If you’re not that familiar with a new city, let alone a new country, finding the right area to live that suits your lifestyle can be quite a stressful time. I know I’ve contemplated A LOT about where I wanted to live in Sydney because there is a lot to choose from. Sydney is a beautiful if not THE most beautiful city in the world and each suburb that makes up the city of Sydney has a lot to offer.
I’m going to break it all down into areas to help any of you trying to work out what area is going to be right for you and where to live in Sydney. Firstly, you’ll going to have to get yourself onto Domain. It’s a rental and buying real estate website, the biggest one in Australia. This is THE site to go on to find your dream home.
Tips To Getting Your Dream Home In Sydney
Before you find the perfect place on Domain you’ll going to need to know these few tips:
Competition will be tough. There seems to be people looking to rent all year round so you’ll going to literally have to have everything ready to hand over to the real estate agent as soon as you’ve seen the place. Unfortunately there aren’t any ‘oh let’s go and have a think about it’ options in Sydney. You will have to make your decision fast and you’ll need to do the following with every property you have your heart set on:
1. Ring the Real Estate agent as soon as you think you’ve found THE place online. Ask if you can have a private inspection of the property before the open inspection happens. You see, in Sydney they tend to hold these ‘open inspections’ for rentals and buyers (meaning you have to turn up along with the masses to view the place all together). I have been to open inspections and seen a good 50 other people there. Open Inspections can be in the middle of the day when you are supposed to be at work so if you want that property, make time to see the viewing.
2. Try and take the time to go and view the outside of the property before you see it, to get a feel for the place, street and area. You’ll pretty much know straight away if you like the surroundings.
3. You are going to have to print off all application forms and make sure you have your ID points ready (each real estate will differ with what they want from you). ID points generally have to amount to 100 meaning you’ll need passport, drivers licence etc scanned and printed already. Take all completed forms and ID to the viewing, ready to hand over to the real estate as soon as you are ready to commit to the property.
4. A big tip is to be friendly to the Real Estate (estate agent for the Brits reading this). We have talked to loads of them asking what it is that makes them choose someone to rent with and the answers always were: dress smart (no thongs or shorts for the guys), be friendly and make sure you are the tenants that would make life easy for them. When you are up against 50 other people who have also put their applications in for the same place, you are going to want to make sure the Real Estate remembers you. I always made a b-line for them and built up a good rapport so they would remember me as the friendly woman who wouldn’t be a nightmare.
5. Check Domain literally everyday. New properties come up all the time (for renting, more come up from Wednesday onwards for the Saturday inspection) and can be leased almost immediately, so your little gem could be hiding in there waiting for you.
6. You also need to be very careful of mould. There’s an awful lot found in homes in Sydney due to the tropical weather and badly built housing. You’ll be able to notice it as soon as you enter the house so make sure you stick to your gut instinct. The real estate agent will try and fob it off by saying the smell will be gone by the time you move in etc. It won’t be. Another tip with this problem is light in Sydney homes. It can be hard to find a house with natural light because houses were built to keep you cool over here so natural light is a hard one to find. If the place is dark even when you view it at 10am on a Saturday morning, it won’t get any better than that. Chances of mould being present will be high, especially if the flat is on a ground floor. I’m currently living in a tiny house but we picked it because it has the most incredible natural light running throughout the place. This is a rare find from what I’ve seen in Sydney and I’ve looked at a lot of places.
7. Be realistic. If you’re coming from UK, you’ll also notice the quality of housing isn’t as good as it is back home. Don’t expect double glazed windows, central heating or insulation. It doesn’t exist (maybe it does if you’re paying loads for a property). This means winter is very cold in Sydney. I have been able to see my own breath indoors at home all winter and you’ll be investing in an electric heater, which as soon as you turn it off, you’re home will become freezing again. Also, it’s really tricky to know what the weather is like outside in Winter. It’s always warmer outside than indoors. This is a fact! Fortunately, this means housing is great for summer and definitely keeps you cool.
So what’s the average cost of a rental in Sydney?
A good one bed property will be between $500-$600 (give or take) per week in Sydney CBD (town centre), so that includes Bondi, Surry Hills, Paddington, Balmain, Kirribilli etc. You only pay for electricity over here so no TAX or Water bills (from what I’ve experienced). The further West you go the cheaper it is.
I’ve found Bondi, Surry Hills and Paddington the most expensive. With Bondi, you really have to push your budget up to get anything vaguely decent IF you want your own place and not shared house. Trust me, I have looked at various places in these areas and they just weren’t livable for what I wanted to pay (no more than $600).
Where do I live? I’ve always lived on the North side of the Bridge (Kirribilli, Neutral Bay etc) because to be honest, with the standard of housing, price and location to the City, also outweighed anywhere else I saw in Sydney. These parts of Sydney are far from the ‘happening’ areas but I liked the quietness and the fact that I live right on the Harbour as well. Getting the ferry on Sydney Harbour to work was a highlight!
Which Area Of Sydney To Live In
Let’s talk about areas or suburbs as they are known in Sydney. First thing to know is Sydney is split into 5 sections which are:
1. Eastern Suburbs
So that’s Bondi and all the beaches such as Clovelly, Coogee, Tamarama, Bronte and a popular choice of Bondi Junction to be close to the train station.
In my personal opinion Eastern Suburbs really has that ‘I feel like I’m on holiday’ vibe whenever I visit and the scenery is just out of this world with view after view of the beach. I regularly see people adding their sunrise pics of Bondi beach while on their morning run. Oh you’ll see EVERYONE exercising in Eastern Suburbs which is great if that’s your kind of thing. Also, going down that route, there is a bit of ego tripping going on over in that area of Sydney. I think because everyone is super fit and beautiful it certainly makes you feel like you are on a constant movie set with a load of tourists thrown in. That’s right, Bondi brings in the tourists but there’s more to the Eastern Suburbs than Bondi.
Quieter beaches like Coogee and Maroubra will see more families living there and feels way more chilled out than the movie set of Bondi.
The one thing I really like about the E.S. is it certainly makes you want to be a lot more healthier as there is just THAT buzz in the air and seeing all the healthy cafes and yoga centres around which certainly points you into the right direction.
The major downside for me is transport. If you are going to live by the beach then expect to get a bus to Bondi Junction (around 20mins in rush hour) and a train from there into town (around 15 mins). That’s actually not that long but buses are unpredictable and traffic is horrendous in Sydney so expect to probably double that time on occasion.
Bondi to Coogee Walk is 6km long and is stunning!
2. Northern Beaches
My top 2 areas are:
- Manly – There’s always a divide when it comes to Bondi and Manly locals. Which is the better place to live? I find Manly to be a lot more chilled out than Bondi yet its a more of a pain in the butt to get around as you’ll be further out of the city. If you are working in the city then there is the ferry which is awesome and takes 30 mins right through to Circular Quay so you’ll get to see the Opera House and Bridge every single day but if that ferry stops running say for instance late on friday night then expect to pay a good amount for a cab back. A lot of people who live in Manly never leave Manly, same goes for Bondi. I met someone recently who told me they had lived in Manly for a whole year and hadn’t even seen Bondi Beach. They aren’t that far away from each other!!
- Balmoral – I absolutely love Balmoral beach. It feels like a proper little gem and is so chilled out just full of locals, no tourists. It is a pain to get into work though, expect a good 30-40 minutes on the bus.
- Lower North Shore – This is where I currently live. Location is fantastic to the city – 2 minutes on the train from Milson’s Point right to Town Hall, 5 minute boat ride to Circular Quay etc. Places like Lavender Bay, Kirribilli, McMahon’s Point and Crows Nest are my favourite areas and have the best quality of homes for the value in Sydney (expect anywhere between $400-$600 for 1 bed harbour view home).
3. The City
So you want to be right in the heart of the city? These are my top 3 area’s to live in:
- Surry Hills – Lovely area with a huge nightlife vibe, loads of cafes and restaurants and a popular spot on the weekend for locals to go out. You can walk or get a bus into town which will take about 10 minutes.
- Paddington – This is on the way to Eastern Suburbs but has a beautiful feel to what seems like a village. There are loads of Australian Designer shops there, lovely cafes and some great hidden little bars to discover.
- Balmain – This is literally like it’s own little town. It really reminds me of England and has so many pubs per square km its crazy! It has a great vibe, 10 mins on the bus/ferry to the city and is full of the middle class end of the scale with young families or couple in their 30s.
4. Sutherland Shire (Cronulla)
This is sort of similar to Essex although you can add in some gorgeous beaches to that. Sutherland Shire is again it’s own little community. People generally don’t really leave that area but it has some stunning beaches to admire. They made a TV Show similar to The Only Way Is Essex so I don’t really need to go on about the people as you probably get what I mean by that 😉
To me, this is more of the alternative area to live in. my top 3 areas are:
- Newtown – This is where you’ll find loads of Antique shops, quirky shops, quirky people and a breath of fresh air. Sydney people can look very same same and it get’s a bit dull after seeing how everyone looks exactly the same so going to Newtown is great to see a bit of individuality. There are some great pubs, there’s a good nightlife scene and it’s easy to get into town by jumping on the train for 10 minutes to Central. Easy! oh and it’s cheaper going out west as you wont be paying for the sea views. This is like the East London version of Sydney.
- Marrickville – This area is THE cool part of Sydney. There are some awesome markets around there, great cafes, some hidden bars in warehouses and is close to the train. It has an Asian feel but it’s become very trendy with hipsters in recent years.
- Alexandria – There are some amazing cafes in warehouses there although I never get a sense of a community vibe in that area as it literally is full of warehouses but it seems like a lot of people are moving over to that suburb at the moment for cheaper rent pricing.
Just one of the many beautiful cafe’s in Alexandria (The Grounds)
Summary of Best Suburbs To Live In Sydney
OK so here are the pro’s now you’re a bit more up to date with the areas. Here are a few tips to compress all of that info:
a. Areas that are close to the beach?
Eastern Suburbs – Bondi, North Bondi, Bronte, Tamarama, Clovelly, Coogee, Maroubra
Northern Beaches – Manly, Balmoral
Sutherland Shire – Cronulla
b. Best ferry commute?
There are loads of ferry commutes that all pull into the harbour at Circular Quay: these are the places to consider;
Eastern Suburbs – You can get a boat from Rose Bay but you’ll need to either drive or catch a bus to there.
Balmain – 10 minute boat ride
Manly – 30 minute express boat right down the harbour
Neutral Bay, Kirribilli – 10 mins right to circular quay
c. Most expensive/least expensive area?
The most expensive suburb is Darling Point (located near Bondi) where houses fetch a good $30 millions each. Nearby suburbs Vaucluse, Double Bay and Rose Bay are all well to do suburbs. For the cheapest, as I said before, the further out west you go, the cheaper it will be. There are plenty of house shares on Gumtree, Flatshare.com or flatmates.com.au if you fancy making it cheaper but living in a nice area.
d. Best suburb closest to the city?
If you are looking for convenience to live near your job in the city then the best suburbs to live in have to be Surry Hills for the entertainment, cafes and bar culture, Kirribilli (where I live) for the quietness, harbour views and only one stop on the train to the city which takes a whole five minutes or Balmain which is only a 10 minute bus ride to the city.
e. Unsafe areas?
Sydney really isn’t dangerous at all so there’s no need to worry about your safety. Redfern is renowned for being a bit on the dodgy side although it is now becoming quite a cool area and I would definitely walk the streets of Sydney alone at night and not feel threatened in the slightest.
f. Sum up the vibe in each area
(i) Best for single peeps – Eastern Suburbs – Bondi. There are a lot of younger expats living in that area. You’ll find mostly British and Irish over that way and it’s great for those on a WHV. Think of this as the Clapham Common of Sydney. By this I mean it’s where everyone lives when they first come to Sydney. It’s also full of healthy instagrammers and expect lots of people who will out do each other with their plastic surgery! But, it has a fantastic vibe, and really makes you feel like you are on a constant holiday. Expect to be paying more for rent though.
(ii) Best for couples? Any of the suburbs mentioned in this post! I think Balmain is a great spot if you are over 30 as there are more couples around that age living there, it’s quite quiet with a great big selection on pubs. Balmain is like the Islington of Sydney. Really nice area, clean and quiet.
(iii) Best for families? Leichhardt, Balmain, Coogee, Maroubra, Manly
(iv) Best for partying? Surry Hills, Newtown, Bondi, Manly
(v) Best for healthy living? Obvs by the beach
(vi) Best for trendy alternative vibe? Newtown and Marrickville. Think of these areas to be a bit like the East End of London – Shoreditch, Dalston
(vii) Best value for money? Lower North Shore. You’ll get a flat that has both a decent kitchen and bathroom. Housing is cheaper and you can get a harbour view for not that much. I lived in a place right on the harbour that had 2 bedrooms and a garden for $600. That is a rarity in Sydney. This area reminds me a bit of Hampstead in London which is where I used to live. Think of it as being just a nice area that’s a bit more well to do than some others in Sydney. No partying really happens here but you’ll be just a stones throw from the action. I did look over in the Eastern Suburbs a couple of times but we just couldn’t find anything decent for the money we wanted to pay.
Hope this has helped any of you looking to move over to Sydney. I know it’s a bit daunting when you want to make the most out of your new life yet have no idea where to start.
This post has been re-written in 2018 as an up to date point of view.
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Good Luck and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below of contact me directly.