We're moving to Sydney but we know nothing about Sydney
July 15, 2017 4:01 AM   Subscribe

My husband has just received a job offer and we will be moving to Sydney (from SE Queensland) some time in December.

We will be looking for a place to rent in Sydney but neither of us have spent more than a few days there and have no idea of the various areas. I will be doing the majority of the rental house hunting by myself outside of Sydney while my husband is completing training in Melbourne.

I think I would like to try living in an apartment in the Inner West close to restaurants, cafes and most importantly - a train station. We would also like to be a close commute (probably by car) to the airport where my husband will working.

What are some suburbs that would suit these requirements? I realise that rent will be hideous that close to the CBD but keeping the commute down is a priority. Are there other areas that we should consider?

Is there anything else we should be thinking about? Are rental agents worth it - do they give you an advantage, especially as we'll be looking for a cat friendly apartment?
posted by poxandplague to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
How close is a close commute to the airport? And how much would you like to budget per week on rent?

In my opinion, the Inner West, defined with respect to its cultural connotations (hip, trendy, artsy, good food), starts as east as Erskineville (closest to the CBD) and ends as far west as Summer Hill (beyond which you get to Ashfield, which has a different flavour). North to south, I'd say it's everything between the harbour and Cooks River.

If you're looking for suburbs with train stations, that gives you Newtown, Stanmore, Petersham, Lewisham, Summer Hill, Erskineville, St Peters, Sydenham, Tempe, Marrickville and Dulwich Hill. Some of these suburbs are pretty big, though, so look for properties on sites like Domain (select 'Rent' from the drop down, plug in the name of the suburb and uncheck 'Surrounding suburbs') and check the provided maps to make sure they're still close to a train station.

I haven't lived in heaps of these places (I'm sure other MeFites will be able to chip in) but I can vouch for Newtown and Summer Hill as particularly good with regards to quality restaurants and cafes. Newtown will be more expensive but closer to the airport; Summer Hill cheaper but further away. I lived in Lewisham for a year and the dining options were pretty dire—though there was a very good pizzeria! Petersham nearby seemed a little bit better. Marrickville has good food options (mmm, yeeros) but as I remember it, not so much restaurants as takeaway joints (it's a massive suburb though, and I've only lived in certain parts). Not as familiar with the other suburbs.

You could also consider the area just north of the bridge (North Sydney, Lavender Bay, Kirribilli); it has train stations aplenty, it has a lot of roads that connect to the airport, and it has a lot of good food. I've never lived there, though, so I'm not an expert, and it could be quite expensive—I'm sure someone else will be able to say better than me. But I have enjoyed my ventures over there! I've lived in the Eastern Suburbs most of my life but they don't have good train access at all.

By some miracle, I'm currently living in a flat in Centennial Park. My flatmate and I put it down to following the suggestions in this article, particularly the advice on sending a good letter to the agent and offering more rent than the asking price (but not by that much). We didn't bother with hiring an agent to find properties for us, but it might be worth considering if you have pets.

December will be a good time to look: nobody seems to want to move before Christmas, so it'll probably be a bit of a renter's market. Just be aware that real estate agents like taking long breaks, so if you don't get it done by the start of the month, you're not gonna have a hope until a week or so into January. (Ask me how I know!)

Good luck!
posted by Panthalassa at 5:05 AM on July 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

We'd be looking for a 2 bedroom apartment. I think we'd pay up to $800 a week but would prefer closer to $600.

Commute wise - 30 minutes maximum. Shorter if possible.
posted by poxandplague at 6:24 AM on July 15, 2017

Oh, I'd 100% start my search around Newtown then. It's the quintessential Inner West suburb: got its own train station; close to heaps of good bars, cafes and restaurants; close even to the CBD; Google Maps says between 15–30 minutes to the airport on your typical weekday. For between $600 and $800 weekly you should be able to find a nice place easy.
posted by Panthalassa at 6:39 AM on July 15, 2017

Check your me-mail!
posted by jrobin276 at 2:14 PM on July 15, 2017

Don't think I can improve on Panthalassa's advice.

It may be out of your price range, but you could consider Surry Hills, in terms of excellent restaurants and nightlife.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:13 AM on July 16, 2017

Marrickville is also a good choice. You'll get more for your money than Newtown, as it's a bit further out, but it has lots of good food and quite a few small bars. Parking is much(!) easier. If you live at the eastern end of marickville rd, which is closer to the airport, Sydenham station is a 10 minute walk and has better connections than Marrickville station.
posted by kjs4 at 4:51 AM on July 16, 2017

Yep Marrickville seems like a pretty good compromise. You could get a nice but small-ish house for that money. You'll be within 30 minutes drive almost all of the time - sometimes (like Saturday mornings) there is just no way to get to the airport by car without sitting in traffic.

At one end, Marrickville is close to the whole Enmore Rd / King St Newtown food/bar area, at the other end close to the Asian restaurant area. Besides having it's own train station, the northern parts are closer to Petersham / Lewisham / Stanmore stations.
posted by trialex at 4:09 PM on July 16, 2017

If you're driving in peak hour everyday, I wouldn't go any further north than Addison Rd in Marrickville, as that (at least, it was two years ago), is where parking and traffic gets insane in the evening.
posted by kjs4 at 8:37 PM on July 16, 2017

We just went through this ourselves. Moving from Redfern (which has gotten unreasonably expensive in relation to the quality of properties and availability of services, restaurants, etc.) to Newtown last month. The reality of find a place in Sydney is that you go to the open house viewing and if it suits, you put in a contract and hope you get it. There really isn't any opportunity to take time to consider.

We spent 3 weekends looking at properties in the Inner West and up towards Chatswood. Criteria was 2 bed/2 bath, flyscreens, within 15 minute walk to a train station, restaurants and bars nearby, and AC (Sydney is way too hot in the summer without and gets pretty chill in the winter in most flats). The pickings were slim anywhere below $900 per week, and anything less was pretty uninviting. Also, anything that is below $700 is mobbed by everyone looking for a reasonable deal on rent.

Domain.com.au is probably the best/easiest method of finding properties. You can use the map feature to look for places based on proximity to the things that are important to you two. I suggest you spend your days plotting your viewings for the following day, view during the 15 minute open house, take an unreasonable amount of pictures to share with your partner, and if you find a place that suits, put in a contract. No guarantee that you'll get it, but we've yet to be turned down when placing a contract straight away. Make sure to make pleasant small talk with the agent so they remember you and help sell you to the owner.

Also, for your price range, you're likely looking at street parking only and that's pretty crazy. I'd suggest also looking into the bus or train to commute to the airport.We've never owned a car in Sydney and use GoGet if needed, otherwise train, bus, ferry, or walk. Very walkable city and neighbourhoods. Also, some areas of the Inner West are right below the flight path, so keep that in mind. You can get an idea on bus and train commutes via transportnsw.info
posted by qwip at 5:04 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I saw this post title and couldn't resist writing a response, even though my advice will be sadly out of date.

>We will be looking for a place to rent in Sydney but neither of us have spent more than a few days there

We moved to Sydney in 2006 having never been there before, at all. Imagine stepping out an airplane on a new continent, for the very first time - to live there. (I've done that three times in my life!)

We worked with a relocation consultant who was way out of our league, not because he was too expensive, but because he was used to dealing with high-flying executives and our modest requirements were novel to him. It was a bit embarrassing! But I highly recommend it if you can afford it, because the rental agents took us a lot more seriously when he was fronting us, driving us there in his Mercedes SUV and whispering in their ears that we were up-and-comers from the United States. I think that helped when we finally found our apartment, with a bay view in Rozelle - our application was accepted over a swarm of other applicants.

For suburbs, my experience is woefully out of date because we left Sydney in 2009. But I would have recommended Rozelle, Balmain, and Newtown. They had character, were full of quirky and interesting stores, parks, flea markets, bookstores, and were a quick bus ride from the CBD. Balmain might be wonderful if your husband fancies the image of riding a ferry to work every day. I thought Paddington was overrated, myself. 2009-me would advise you to stay away from Marrickville or Redfern, but today, who knows. Oh, and take a hard look at the rush hour traffic before you decide where to live.

Good luck with your move - I miss many things about our life in Sydney.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:50 PM on July 17, 2017

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