I am embarking on searching for rentals on my fourth country (Ireland). I know what it’s like in London (UK), Australia (Brisbane, mainly and a short while was seeking in Sydney), and Canada (Vancouver and Toronto). Going through this process can be exciting, tedious and stressful all at the same time. It’s exciting because you are imagining what the end is going to be like and you relish the novelty of living in a new place. It’s tedious because you have to figure out an entirely new locale, whether or not it meets your requirements and all the details that need to be considered. It’s stressful because you are out to meet that basic Maslow hierarchy of needs requirement – physiological and safety – while dealing with other stresses and constraints such as time and budget. I am getting all these feelings now searching for a place in Ireland!
Anyway, while waiting on a few responses and paperwork to arrive, I just thought to have a think about what the rental ‘scene’ is like in all the other countries that I’ve been in…
Brisbane and Sydney, Australia
I went to university in Australia and worked in the industry for two years after. During university, I rented a house with friends – the first one was those typical Queenslander-style homes and the second one was built by the owner who was an architect.
After university, I rented in a condo (or apartment) which was right in the CBD (central business district) and overlooked the river. I could even spy someone from my window working at his office desk! It was a bit of a weird sight because since I was on the ground level, the outdoor pool was also on the ground level and if I sat upright from my chair, I could see people dive into the pool.
Now, if you were searching for properties around Sydney and look at Google Maps, you will see that Sydney has a very unique natural setting. I haven’t lived in this city, my sister has and she lived in Bondi Beach where you can see a glimmer of the beach and ocean from the apartment. When I walked outside during summer, I seriously felt like I was in some sort of resort city. When I look out of the window of the airplane and see the harbor, it is absolutely magnificent seeing the boats on the harbor and the Sydney Opera House. Make sure to grab a seat by the window!
London, United Kingdom
London is hands down THE best city in the world. And if you can lock in that rental property in the right part of London that suits your needs, you will guarantee that the rates pay themselves off.
When I first arrived, I was renting temporarily right in the heart of London – Barbican. You can see the brutalist style architecture in Barbican as well as the arts centre. It’s quiet amusing that my place didn’t have a laundry so I had to go to the outside laundromat. On one hand I was living in the area well-known for the prestigious arts centre but at the same time I had to go outside to do the laundry.
If you wander the streets of London, you can easily run into so much history in the place all juxtaposed with new developments.
After Barbican, I moved to Primrose Hill. I was only there for about six months until the landlord decided that he didn’t want tenants to do renovations. Primrose Hill is an absolute dream. Just walking across the Primrose Hill Park (when you walk up the hill, you can see the CBD) from my work at Regent’s Park to my flat just put a smile on my face. I chose this area because it was walking distance to and from work and because I wanted to live near a park. I secured a viewing while I was travelling in Dublin and didn’t even realize how beautiful this area was until I arrived.
When it was time to move, I was at St John’s Wood and I lived in those historical red brick apartments. I chose this area since it was also near a park and within walking distance to and from work. For the first week or two, I was mourning over the fact that I was no longer in Primrose Hill but eventually fell in love with St John’s Wood. I loved the flowering trees that bloomed, the High Street, the houses and mansions and Regent’s Park.
The three areas that I’ve lived in London was perfect for me. But, there are so many other choices that it really didn’t matter too much because those choices were great anyway. I had a flatmate that moved to Old Street, another at Brick Lane, co-workers in Brixton, a friend who semi-squatted in this artsy type of commune living space in Hackney. At the same time, I have seen some pretty depressing places when compared to its asking price since the need for property in London is always high.
And, living in London is always so interesting and since the connections to travel to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is fantastic.
However there is one thing that bothered me while living in London.. and that was the lack of seeing blue skies because of the weather.
Vancouver and Toronto, Canada
I really only took one look at the rental market in Vancouver when I decided that it really was not for me. This is further supported by the real estate price bubble driven up by foreign property investment that the city is being addressed. However, Vancouver has a beautiful backdrop with the mountain skyline always in your view, even if you are way out of the city.
Toronto had more choices, but the one main item that I couldn’t wrap my head around until I arrived was the concept of the GTA, or the Greater Toronto Area.
My rental experience in Canada was not the same as before. It was more a reflection of my thought process rather than a comment on the state of the rental market in Toronto. I decided not to live nearer to the downtown area and opted for living in a house way out in the suburbs and it has been years since I last lived in the suburbs. If I were to repeat this process, I would have done a bit more research into all the different areas in Toronto and I would have stuck with characteristics that makes a place turn into a ‘home’ to me.
In terms of culture, Toronto is a multi-cultural city and I was exposed to completely new cultural groups such as the Caribbean, Central and South American influences. In contrast, you get the suburban Walmarts and the plaza malls.
In terms of Toronto and Vancouver proving its livability (as promoted by those Top Cities To Live In guides), there were some glimmers of it. But, for the majority of the time, I didn’t really experience it in the same depth as something like London. This was especially pertinent during the Toronto winters when, at some stage, the temperatures had gone down to -26C.
On the other hand, there are other absolutely beautiful areas outside the major cities. For example, you have the absolutely beautiful Kelowna region in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. If circumstances permit, I would opt to be in these regions.
Now on to Dublin and Ireland!
The last time I was in Dublin was in 2012 for a three week trip from late May to early June. Something close to Primrose Hill or St John’s Wood would be the most ideal!