get there — I read a great post in another blog about Brod Dogs in Belconnen and I’m looking forward to trying those. I’m going to write about the process of getting Mr Pup to Canberra this weekend. Best wishes, Mark


  4. I am so happy for you all. It is the most stressful part when you are not moving somewhere alone, with children and pets. I know that these things are going to work out for you because you or your wife are going to be the mayor of some town in Australia so they must make sure you start your life with no worries.


    • Thanks for the good wishes Amanda, I’m not sure about the mayor part but we certainly hope to become integrated and active in the local community. And yes, resolving the housing situation in advance is a huge relief .. it means we have an address to ship our belongings to, a new address to share with family and friends, and a home to picture when we board that plane to Oz. Best wishes, Mark


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