Finding Somewhere to Live
Finding somewhere to live was something we were obviously very worried about. We were looking for somewhere to rent as we are still renting out our own property in the UK. Moving thousands of miles away to the other side of the world and then being homeless is not something we wanted to contemplate.
As we had no one we could stay with temporarily we did everything we could to find a permanent residence before we left home. However this is not an easy thing to do and in the end we found out that it is not a good idea to try and find a home when you haven't been to an area and seen it in person as photos and descriptions can be very misleading. Also letting agents and landlords are very reluctant to rent to someone they have never met and some will not even show you round without references and meeting you in person. So in the end we set up as much as possible prior to arrival in NZ is order to make renting a place as easy and quick as possible. These are some of the things we recommend that you do.
1. Look on the Internet for suitable properties and try to find out as much as possible about the different areas you might be interested in living. The best site we found for rental properties in is Trade Me (http://www.trademe.co.nz/Trade-me-property/index.htm) which is essentially the NZ equivalent of Ebay. All the letting agents we came across use this site for all their properties. Unfortunately you cant register with the site until you live in NZ but you can get to agents websites from Trade Me and then contact them direct.
2. Fill in tenancy applications with letting agents and give them as much information as possible, such as references and employer contact details. If you can set this up before you even get to NZ you will find that the agents will be much more helpful and things will progress much faster. Most letting agents will need a reference from past landlords and possibly your employer. Some also asked for a bank reference which is difficult to get from abroad so if you can get one from your bank in the UK this will help. Also a great tip is to get an extra copy of your police check certificate (needed for your visa) we found that this acted as an extra reference.
3. If you have school age kids then its a good idea to check out the local schools as this gives you a good idea of what the local area is like as a whole. They are graded into deciles. A school's Decile indicates the extent to which it draws its students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 10 schools are the 10% of schools with the lowest proportion of these students. This website explains this in more detail -
From this website you can get information on the decile rating of all the schools in NZ and their contact details.
4. Research the areas you are thinking of living in. This can be done using the Internet. Google street views which appear on many of the property details allow you to take virtual tours up and down streets - and even to do your commute to work. Its also a good idea to join some of the online expat communities and ask people questions. The two I used the most are shown below.
http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/living_overseas - Yes I know this is a parenting website but it has a large community in NZ who are very helpful.
Bank Accounts5. It is a good idea to set up your bank account in NZ before you get out here. This can be done entirely over the Internet and you can get all the details via email. You can also send money to this account before you leave. This means that all you need to do when you get to NZ is pop into a branch to get your card and pin number.
6. You are likely to have to stay in temporary accommodation when you first arrive unless you are lucky enough to know someone out here you can stay with. We ended up staying in a holiday cottage in Wellington. It was an absolutely lovely cottage but not exactly cheap and if we had more time and been more organised we might have found somewhere cheaper.
Lots of people choose to stay in serviced apartments or if the weather is good even camp sites in one of the simple cabins. These are cheap and must be like being on holiday in the summer. It took us just over a week and a half to find somewhere to rent and it was very stressful and hard work. I also think we were very lucky to find somewhere we could move into so quickly. I have heard it can take people up to a month to find somewhere suitable.
An example of serviced apartments. - http://www.lambtoncourt.co.nz/pages/start.html
An example of cabins. - http://huttpark.co.nz/accomodation
Our holiday cottage - http://www.travelbug.co.nz/visit/26319 (great house we loved it!)
Buying a Car7. We have found its essential to have a car in NZ and its an excellent way of exploring the local area. We hired a car for the first 12 days and we were lucky enough to find a company that gave us the car seats for free. One of the things that surprised us was that these hire companies don't just hire out new cars. They manage to provide fairly cheap hire cars by using ones that can be up to 10 years old. So you can get a hire car at a very reasonable price.
Buying a car was a bit more tricky and again we recommend that you use the Trade Me website shown above as you can then check out the prices before leaving home. There are many used and new car showrooms about but as in any other country the prices you pay will be a inflated. We ended up buying ours through Trade Me and met a lovely family who invited us in for a cup of coffee whilst our girls played in the back garden with their kids. We learnt their life story and all about their planned move to Brisbane - people in NZ are very friendly!
A good way of checking out used cars in NZ is by using the AA lemon check service. They AA is the same company as in the UK and they will check the history of your car and do a mechanical check to warn of any faults or potential problems. This is their website - http://www.aa.co.nz/Pages/default.aspx