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Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Montreal, Canada
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Moving to Canberra - Questions!

I’m a Canadian (Montreal) professor and will be on sabbatical leave, living in Canberra and working at ANU, for essentially the entire year of 2006. (I’ll be coming with my wife and 10-yr old daughter who, in theory, will be attending the Telopea Park school.) This will be our first time in Canberra (and Australia too).

We’re trying to decide on a place to stay.

Is there a good place to see ads of houses and condos for rent – a website would be great.

How do professors in Canberra find renters for their homes (our best option would be to rent the home of a Canberra professor who is leaving for the same period). I can’t find a website with this, and Australians seem to rarely use sabbaticalhomes.com, which a lot of Canadians, Americans and Europeans use.

What neighborhoods should we look at? If possible, we’d prefer to be in a calm neighborhood, but one that is in pretty easy walking distance to stores and restaurants (town center), and with relatively easy access (bus?) at least to the Telopea Park area (and better still, if ANU too is easy to get to). We’ll probably buy a car, but my wife would often have to get around by bus, and bicycling too would be an option.

When you rent, what is usually included and not included? (Fridge? Stove? Heat? Etc.) Are there sales/rental taxes that we should factor in too?

Any advice on how to go about finding and choosing a place would be great! Thanks!

Tom

sydney,aust.
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1. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Tom

go to www.fodors.com

message board for australia and new zealand and do a similar posting ...there is a regular poster there who lives in canberra and will give you an intelligent view of the practicalities of canberra life.

As for us sydneysiders....canberra is a good sheep station ruined.

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2. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Tom11

The website you need is allhomes.com.au.

It is the site where most Canberra real estate agents advertise their properties for sale or rent. Once you get familiar with the names of agents you may also find they have their own website traceable through google.

If there is a program for connecting various professors on sabbatical for home exchange then my guess is you would find it through the ANU. It is not my field so I wouldn't really know anything about this.

Rental prices advertised on allhomes are generally weekly. There is no additional tax on the weekly rent. (Australia tends to prefer the wysiwyg approach, ie. 'what you see is what you get'. If there's a tax to be paid we like to have it all included in the advertised price - no surprises at the till, thanks! One main exception is the taxes on airfares).

Upon signing a lease you will be asked for a security bond equalling 4 to 6 weeks rent. The bond is refundable on departure pending satisfactory condition report. They will want the first fortnight or month's rent in advance also. On the paperwork agents will require employer and income details and references. Not sure what people from overseas do about supplying the phone numbers for the referees. Maybe bring some written references saying you are neat and tidy and financially responsible people???

If advertised as unfurnished there will always be a stove/oven but not other whitegoods unless it is a unit without outdoor drying space in which case the dryer is often included. Given this is the exception, the ad usually mentions any whitegoods. Carpets, curtains/blinds and lightfittings are about the only other things you get in unfurnished places.

You connect and pay your own gas, electricity and telephone bills. Water and council rates are paid by the owner. The Gas and electricity companies in Canberra often require a security bond if you have never had an account with them previously. It used to be $100 but I am out of touch now with actual charges in Canberra (I moved to Sydney two years ago).

There are more and more furnished apartments available in the city but the only ones I'm familiar with are rather small by Australian home standards. Furnished houses do come up from time to time as Canberra has a population with many who go on overseas postings (some defence and foreign affairs, immigration and other government people). Politicians also like to rent furnished places locally when they fly in from the home electorate for parliament.

If you get no joy on allhomes with furnished places, the local newspaper in Canberra is called The Canberra Times. You might find an ad in their classifieds yields an opportunity to rent a home from the family of one of the above government types on overseas postings.

I am reluctant to recommend suburbs because I have found in the past that people can be individual in their preferences. Having said that, the O'Connor region just north of ANU has some lovely property on flat land ideal for biking to the city. Canberra is well supplied with bike paths. I think Telopea school is on the other side of the city though so that may not suit you.

ALL the suburbs in Canberra are calm. They are designed to prevent through traffic. Never try to shortcut through a Canberra suburb - the roads are never straight; you'll get lost; and they design the suburban streets so that they are NOT good thoroughfares.

The inner city apartments are probably very quiet on weeknights too.

The local bus company is called 'Action' if you want to google it and see what the timetables and routes are like.

There really isn't any peak hour traffic in Canberra despite what the locals think so the distances you see on maps give a reasonable indicator of transport time by car. Buses aren't so frequent on weekends. It is easiest if you can get to your regular haunts without having to change buses.

And finally, as Canadians you are probably used to cold weather and may even think that Canberra houses are not well prepared for cold. The locals ALWAYS look for north facing windows to capture the essential winter sun. Life through Canberra's winter is very dismal if your house doesn't get some lovely north sunshine. Also, check the heating system. Personally I dont think the old electric blow heaters do anything but create drafts. The large Quesar gas heater/blowers or ducted gas heating are the most popular. A timer and the ability to zone the heating will save your bills if the house is big. Car accommodation of some sort saves scraping the frost off the windshield on winter mornings. I'm fond of internal access from the garage too! The suburbs all around ANU and the city centre have alot of lovely old property. Just watch out for the aspect and heating as the north facing concept didn't arrive in Canberra until the 1980's or later. However, there are many lovely refurbished, solid, well heated homes to be found in these inner areas.

I hope this helps. I lived in Canberra for 12 years and loved it. It is a great lifestyle and you have the opportunity to set yourself up comfortably for a good year.

Cathy

Arlington, Virginia
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3. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

You are so lucky--you and your family are going to love Canberra!!! You have gotten some good info on finding a place to rent, so I'll mention my suggestions for where to live. Since your daughter will be going to school at Telopea, I would suggest living in a suburb near the school as opposed to close to ANU. While there will be students at her school from all over Canberra, the majority of them will be students living in the area around Telopea. It will make it easier for after-school playdates, etc. Besides, I think the inner south suburbs are among the most beautiful in Canberra. (Also, you won't have a far commute to ANU which is located north of Lake Burley Griffin. From the inner south suburbs, it should take you about 15 minutes maximum to get to ANU. I used to joke that Canberra doesn't have a rush hour--it's got a rush minute.)

Telopea is located at the edge of the suburb of Barton, so I would suggest you look for houses in the suburbs of Barton, Griffith, Kingston, Forrest, Deakin, Red Hill and Narrabundah. While the distances may initially look great, they aren't really because there is essentially no traffic in Canberra. We lived in Deakin and my neighbor and his daughter would ride bikes to take her to school at Telopea. I would walk with my kids to their school in Forrest. It's just an easy city to get around in. Each of these suburbs has at least one shopping area with a supermarket, post office, restaurants, etc. There are larger shopping areas in Kingston and Manuka (part of Griffith). In fact, Manuka is known for some of their excellent restaurants and there is also a cinema there.

Also, when I moved there I thought I would not be able to learn to drive a right-hand drive car. It was so easy to learn to drive in Canberra because the traffic is so light that you don't have to worry much about other drivers when you are learning. It turned out to be so much easier than I thought it would be!

I don't think you will find it cold there at all. I know most Australians find it to be a cold place, but for someone like me coming from the northern U.S. or you coming from Canada, it will not feel that cold in winter. I spent 3 winters there and don't recall wearing more than a sweater and/or light jacket in winter. In fact, this August we spent several days in Canberra and I was in my shirtsleeves most days because the weather was so mild.

One final comment--one of your first outings with your daughter should be to Questacon, the hands-on science museum. She will absolutely love it! (My teens were back there in August and still had a great time!) It's fun for children, teens and adults! And if you want to see lots and lots of kangaroos in the wild, take the easy 6 km RT Yankee Hat hike at Namadgi National Park just outside of town. (Get directions at the Visitor's Center). There's also some Aboriginal rock drawings at the turn around point. That will certainly give her something to tell her friends back home!

P.S. Telopea Park School has an excellent reputation, so I'm sure your daughter with thrive there.

Sydney Australia
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4. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

....and Jacko doesn't speak for all sydney-siders...Canberra's a beautiful place, especially for families. I'm sure you'll have a great sabbatical.

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5. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Wow - alot of great information - thanks! (I've just arrived at my office and haven't had time to do much more than skim your messages - I'll probably come back with a few more questions later.)

Our biggest worry is finding a lodging in Canberra and, even worse, a serious renter for our place in Montreal... I'd seen that Canberra website with for rental ads - there are alot of ads but very few for furnished places and those tend to be pretty expensive, at least from a professor's point of view (our salaries up here in Canada isn't all that great!). That's why I'm trying to find where professors (and diplomats...) go to rent their places -- they don't seem to use the same site as we do in Canada (www.sabbaticalhomes.com). Ah well - I've e-mailed a colleague at ANU to see if she can point me in the right direction.

I'd already heard that Canberra has the reputation for being boring, but that it is the best city in Australia for safe biking, and a good place for kids. (In fact, some people described it as being "even more boring than Ottawa" - a real insult here... ). But we plan to use every available vacation to travel around and see the rest of the country (are the nearby Snowy Mountains worth a trip - my daughter loves to ski? What are the best beaches doable in a 3-day weekend?)

Thanks again! Tom

sydney,aust.
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6. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

You got that right Tom.....different geography but same psychology as ottawa...full of overpaid,underworked,know all bureaucrats....oversubsidised by the taxpayer...

they all have beach places on the south coast...bateman's bay is full of 'em...some of 'em live on nice country blocks or country towns like braidwood...in july and august it is off to the snow every weekend down at thredbo.

but hey...it's not too bad...you could have got a sabbatical in Brasillia.

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7. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

By all means, go to the Snowy Mountains. They won't compare to the ski resorts in Canada, I'm sure but they are still a lot of fun. If you don't mind a long day, you can do a day trip to either Selwyn Snowfields or Thredbo. Selwyn is quite small but is very family oriented. There is only one chairlift--the others are T-bars or pommels. My kids learned to ski there and we would sometimes go for a half-day as that's about all you would need there. Threadbo is much larger and there are lots of accomodations. Larger yet is Perisher Blue, but I never went there.

Thredbo is also a lot of fun in the summer. We would take one of the chairlifts to the beginning of the trail to the top of Mt. Kosciuszko, the highest peak in Australia. Most of the hike is over a raised metal trail in order to protect the alpine flowers. The scenery is beautiful and how many people can say they've been on the top of a continent's highest peak? It's not a particularly difficult hike--my son did it when he was 10 years old. They also have a great alpine slide there and, at least a few years ago, you could buy an unlimited ride pass for not much more than a few single-ride tickets. Boy, did my kids and I have fun one day riding over and over and over...

As for beaches, we generally did a day trip to Pebbly Beach, which is just north of Bateman's Bay. We liked that beach because it was part of a state or national park (I forget which one) and was never crowded. Also, kangaroos hop around the grassy area near the beach and you can approach them. (They ask, however, that you not feed them.) There are also lots of tropical birds that will come and sit on your shoulder or head. The waves are very good, so buy a boogie board. Also, there are some rocky parts and it's fun to explore the tide pools there. We've seen lots of neat things there.

There are so many fun things to do in and around Canberra--you'll have such fun!

Canberra, australia
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8. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Hi Tom,

A late reply to your post, I just happened to be checking this website. I'm an academic at ANU which is where I guess you are going to be located (or uni of Canberra). Have you found the ANU housing website? This has a listing service where academics who are going away advertise their houses - I dont have the URL to hand, but go through the main ANU site, to housing. You should also ask your department to send an email around.

I don't know what other people have said but make sure the house has ducted gas heating.

Canberra is very family friendly, it is on the quiet side, but very clean, safe, green, good for cycling, although it really helps to have a car, public transport is not good.

Regards

Helen

Montreal, Canada
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9. Re: Moving to Canberra - Questions!

Hi Helen -

Thanks for your message. I was on a work trip to West Africa for the past 2 weeks (just got back last night) - was unable to sign on this forum for that period --> the reason for the delay in writing back.

I have checked the ANU website and never did find where professors advertise their places when they leave on sabbatical. I've asked my contacts at ANU for advice and help, but no luck so far... (I hesitate to bother them more on this - I'm already abusing their time in a host of other ways: visa formalities, trying to get an exemption from the high school fees for my daughter...).

Anyway, thanks for your advice, and please think of me if you know of any colleagues on leave next year who might be interested in renting their place.

Cheers.

Tom