Moving to Canberra

Relocation assistance

Some departments offer relocation assistance if you are required to move to Canberra for your graduate position. You should check with your agency if this applies to you. The scope of what is available for relocation assistance is strict, and you may not be able to claim expenses that are not included in the package.

Finding a place to live

This will be the most awful and frustrating step of the lot. The sooner you get it out of the way, the less stressful moving will be.

Getting your bearings

Try to arrive a few days early so you can get a feel for Canberra and adjust to your surroundings.

If you’re able to it’s a good idea to come to Canberra for a weekend to check the place out. If you’re flying in to Canberra to go house hunting, consider hiring a car to get around and get a better idea of the distances between locations.

Canberra suburbs

The major hotspots for graduates tend to be the ‘Inner-North’ and ‘Inner-South’ near the city centre. Canberra is roughly split in two between Lake Burley Griffin with the CBD and popular suburbs like Turner, O’Connor, Braddon, Ainslie, New Acton and Civic in the North, and the Parliamentary Triangle and popular suburbs like Kingston, Manuka, Forrest and Griffith in the South.

Outside of the city centre, Canberra is planned around a series of town centres – Woden, Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin. Each has its own group of satellite suburbs and comes complete with a major shopping centre, schools and community facilities. There are also smaller suburban shopping centres and local schools. Queanbeyan, which is located across the border, is considered a part of the Canberra, ACT region.

Factors such as how close you want to be to the city centre, how close you want to be to work, and how much you want to pay in rent are all good things to think about when deciding which suburb to live in.

Inspections

You may also wish to pre-book inspections so that if you arrive and are staying in temporary accommodation you will be able to immediately start inspecting properties.

Canberra’s rental market is competitive and pricey compared to other parts of Australia. It can be difficult to come to Canberra in early/mid January and find a place to live. To be best prepared:

  • Have your referees ready, if you have rented before
  • Get in early and put in lots of applications
  • Make copies of you ID, previous letters of offer, complete application forms from the agents’ websites and take them to the open homes
  • Many agents won’t accept applications if you haven’t seen the property, so a trip to Canberra beforehand could be useful.

HOT TIP: It is helpful if you know someone in Canberra who can go view the property on your behalf instead.

In Canberra, some real estate agents say they won’t accept applications from ‘groups’ for selected properties. The definition of a group is, in most cases, more than two adults, regardless of how much money you earn, some landlords and real estate agents seem to be scarred by previous experiences and some will not accept three people on the lease. It is worth showing up to the real estate office in a suit with your letter of employment – many real estate agents are happy to bend the rules if you look respectable.

Share housing

Share housing is a suitable alternative if you think the rental application process too bothersome or you wish to reduce your rent. However, the usual caveats apply.

Advertise yourself

Consider posting a ‘free advertisement’ on Gumtree or Facebook. Connecting directly with owners of properties has the benefit of by-passing real estate agencies, and the standard requirement to inspect a property being eligible to apply. This option can save money in up-front accommodation costs while on the initial search for a rental property; however it is highly recommended that any prospective rental property is inspected before entering into a lease.

HOT TIP: Be careful about paying a bond if you are not going through a real estate agency, and especially if you have not already inspected the property, as there are a number of fraudsters that operate out there, particularly on more unregulated sites like Gumtree and Facebook.

Useful websites:

Allhomes – A great place to go! All of Canberra’s real estate agents, including private rentals, advertise here.

Domain – Another option is to look under ‘To Let – Private’ in the Canberra Times classifieds.

Facebook – use search terms such as ‘housing’, ‘rent’, ‘Canberra’, or ‘ACT’ to find relevant groups.

Flatmates – If you’re interested in living in a share house this is a useful website. Look under Canberra.

Gumtree – Look under real estate and ACT.

Furniture and appliances

Major homeware proprietors (such as Domayne, Harvey Norman, Fantastic Furniture, etc.) are located in the suburb of Fyshwick. Canberra Factory Outlet shopping mall and second hand appliance stores also operate from this area.

There is a Costco located near Canberra Airport, which also sells furniture, household appliances and electronics. However, you will need to go with or become a Costco member to purchase items.

Homeware shops can also be found in most shopping malls including Belconnen Mall, Woden Plaza, Canberra Centre, and Tuggeranong Hyperdome.

There are a number of second hand furniture stores in Canberra, including around Belconnen.

Use these as a starting point:

Families

Canberra is a wonderful place to bring up a family. The tourist attractions, the parks and reserves and the educational facilities make the stress of moving all worth it.

Don’t forget! 
Commonly forgotten things include:

  • car insurance/roadside assistance
  • ambulance membership. The ACT no longer has an Ambulance Subscription Scheme (unlike Victoria for example). You will need to check with a private health insurance provider to ensure that you are covered for ambulance
  • vehicle registration
  • update Medicare address
  • licence change of address

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