Wondering where to live in Melbourne? If you’re trying to find the best suburbs in Melbourne and not sure where to start, expat Toni Cundy is sharing everything you need to know about where to live. She moved to Melbourne from Oxford in England in 2019 and has got to know Melbourne pretty well. Make sure you follow her expat adventures in Australia on Instagram at @tonicundy.
Whilst Melbourne often comes up tops as one of the best places to live in world (and always beating Sydney to the race), what makes it so liveable? Is it due to the fact that it’s home to the best coffee in Australia? Or that it’s a hip city with epic street art, hipster bars and a cafe scene which could easily rival a European city? If there’s one thing we also heard from Melbourne friends, it’s that it’s cheaper to rent in Melbourne than it is in Sydney.
We also often hear many expats are always in a dilemma about which city to live in Australia. Some choose Melbourne because it can remind them of home, especially with the colder temps and the more European city vibe. Others choose Sydney because it offers warmer temperatures and better city beaches. If you’re wondering about where to live in Sydney, make sure you check out our article below.
If you’re thinking about moving to Melbourne, here’s a guide by an expat and now Melbourne local, about where to live in this awesome city.
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Don’t Rush Into A Rental In Melbourne
Moving to a new city can be daunting, especially when you’re moving to the other side of the world. When I first moved to Melbourne back in January 2019, I rushed into finding the first possible place to live, without doing much research into the different suburbs and areas. Although I loved my apartment, I ended up living somewhere that wasn’t right for me, so I’m here to give you my tips on how to NOT make that mistake!
If there is one positive of the global pandemic, it’s that many Melbournians have been moving out of the city, and there are more rentals available than ever before. Prices are lower and you’ll likely have more choice. In fact, I just moved to a new apartment with a whole extra bedroom for the same price!
My number one piece of advice is to get organised before you move to Melbourne. House hunting in Melbourne can be stressful, with competitive inspections (your flat viewings will be with other people!) and your inbox full of too many emails from estate agents!
Do your research on the Melbourne suburbs that suit you, and use apps like Real Estate and Domain to keep track of your inspections. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, don’t rush into anything, and you will end up with a fantastic place to live in Melbourne.
How To Find A Rental In Melbourne
If you’re looking for an apartment (which is also often called a unit if you’re new to Australia) or a house to rent, then it’s best to download Real Estate or Domain. These are the two main websites in Australia for housing.
If you’re looking to buy, definitely check the local real estate websites. You’ll find the most up to date properties on there, especially as everyone is going crazy for buying houses right now. Even if you’re looking to rent in Melbourne or buy, register with the local real estates in the areas you’re interested as they’ll send you the types of properties you’re looking for, before they go up on the other sites.
If you’re looking for a a room in a house share or flat share, check out Fairy Floss Facebook Group which is dedicated for Melbourne residents looking for share houses, or check out Flat Share.
6 Moving To Melbourne Tips
When you’re deciding on where to live in Melbourne, check out my tips below to help you make some decisions.
1. Explore The Area Before
I think it’s super important for you to go and visit the areas you are thinking of living in. You never really know about the vibe or feel of the place until you go and experience it as a local. Go for brunch, walk around the streets, chat to the locals, and get a real feel for the place.
Follow your gut – when you know, you know! Safety is so important too, if you feel unsafe in the area, it should be a hard NO. Check out my recommendations of the best places to check out in my top 5 suburbs in Melbourene below.
2. Public Transport Links
Despite some suburbs in Melbourne being really close to the city, often they are not so well-connected in terms of public transport, especially at weekends. This is an important consideration when choosing the best suburb in Melbourne for you. If you don’t have a car, you should check out your options and timetables online. I find CityMapper to be the most effective app when planning journeys on public transport.
3. Get Your 1Form Completed Before Seeing Any Inspections In Melbourne
Definitely make sure you have your 1form completed ahead of inspections! The rental market moves quickly, and if you’re not speedy enough, someone else will get in there before you. Luckily, 1form makes things really easy (I wish they had this in the UK!).
You fill out all your information in your account ahead of your first inspection; it’s best to give as much information as you can so the landlord can make an informed decision. When you find the perfect property it’s as simple as attaching your profile to the application. This means that applying is a pretty quick and easy process.
4. Expect Competition
If you have never rented in Australia before, you might not know that viewings (called ‘inspections’) are open to everyone. Unlike in the UK, you will attend the inspection with others who are interested in the property, and they may be your direct competition!
My advice would be to make sure the estate agent is aware of your interest, ask questions, give them a good impression and make them remember you! And if you really want the property, be prepared to offer more than the asking price to further stand out from the competition (although mostly, this isn’t necessary!).
5. Check For Weatherproofing
It does get pretty cold and rainy in Melbourne, and many of the rental properties in Melbourne are old. Not all properties have the luxury of double glazed windows, while central heating is pretty much non-existent in Australia!
When you are inspecting a property, consider how the property is protected from the elements. Look for any signs of damp, check that windows open and close properly and feel for drafts. In the summer, properties with poor insulation can get extremely warm. Check that the property has a split system air conditioning/heating system to make sure you are comfortable year-round.
6. Average Rental Cost In Melbourne
Rather than looking at a rental cost per month, it’s calculated per week in Australia.The national median price for renting a one-bedroom unit is $447 a week (October 2020) which equates to $1,937 a month.
The rent isn’t cheap here, but as I moved here from London, it didn’t seem too bad to me. Of course, there will always be cheaper options, and public transport is much cheaper than the UK, so you can move a little bit further from the city to have cheaper options. Obviously, room shares are considerably cheaper if you are willing to live with others.
Most Expensive Suburbs In Melbourne
Cheapest Suburbs In Melbourne
5 Best Melbourne Surburbs To Live In
There are so many awesome places to live in Melbourne. I can’t write about them all, so here are my top five Melbourne suburbs that I would recommend living in. Either I have lived here myself, or have friends who live here and have recommended the area to me.
1. Chapel Street (South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor)
So I admit, this first area actually covers three suburbs. I couldn’t choose between them, as they are all great in their own ways. They are connected by one buzzing strip that has a little bit of everything: Chapel Street.
When I first moved to Melbourne, I stayed in an Airbnb in Prahran, and immediately got a great vibe from the area. It’s generally full of young people, with the South Yarra end being more upmarket and the Windsor end being more edgy. There are two things for certain: the area is always buzzing and you’ll always find something to do (or eat!) in your down time if you live here.
For fusion dining, head to the Windsor end, with restaurants such as Fonda and Hawker Hall, but be sure to book a table! Finally, for authentic French and Italian cuisine, head to South Yarra and you’ll be spoilt for choice (Italiana Delicatessen and Cucinetta being stand-outs!). Bottomless brunch at Café SOS on Toorak is not to be missed. The area has every option covered.
If you prefer to cook at home, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with live music while you shop for groceries on a Sunday afternoon at La Manna, and amazing value veggie boxes at Prahran Market. While this area is not on the beach, it doesn’t take long to get to some beautiful parks nearby, such as Melbourne Botanical Gardens, Fawkner Park and Albert Park.
2. St Kilda
St Kilda is a hub for young Poms (that’s Aussie slang for British people!). You can guarantee that you’ll hear an English accent! As well as the British neighbours, there’s lots of benefits of living in St Kilda.
If you’re looking for a fun backpacker vibe, you’ll find it here. Acland Street is the main street where you’ll find this vibe. A few key spots to mention are Captain Baxter, The Espy and Lona. St Kilda even has its own music festival every February! And for chill time, you’re minutes away from Melbourne’s most popular beach, St Kilda Beach (with tiny penguins!!), which constantly delivers the most amazing sunsets.
Cycle along the Bay Trail to Brighton, walk along the esplanade on a Sunday and check out the stalls at St Kilda Esplanade Market, or head to Catani Gardens to see what’s going on. The downside of St Kilda is that there are some unsafe parts – it’s definitely a good idea to check out the area before applying for a property here.
3. Port Melbourne
Port Melbourne is another beachside suburb which is popular among expats. Port Melbourne is no longer the grungy dockland area it used to be, and is a popular area among young professionals and couples.
The Port Melbourne area has a variety of rentals on offer, from chic waterfront apartments near Bay Street, to vintage-looking bungalows towards South Melbourne and Albert Park. Despite being so close to the city, it has everything you need.
Bay Street really has a ‘high street’ feel that reminds me of the UK, you could spend the day browsing shops such as Spoilt, the Mary Martin Bookshop and the Port Melbourne Grocer.
It also has awesome op shops for thrift shopping – Salvos, Vinnies and the Epilepsy Foundation. Many of the bars and restaurants on Bay Street are independently owned, and the owners make the effort to remember you – it’s nice to feel like a regular. My top picks are The Exchange Hotel (and their summer beach bar pop-up!), Skewer’d, Grey and Bliss Café, Balderdash and the Prince Alfred Hotel.
One downside of this area is the traffic; Bay Street can get busy with freight heading towards the port, and often the roads are roaring with motorcycles which are taking advantage of the amazing beachfront drive into the city – which can be pretty noisy! It’s also more on the expensive side, but being on the beach and only 10 minutes from the city, it’s worth it.
So far I’ve only mentioned places south of Melbourne, and we can’t forget about the north! So let’s move north onto another great place to live – Brunswick. Brunswick is effortlessly cool, with a hipster and multicultural vibe. Brunswick is a hot spot for arts, live music and of course shopping. It’s another place for amazing food; some personal faves are Lux Foundry for brunch in their awesome warehouse, or dinner at Mama Manoush in Brunswick East (it has the most amazing Lebanese food and the staff are so friendly!).
Brunswick is also well known for its nightlife, with popular bars such as Penny Black and Atticus Finch. Beautiful nature is never far from your doorstep, and here you are right on the Merri Creek Trail. Follow the trail through Yarra Bend Park to Abbotsford and stop at the Convent or the Farm Café. The downside of living here is that this area is further from the beach (about a 30 minute drive, or an hour on public transport), so if you’re moving to Melbourne for beach living, you are best heading south of the river.
5. Bayside / Southern Suburbs
It isn’t a suburb itself, but instead an area that captures lots of bayside suburbs a little further from the city. Many of my friends who have left the inner city life to settle down and buy properties have moved to Bayside suburbs such as Bentleigh, Beaumaris or Mordialloc.
If you’re looking for a more grown-up and family-friendly place to live with a community feel, these Bayside suburbs would be perfect. They are close enough to the city to commute (both by car and train), and far enough away to feel like suburbia. Plus, the beaches get better the further down the peninsula you go!
Although less lively than the other places I’ve listed, these areas have great bars and cafes, and of course it doesn’t take too long to get back into the city.
A big thanks to Toni for sharing her Melbourne guide with us at Londoner In Sydney! If you would like to share your favourite places, things to do or place to eat at anywhere in Australia, simply fill out our Write For Us form and we’ll get back to you asap.
Where To Live In Melbourne
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