The inspo for this post came whilst browsing on The Messy Heads today, as I saw that Emma has written up some things she learnt when moving into her own place in New York (that girl is living the DREAM and creating so much cool content, so whenever you’re feeling uninspired or blah – check out her social media platforms. She is actually such a creative little soul) so I decided to do my own, Australia-based version. Because our renting system is a litttttlllleee stricter, we don’t have TJ Maxx and also well, it’s not New York *crying*. So I hope this is something a little bit helpful, a little bit relatable, at at the very least, gives you the urge to do some homewares shopping.
When looking for a place…
Ask your school teachers & your parents’ friends to be character references
This is a major one for all you first time renters. Because you’ve (presumably) always lived at home/with family, and you’ve never had to pay rent to a third party, you’ve got no renting references. So the next best thing is character references. House sitting is a great way to get these and it looks good on the application because it’s not just some random person saying that you’re a good kid. The person can actually vouch that you kept the place tidy and respected their rules, etc. etc. If you’ve never house sat or can’t get in contact with the people who you did it for, any old adult will do. A typical rental application in Queensland will ask for 3 referees, so try and get them sorted as soon as you can to avoid last minute mucking around when you’ve found your dream place.
Look for a place with storage!
And by that I mean somewhere that has built in wardrobes and kitchen cupboards. It seems like kind of a basic thing for a unit to have, but we inspected so many that didn’t even have a kitchen pantry. I know when you’ve got a budget it’s hard to find a place that has everything you’re looking for, but especially in smaller units there’s not going to be a lot of room for extra cupboards as well as your standard house furniture, so keep that in mind. In our place, the pantry and laundry cupboard is combined, but thankfully we don’t store a crazy amount of food so we managed to make it work. We did have to buy a little ladder shelve that houses all of our towels (and sits next to the couch) because there’s nowhere for the in the bathroom.
Is there secure on-site parking?
Actually important because nobody wants to pay for parking at their own house! Most places are pretty good, but sometimes will only allow for one car per unit, which is a little dumb when it’s a two bedroom place, so make sure if there’s two cars there’s enough room for them BEFORE you choose the place.
A furnished apartment = less upfront $$$ but more longterm spending
Furnished apartments seem like the ideal situation for a first time renter, but they definitely have their pros and cons.
Don’t have to worry about buying furniture straight away, which is ideal if you don’t have a lot of savings behind you to start off with.
Have to sleep on a used mattress – which may not bother some people, but it kinda creeps me out.
The rent is usually at LEAST an extra $50 per week compared to an unfurnished apartment. Which may not SEEM like that much at the time, but if you’re there for a year or 2, suddenly you’ve forked out all of this money to rent this furniture, only to leave the place and have to buy it all again for the next place anyway.
A lot of real estates are really strict on leaving everything in top condition, so if for example, you accidentally stain a cushion or put a dint in a chair, 9 times out of 10 they’ll make you outright replace the item before you can get your bond money back.
Don’t jump in and sign a lease for the first place you inspect
I know sometimes circumstances can’t help it, but the most important lesson I’ve learnt during my short renting career is to CONSIDER ALL YOUR OPTIONS. Although my Brisbane share house LOOKED cute, and seemed like a good deal, it was actually full of cracks and flaws and a very expensive lease-breakage fee. Our current place however; was the first unit Ethan and I checked out, and we immediately liked it, but also kept to our word and saw all of the places that were available and in our price range JUST IN CASE. Sometimes, you immediately know a place is “the one” but it still doesn’t hurt to get a bit more information on it – e.g. find out what the neighbours/housemates are like, what the area is like, do you have to pay any extra to get things like electricity and internet hooked up, etc. Once you’re happy and comfortable with your decision, get in that application – PRONTO.
When you do the initial inspection, take photos and write down EVERY little flaw/imperfection/mark you see.
Make sure you document the date as well and add it to the initial lease agreement (there is usually a section where you and the real estate can write down things that were already damaged/old/needed replacing before you moved in), because this will save you eons of pain when it comes to eventually moving out and getting those bond $$$ back.
Organise your electricity, internet and water to be connected before you move in
This seems like a pretty obvious one, but most of the time everything has been turned off/disconnected while the property has been vacant. And sometimes it takes WEEKS to have it sorted out. Internet is definitely the worst one of out of the three, so once you’ve signed the lease and have a move in date confirmed, get the ball rolling on all of these things.
And on the subject of bills…
Most electricity bills only come every 3 or 4 months, so if you want to avoid having to fork out a crap load of cash all at once then organise to put money towards the bill monthly. Ethan and I put $100 a month into our electricity account, so when we do eventually get the bill it’s not such a sting. Luckily we have water included in our rent price, so we don’t have to worry about that, but we do have internet and separate phone bills. If you’re living out of home for the first time, I’d definitely recommend doing up a weekly/fortnightly budget (depending on how often you get paid) and have a monthly check list up on the wall of what bills need to be paid when. This way you’ll always be on top of your finances, and can plan when you need to be saving and for what. I know it’s a bit of a dreary task, but there’s honestly nothing worse than not forgetting about a bill and not being able to pay it on time. So stay organised! 🙂
Once you’ve found a place (hooray!)
Don’t buy all your furniture and homewares at once
Yes, it’s all super exciting and seems like a good idea at the time, but it will drain your bank account VERY quickly. Definitely buy the essentials – mattress, bedding, toiletries, towels, cookware, cutlery, FRIDGE, etc. but don’t feel like you have to have a fully furnished and decorated house within the first week of moving in. Hell, we’ve been here for 18 months and we’re still buying bits and bobs to make things a little more organised/functional. It also pays to shop online, which is amazing if you’re one of the poor souls who doesn’t have IKEA (me), and is a much quicker way to compare prices and items quality. One thing I was aware of when buying my bed frame is that shipping can be a total bitch. It ended up being cheaper for me to drive down to Townsville and back (4 hours each way) than it was to post the frame. Ridiculous, I know! So make sure you do a mock checkout run before you get your heart set on an interstate piece.
Kmart will be your best friend
“Yes Vivienne, we all know how flipping amazing Kmart is!” Yeah, well, good! Because it is, and our house is made up of approximately 80% Kmart purchases because they literally sell EVERYTHING home related, and it’s super affordable, decent quality and quite cute. And because it’s a chain store, there’s always plenty of designer knock offs for a tenth of the price, so it’s pretty much always a win-win situation when you give Kmart a visit. Target is also another great alternative for homewares, although their stuff is a teeny bit more pricey, but perfect for when Kmart has run out or doesn’t have specifically what you need (i.e. A3 photo frames – Target is my go-to for these and bedding, as the quality is a little nicer than Kmart’s but still a very affordable $45 for a Double bed set).
When buying flatpack furniture – you get what you pay for!
As I mentioned above, a lot of our house stuff is from Kmart, including a lot of the furniture. I’ve purchased bookshelves, a tv unit, bed side table, hat rack, etc. from there and for the most part, I’ve had a pretty good run. If you do notice any of the parts are damaged or missing when you start assembling it, don’t be afraid to take it back to the store and ask for an exchange/refund. I bought a shelving unit from Overflow that not only had chips in the paint, but had little parts missing off of it, and I wish I asked for a refund because it was $75 or whatever and soooooo not worth the price. So Kmart = yes. Overflow = not so much. Also, don’t be afraid of flat pack furniture! It may look tricky and confusing with the very vague instructions, and sometimes you find yourself throwing that darned alan key in frustration, but it’s definitely a task anyone can do. If you’ve got someone who’s willing to help, BE KIND, because sometimes it genuinely is a two person job.
Gumtree and local Buy, Swap & Sell sites are also fab
Just remember that it can take a LOT of scrolling to find what you’re looking for, and more often than not you’re going to need a ute if you’re picking up second hand furniture. But it’s definitely worth it, because you have the potential to save hundreds when it comes to things like bed frames (so fricking expensive these days!), fridges and washing machines. Obviously, like all things from those sites, do a thorough check of the item before you agree to purchasing it, and don’t be afraid to ask for a cheaper price if you don’t think it’s worth what they’re asking. Once you get your score home, get crafty! A quick sand and some fresh paint can completely transform a piece and freshen up your space.
Report any property damages (that aren’t your fault) as soon as they occur
I know this may seem like a daunting and pain in the ass task, but again, it will save your butt in the long run. We’ve had so many little things happen in the unit since living here; such as the bathroom towel rail falling off, the lounge room tiles getting air bubbles under them, termites in my wardrobe (THAT was a fun one), door knobs falling off… And none of that was our fault, so by letting the real estate know ASAP, it will not only get fixed free of charge, but then you don’t have to have that awkward conversation during the house inspection about why you didn’t mention anything sooner.
Keep a folder of all furniture/white goods/electronics receipts, as well as anything regarding bills or the real estate.
Yes, this is totally a mum piece of advice, but that’s because it’s SMART. Especially when it comes to things like warranty it definitely pays to have your receipt. And if you’re feeling really organisational scan your physical receipts so you have a digital copy as well. I know most people pay their bills online now, giving you a digital paper trail if anything gets mucked up, but if you’re still paying them at the post office like my goose of a boyfriend then KEEP THE RECEIPTS. Jussssstttt in case.
Buy your own curtains
Because the ones in the apartment/house will either be a) non-existent or b) absolutely crap or c) too nice to replace if you damage them. Apparently there’s some renting rule where the landlord legally has to provide bedroom curtains for their unit/house, so definitely hit up your agent if there’s none when you’re moving in. If you are lucky enough to get curtains, they’re probably going to be cheap, shitty quality and get damaged in the wash (trust me, I deal with this shit for a living). So if you can afford to, neatly fold up the currently curtains and store them safely away, and go get yourself some Triple Weave curtains from your local Spotlight store. Just ask the staff (or come and ask me) about how life changing having a decent pair of washable curtains is.
If you’re not allowed to put hooks/nails in the walls use Command picture strips/hooks
I actually use them for everything. Blu Tak is great for smaller, light weight stuff, but if you’re wanting to hang frames up without damaging the walls, get your hands on the Command brand picture hanging strips, which I have linked here because I’m kind like that. They’re sold in pretty much everywhere (Coles/Woolworths/Target etc.) and the value packs are quite affordable. This pack is my favourite for hanging A3, A4 & A5 picture frames up as they hold the weight really well and sit closely to the wall.
Baskets/containers will become your domestic God
Why? Because you can shove heaps of shit in them and suddenly it looks neat! Again, Kmart has some really cute matte black metal baskets that I use for my underwear/socks/bras in my wardrobe, as well to use a fruit and vegetable bowls. We also picked up some grey cane baskets from Kmart that are the perfect size for storing all of the laundry stuff (washing powder, Ironing spray, Napisan, etc.) as well as one for all of the random cleaning stuff we keep under our kitchen sink. Big, stackable storage containers (with lids) are great for winter clothes and blankets, as well as other random stuff that you don’t want on display but may not have the shelve/cupboard space for.
When buying houseplants…
Big W, Bunnings and Masters (RIP – actually so sad they are closing down because their garden centre is the bomb) are my go-to destinations for this kinda stuff, because they are cheap and have a nice range of indoor and outdoor plants. One thing I did find when we tried the whole indoor houseplant thing last year is that SOMETIMES THE LABELS ARE WRONG. Do your research online BEFORE you buy, because I had so many succulents die from lack of sunlight, even though the tags on them said they were the “perfect indoor, low light” plant. Mega sad face. The extensive range can sometimes be overwhelming, so definitely have a look online, read some reviews, and write down which plants you like so when you get to the garden centre/nursery you’re not stuck wondering around and trying to read every info. tag on every plant.
Turn things off!
And I don’t mean you should turn off every power point whenever you duck out to the shops, but doing things like turning the lights and fans off when you’re not in the room will make a huge difference for your power bill at the end of the 3 months.
Well, I think this essay just about sums up everything I can think of. I know it was a super long one, but I tried to include all of the things I wish I was told when I first moved out of home and became a ‘renter’. Let me know if you have any feedback or other tips that I should include, and I hope you enjoyed!
Till next time,