Finding a place to live

A reader whose family has recently received their resident visa has sent us an email with some queries on how to find a place to live here. This reminded me of the time when we were still in the process of moving here from Canberra and how we went about finding an apartment in an unfamiliar place where we don’t know anybody and we only have the weekends to drive from Canberra to Melbourne to view the listed properties. The move was difficult but not impossible and hubby spent a few weekends driving and sleeping in hotels.

Anyway for those who are just starting their search, hope these tips ease the difficulty of getting your own place.

  1. If it’s at all possible, get a street map of your target destination (Victorian map). This would not only help you in choosing where to narrow your search for a place to live, it would also be handy for the times when you need to find work, schools, parks, etc.
  2. A new migrant would probably not be in a rush to own a car and would generally be reliant on the public transport – this would include trains, trams and buses. The easiest and probably the fastest mode of transport (if it turns up!) are the trains. Study the network map for Melbourne and surrounding areas to see which areas have the service. Take note that there are two zones and fare levels within the network. Yellow denotes zone 1 while blue means zone 2.
  3. Although most train station names are also suburb names, not all train stations/stops are suburbs. For example, Balaclava station (Sandringham line) is in the suburb of Balaclava. However, there is no Aircraft suburb even if there’s an Aircraft station (Werribee line). To determine if the name is a suburb, try to find the name in this list of Melbourne suburbs.
  4. Once you have a suburb name or a postcode taken from the list of suburbs, you could now search for available rental properties at Domain or Enter the suburb name and wait for the site to return a list. Both sites feature a way to view the available properties on a map (Plot properties on map link for, View on Map tab in Although the map is quite limited in what it shows, it is still a useful way for you to see how near the property is to public transport and parks. Click on the little houses/markers to see a short description and a thumbnail photo of the property.

    As an example, I typed in St Kilda East as a search criteria in, switched to map view and clicked on a property in Blenheim Street. This ad is for apartment unit number 3 at property number 24 with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and 1 parking spot. Located near the bottom of the map is the Balaclava train station while the solid lines on Carlisle and Chapel Streets indicate that tram lines run through these streets. This means that the property is very near public transport. Remember that being close to public transport could be a minus (noisy, a higher volume of people passing through and possibly traffic in peak hours) as well as a plus (easy to get to, numerous options to get away, cheaper transportation cost as you may not have to own a car until much later). Rent is listed as $280 weekly which would probably be paid monthly ($280/week x 52 weeks/year divided by 12 months/year = $1,213.33 monthly).

  5. To learn more about the location of the property, go to and enter 24 Blenheim Street, Balaclava VIC as the address. The map displayed would be quite detailed and you would be able to see train lines and stations as well as tram and bus routes. You would also be able to see that it there are a couple of schools, parks, parking spaces and a town hall nearby. Ticking on the For Rent layer on the left hand side menu of the page would also show all the rental properties being advertised in the area.
  6. If you’re curious, you could also learn more about the demographics of an area buying looking at the suburb’s profile. Local newspapers could also shed some light on the lifestyle of the people living in the area as well as the burning issues of the residents there. Typing “St Kilda newspapers” in Google, I found the area’s local newspaper – The Port Phillip Leader.
  7. Create a shortlist of properties you would be interested in and contact the agents to inspect the properties. Photos in the ads do help but there is no real substitute to actually being there and imagining yourself walking the streets everyday, envisioning your furniture in the space and seeing how you like the place.
  8. And finally, for those who are unfamiliar with the rental application process in Australia as well as their rights and responsibilities as tenants, have a browse at the renting section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria. One particular document to be found there is the especially useful guide for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
Published in: on November 19, 2007 at 7:52 am  Comments (1)