Maybe you’ve decided you’re moving to Canberra. Or perhaps you’re toying with the idea of doing so. Picking the right suburb to live in can make a world of difference when you get here.
When I first moved to Canberra, I found a place out in the burbs and remained there for much of the time. I didn’t particularly love it, but it was convenient and cheap so I stayed in the same house for a good few years. However, when the lease came up for renewal this year, we decided the time had come for us to move. We settled on Kingston and found ourselves the perfect little apartment. Best decision, ever! With restaurants, the lake and parks nearby, we find it difficult spending much time in doors. Added bonus – no surprise knocks on the door for Halloween. Hurrah!
So do yourself a favour and cmplete some research beforehand. The extra effort put into the planning stages will pay off in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, you might end up hating where you live anyways, but adequate planning reduces the chances of that happening.
Moving to Canberra – Getting started
You don’t need to be in Canberra to get started. Almost all properties available for rent or purchase are listed on allhomes, including share houses. This a great research tool – so arm yourself with as much information as possible on prices of nearby properties and use this for bargaining when viewing properties. The good news is things are looking up for renters. The rental market has recently become flooded with new apartments tipping the balance of power to favour renters. And it’s about bloody time!
Not surprisingly, many rental agencies have not caught up to this little fact. Apartment hunting earlier this year was a terribly frustrating experience. The service we received most times was simply unprofessional. On more than one occasion we spent time viewing a property only to be told that it had already been rented out, but the rental agency had forgotten to remove the property from the listing so let the inspections go ahead. Hopefully things have changed, but if not, being prepared will only work to your benefit.
My top four picks of Canberra suburbs
Canberra is made up of seven residential districts, each with a number of suburbs. This ACT government site gives you a fairly good idea on the make up of each district.
But where would YOU like to live?
Good for: Apartment living and for those working in or near the city. Also good for students studying out at the ANU, if you can afford it. Restaurants and cafes seem to be opening up almost every week, particularly in Braddon, so dinners are taken care of in the early weeks while you set up. For cheap eats, head over to where the ANU accommodation is located (Markus Clarke Street) to find a number of cheap restaurants and cafés (but no bars). Bars, pubs and restaurants are located in the city’s Civic centre, so you get to save a bit of money by walking home or taking a short cab ride after a night out. Further developments are planned for this area so expect good changes.
Not so great: Rent prices, but I expect this will improve once all the new apartments currently under construction have been completed. Traffic noise could be a problem so keep this in mind when house hunting. Check if bedrooms or living rooms face the main roads, or ask about sound proofing. The city can also be a bit dull in the daytime on the weekends.
There are two sides to Kingston – the old Kingston and the new Kingston Foreshore. I live in old Kingston and love its charm. There are restaurants, bars and gyms nearby. The draw card for old Kingston is that you might get a larger apartment here for the same price as a small one at the Foreshore.
Initially, I dismissed the Foreshore – the place looked too new and a bit sterile. But with the boardwalk completed and new restaurants opening up, it has become more inviting. I often head over here on the weekend for a coffee, beer or to simply to hang out near the lake. The foreshore is currently a work in progress, so again, expect improvements over the years. Hopefully, more businesses move into the area so people don’t always have to travel into the city for work.
Good for: Apartment living. Some agencies are located nearby in Barton which is less than a ten minute drive away. There are plenty of things to do here on the weekend, including spending an afternoon at the Old Bus Depot market and the Fyshwick market . It’s also convenient for getting to the airport. And if you end up like me without a permanent place of work, you’ll find that you’re never too far from most clients.
Not so great: Rent prices still don’t completely reflect the increase in the number of new rental properties in the area. I expect the the market will have to correct itself soon, though. Kingston is also not on the main bus line. Buses run through the area but routes do not cover all areas meaning a bus change might be necessary.
Good for: The Woden Valley is good for both apartment living or large houses which can be great for setting up share houses. Suburbs like Curtin, Chifley, Hughes and the like are my pick when looking for a share house. It’s close to the Woden centre and it’s only a short drive to get onto the Yarra Glen or Parkes, both of which provide a direct route into the city and North Canberra. Public transport in the area is also very good. Go a bit further out and rents become a bit cheaper while public transport remains equally good. It’s good choice if you need to be close to Tuggeranong but prefer not to live so far out.
Not so great: Cost of cabs to get into the city or airport can get pricey and offset any savings made on rent. So keep this in mind if you plan on spending most nights or weekends in the city. If you choose to live further out, you will also spend a lot more time commuting if you do not work in the area.
Good for: I don’t know much about living in North Canberra but more people I speak to seem to be moving to the area or already living there. It would be a good place for a family. Construction of a new light rail (or tram) has just been given the go ahead which will reduce reliance on buses to get into the city. The routes have not yet been finalised, but for now, Gungahlin is certainly in the plans.
Not so good: I don’t believe entertainment in the area is any good. Belconnen district isn’t too far so that provides more options.
The boring but important stuff
- Allhomes is particularly good for rental properties and for finding share houses or housemates
- Buy second hand stuff on allclassifieds and gumtree
- Check bus routes at Action buses
- Main provider for electricity, gas and water is ActewAGL
- Find a medical practise ASAP. I’ve previously been turned away by medical practices who close their books and don’t take on new patients
- CALMS is Canberra’s afterhours medical service. Keep their details handy in case you need a doctor and would rather not have to wait in emergency. Note: standard GP rates apply.
- Rent prices peak in the months that graduates move into the city – Jan, Feb and March. Dec is not that great either as rental agencies and owners are less inclined to negotiate and will hold out until the grads come in. Winter months are the best for renters as you’ll be able to negotiate on rents as the market gets very slow.
- In Canberra, owners typically should pay water costs. Keep this in mind when negotiating a lease.