House Hunting In Sydney

“What’s this one on for then guys?”

A man passing the group of us couples loitering outside a property for lease in Darlinghurst stopped to ask me more.

“$625 a week” I said.

“Rooms? Parking?” he asked.

“2 bed, 1 bath, 1 car.” I reeled off the details scribbled in my notebook.

“That’s great!” he said. We knew, that’s why we were there. “I might take a look myself.”

And that’s how competitive renting a house in Sydney is. Unlike London where you tend to arrange a private viewing with the current tenant, agents in Sydney hold 15 minute open inspections of properties once they have been vacated. All interested parties gather at the same time, jostling for space to see the size of the closet and quality of the light fittings, eyeing each other up to see whose application is more likely to be accepted.

For that’s another thing they do differently here. On inspection days often it is not the property being judged but you. Sydney rental properties are in such high demand that the agents can pick who they think will be the best tenants. I see one make notes on me: ‘London. Trench coat,’ she wrote. I wasn’t sure if that was going to go in my favour or not.

When we landed in Sydney last Friday (yes it’s only been a week!) I scanned for open inspections in the Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, and Paddington areas, which we had decided on a previous visit suited our style best (all halfway between city and beach, heaps of cafes and an Islington in London-like feel). I lined up an ambitious 8 properties and we whizzed around them all, sometimes bumping into the same agents and the same prospective tenants. The period properties I so desired were a little too vintage on the inside, some coming with a little damp thrown in or hideous strip lighting like the 2 bed bargain in Darlinghurst. The gentleman who had spontaneously joined us on that inspection also decided it wasn’t for him.

“You guys need to act fast when you find one you like,” he told us. “Have your application forms filled out already and send them in the same day. You’ll need personal and professional references, ideally from Oz, as well as records of employment contracts, payslips, utility bills….”

“Look,” he continued, “I rent out a lot of properties myself. Here’s my card. If you need a reference or any help at all just drop me a line.”

I eyed him suspiciously. I even stealthily checked my handbag to make sure we hadn’t just been robbed (10 years in London will do that to you) but it turns out he was just a helpful passerby. We consequently emailed him and he sent us yet more house hunting tips although sadly none of the places he owned were available at the moment.

“That’s Australia babe,” said my Aussie boyf who wasn’t as staggered by this random act of kindness as I was.

houses in surry hills

As the week wore on we widened our search. I gave up my dream of a Surry Hills Georgian terrace (for now) and started to see the attraction of shiny new builds. I managed to snag a private viewing of a property in Waterloo (just south of Surry Hills and nearer the airport) on Wednesday and we loved it. Wearing my most professional specs I started to explain a little of our situation to the agent so he was prepped for when our application came through. Having arrived 4 days prior we were a little short on the documents people usually submit for the 100 point ID check and pages full of history and references. The agent, thankfully, seemed to like us and gave us some tips for alternative documents that might work.

We went to town collating and scanning work references, landlord references, old utility bills, copies of passports, debit cards, personal referees and submitted the application form the following night.

In the meantime we also viewed and submitted an application for an alternative property in Surry Hills, just to hedge our bets, although on inspection day we found out someone had applied for the property before viewing it just based on the info online!

But yesterday afternoon we got the call. Our application on the Waterloo pad had been approved. We had to put down 1 week’s rent to take it off the market, we sign the lease on Monday and will get the keys next Saturday. Hurrah.

poolIt’s a modern open plan apartment with a study big enough for two and a balcony large enough for 6 seater dining, potted plats and a giant BBQ. The complex comes with parking and has a communal lap pool (where I can work off all of those cakes!) We’re temptingly close to trendy brunch spots like Grounds of Alexandria and Bread & Circus and I can’t wait to move in.

Only thing is Aussie rental properties come completely empty. Our shopping list for the weekend looks a little like this:

Fridge/freezer, washing machine, bed, sofa, TV, dining table, coffee table, lamps, cushions, candles, artwork….

You get the idea!

For more information on moving to Sydney check out this Sydney Moving Guide I recently discovered.

Missed the big news? Check out I’ve Moved To The Land Down Under!

About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

21 thoughts on “House Hunting In Sydney”

  1. “London. Trench coat.” That’s hilarious! No idea what that says about your ability to pay rent and not trash the place, but funny all the same.

    • Haha I know. I never mentioned the term ‘blogger’ throughout any viewings either as you never know how that will be taken.

  2. Oooh looks lovely!

    One tip for buying all your furniture out there; haggle!! Go to places like Harvey Norman, and other big Aussie furniture shops and if you buy more than one item, or an item on sale, haggle it down even more. We managed to get a 2.5k sofa set for just 1k because it was on sale, and it had a tiny speck of material missing on the arm. At Harvey Norman we got a dining table discounted just from haggling down the price because we bought a coffee table too. Also Ikea in Aus is WAY cheaper than Ikea in the UK, so make the most of it!

    C x
    Lux Life Blog

    • What excellent advice – thanks so much! I would never have thought to haggle in a department store but I will get my barter on now. It’s the end of the financial year so thankfully there are a lot of sales on. Bargain hunting here I come!

      J x

  3. SO glad you found somewhere so quickly Jayne! I lived in so many different places when I lived in Sydney; Artarmon, Rushcutter’s Bay, Bondi, Surry Hills. Having seen your pictures on Facebook your new place looks lovely – good luck with the move 🙂

    • Thank you! We’re excited to get in now. Although I am already dreaming about a Northern Beaches beach house next year…

  4. Wow, I didn’t know the rental market was so different from country to country! I think I would find the whole Australian group viewing culture a little intimidating though I guess it gets you to think about exactly what you want pretty quickly!

    • Me neither. I was a bit put off when I saw all the other people looking at places but we ended up putting in applications for 2 places and got approved on both so maybe everyone else wasn’t as serious as us afterall! (Or they were all putting in multiple applications like we did!)

  5. Congrats on the move and finding a place so quickly. I am headed to Melbourne in Sept and thanks to you, I now know the slew of documents I will need to take with me just for a short term lease.

    • Thank you and good luck with your move! Yes any docs showing employment, reliability and ID help. Plus have personal and professional referees ready to vouch for you and you should be fine 🙂

  6. Yah! Congratulations Jayne (and boyf :P)!!!

    Not all Aussie properties come empty.
    I’m in Melbourne but mine came with a washer and dryer, full size fridge/freezer and microwave.
    It just kind of depends on how nice the landlord is/how desirable the property is/the price point of the property.

    Have fun redesigning the space. Now… just to get those boxes you shipped to hurry up! 🙂

    • Not sure if you need any help (you are the queen of shopping after all!) – saw some other people leave some suggestions so thought I’d put my two cents in – you can get some quality beds at discount prices at mattress stores at the DFO’s (Direct Factory Outlet stores… but we call the complex DFO 😛 )

      Freedom is also quite nice – classy home decor but quite budget minded. Appliances – Myer might have a mid-year sale on now (last year I picked up tons of stuff for 40-70% off!) and you can collect Myer One points (where after you spend a certain amount you get $20 (or more!) gift cards back. 🙂 All those little things add up and a few dollars back is never a bad thing 😉

      Happy shopping!

      • Thanks so much! I’m not familiar with the Aussie stores or brands at all so any guidance is much appreciated. Shall get my shopping ON! x

    • Awesome location! So many bars and cafes to choose from!!

      Our applications were smoother than expected in the end and we ended up getting accepted by 2 places on the same day. Once you’ve gathered all your evidence it moves very fast. Good luck 🙂

  7. Thanks for the mention Jayne. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures in Sydney.


    PS I’ve always thought that finding an apartment in Sydney would make a great reality show. Has to be one of the most stressful things ever! Seriously, 15 minute viewings? That’s it?

    • Hahaha I thought the exact same thing. It’s like 5 couples, one clock, a race to find the perfect rental… I can see it already

  8. It’s funny what you get used to. I still find the London real estate market full of shysters. 3 months rent in advance for my first London flat. Lucky you found something you like in such a short space of time. You got lucky!

    • I suppose we did. It felt like we saw a lot more properties than we would have ever looked at in London but at least we saw them all in the same day!

  9. Great post. Yes, renting in Australia was a whole new experience. At our first viewing, we hadn’t realised there were lots of other families booked in to view it at the same time! After a week of viewings, we were really lucky to find a place where we were the only family viewing it because the real estate agent was based a long way away and weren’t often in the area to show people around. We loved it – put in the application the same day and were accepted really quickly. It sounds like Sydney is a whole different ball game though to Brisbane. I’ll definitely share this with my audience on Facebook.


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