Renting Advice

Here is a random list of advice for one of my friends who is looking for a house.

  • If you can find yourself a house that includes white goods, you will save yourself a lot of bother moving them. In Hobart you won’t find a house without a stove, and the majority will have a fridge and washing machine. You may get a dryer or dishwasher if you’re lucky. Somebody else also takes care of repairs and collects the depreciation on the assets, which is nice too.
  • If you’re a couple, and you can afford a two-bedroom place (even if the second bedroom is tiny), go for it. Having places where you can be separate from each other (one of you in the spare room, one of you in the living room) will preserve your sanity.
  • Make sure you get a place that gets some sunlight in winter. It will vastly reduce your heating bill, and keep you sane if you’re at home during the day. Hobart-specific advice: be careful with being on the southern side of the hills in South Hobart and Lenah Valley.
  • Places with built-in heating will save you money. A reverse-cycle air conditioner (heat pump) runs at a lower price per joule of electricity than a plug-in electric heater, and is more efficient to boot. You’re unlikely to get gas heating or a wood fire (which is expensive but very very pleasant) unless you’re looking at more expensive places.
  • Be realistic about your travel and commute. Carefully consider whether you will save money by living within walking distance of work (expensive house, cheap transportation) or by living further out (cheap house, expensive transportation). Keep in mind it’s hard to change habits – if you already drive everywhere, you’ll keep on driving everywhere unless you make conscious changes.
  • Make a list of things you absolutely won’t put up with before going to look at places, and dismiss them immediately if they don’t meet with your requirements. It’s better to miss out on a place than to be stuck somewhere you can’t stand.
  • You will also have a list of nice-to-haves (for me: fan-forced oven, view of the river). These are not the same as your deal-breakers.
  • Also set a hard limit (or hard limits) on the amount you can afford before you start looking. When I last moved, I set a limit of $125/week for a room with a car or bus commute to the city, a limit of $150/week for a room with a cycle or walk commute to the city, and $200/week if I could rent two bedrooms, one to use as an office (and thus no need to commute). Bonus points if you create a full budget beforehand and can be confident in your numbers.
  • Real estate rental agents will almost always be ‘meh’ to deal with. They will (generally) be unresponsive and unhelpful. Private landlords will either be great, or even worse.
  • In Tasmania, make sure you check out the Consumer Affairs’ site on renting.

Eight Things I Hate About Living In Hobart – Six Years On

Six years ago to the day, I wrote a bit of a rant about Hobart. At the time I thought nothing of it, my blog only has three readers (Hello!). Of course, there’s Google.

Over time, this one post has attracted more visits than any other post on my blog (I haven’t done the hard numbers, but my guess is that it would be more than all other posts combined). Which annoys me, since over the last six years Hobart has become an amazing place to live. So let me address a few points:

  • Hobart is no longer boring. Thanks in a large part to MONA, Hobart has a huge art and events scene. Apart from the dead of winter, Hobart is a live and happening place.
  • The public transport system is largely fixed. It goes where you want to go, and unless you’re trying to get from one satellite suburb to another (Tranmere to Kingston for example) it won’t take forever. It could still have improvement (most public transport systems could) but it’s better than it was.
  • The roads are better too. We’ve had a lot of capital works done recently, and a lot more coming up. Bypasses and on-ramps are being constructed at an amazing speed. Intersections are being improved.
  • We got the NBN, Australia’s fibre to the house/node/something network, before any other states. I have a solid fibre connection to my house, and bandwidth is almost never an issue any more.
  • Thanks to a few by-law modifications in the CBD area, walking through a haze of cigarette smoke while shopping is much reduced. The CBD is a lovely place now.

I won’t comment on TV (apart from the cricket and ABC News 24, I hardly watch it any more). We also still get a few two-headed-Tasmanian jokes from mainlanders, but I think they’re jealous these days. All in all, it’s a pretty good place to be.

As a final note, it seems the ABC agrees with me, writing an in-depth article about how much MONA has changed Hobart over the last five years.

The Hobart CBD’s Real Problems

At the moment there’s a bit of discussion floating around in the local papers and on the TV about the state of Hobart’s shopping precincts. In particular, a lot of focus has been on Hobart’s Elizabeth St. Mall, and the crime that happens there in broad daylight. Apparently this crime is killing off the CBD as shoppers are scared away. That’s only a small part of the problem. Here’s what’s really happening…

Firstly, the Internet. 10-15 years ago you needed to go into the CBD to do quite a few of the non-everyday purchases you made, such as stationery, clothing, books and jewellery. There were smaller shops in suburban shopping malls sure, but if you wanted something specific, into town it was. Now, these same purchases can be made online, saving the purchaser time and money. A few days ago I bought a new fountain pen online. I selected from an absolutely huge range (1000+ items), quite a few cheaper than retail price, and I didn’t have to leave home during the cold of winter. A few days later it arrived on my doorstep without any other effort on my part. Seeing as I would have had to do research online anyway, I saved quite a lot of time. There are maybe some things I wouldn’t buy online (such as formal clothing, which ideally would be tailored, and at the very least should be tried on before purchase), but for a lot of items, the Internet will do fine.

Secondly, getting into and out of the Hobart CBD is the pits. There are three main choices. First up is driving the car in. This is bad for the environment, for a start. More importantly however, in this case, parking is just annoying. There isn’t enough of it, most spots being taken by people who drive in for their nine to five jobs. Which leads me in to the second option: catching a bus. There are plenty of buses going along the main routes into the city, but relatively few anywhere else. From my house there are two buses heading into town, and both are before nine in the morning. Which makes shopping a bit inconvenient, seeing as the shops don’t open until nine. There aren’t any buses back again until after three in the afternoon. Metro Tasmania can’t really be blamed for this, as it’s a chicken and egg problem. They can’t put more buses on unless people are already using the ones they have. The only other option is riding a bike, which if you live on the Eastern Shore (as I do) is hampered by the Tasman Bridge, which was certainly not designed with cyclists in mind (I’ll admit I’m slightly uncoordinated, but coming away with flesh wounds is excessive). Hobart is also incredibly hilly. Basically, it’s easier to drive the car to somewhere where there’s lots of parking, which is where land is cheap, which is out near the airport. It’s not difficult logic.

Finally, as more shops keep closing, less people will want to come in to just browse. As there are less people browsing and buying, less shops will be able to sustain themselves. Evidence for this can be seen in the downturn in the CBD after half of the Myer building burnt down.

I love Hobart’s CBD, don’t get me wrong. But unless the Hobart City Council changes policies (which they are starting to wake up to) then there is nowhere to go but out… to the airport.

Eight Things I Hate About Living In Hobart

You might also want to read my follow up to this post, Eight Things I Hate About Living In Hobart – Six Years On

Following on from my post about things I love about living in Hobart, here are eight things I hate:

  1. The public transport system. It sucks badly. If you want to go anywhere by bus after 6pm or on a weekend, forget it.
  2. People complaining about the public transport system. People love complaining about Metro (I’m one of them). It smells. It’s always late. It goes nowhere near where you want to go. All this complaining is really bad; what we need to do is all get on the busses and give them the money they need to fix it. At the moment I can (and regularly do) catch a bus and be the only person on it.
  3. Bogans. Individually Bogans are fine. I know quite a few, and they’re lovely people (mostly). It’s just when they get into groups; you start to get the feeling deep inside you that it’s no longer safe and you should leave. It’s not a good thing that The Powers That Be decided to build entire suburbs of public housing, which have now become ghettos.
  4. There’s not very much to do. Assuming you don’t drink alcohol (which I don’t), there’s very few things of great excitement in Hobart (if you have ideas, leave comments please!).
  5. Rubbish TV stations. People on the mainland get Channel 7, Channel 9 and Channel 10, as well as digital radio. We get Southern Cross, WIN TV, and TDT, which are bad impersonations of the mainland stations. I know Tasmania is a small market, but wouldn’t it be cheaper then to copy the stations over exactly as they are on the mainland and just change the evening news bulletin?
  6. Badly surfaced roads. I know this is a complaint pretty much everywhere in the world, but in Hobart’s suburbs it’s getting pretty ridiculous. Neither of the two electorates that Hobart covers (Denison and Franklin) are marginal seats (in fact pretty solidly Labor) so there’s not a lot of money spent pork-barrelling here.
  7. Slow Internet. We’re at the end of the world and there’s only a few Internet cables coming into the state. Add to that the high prices charged by ISPs in Australia generally, and it’s a pretty bad situation. The National Broadband Network (NBN) promises to fix the speeds, but at what cost?
  8. The jokes about two-headed Tasmanians when you travel to the mainland. It’s getting old guys, seriously.

Eight Things I Love About Living In Hobart

  1. The natural environment. In Hobart, you’re always really close to nature. Shadowing over the entire city is Mount Wellington, the suburbs are built around beaches and there’s more parks than you can poke a stick at.
  2. Everything is really close. I can drive from one end of the city to the other in about 30 minutes. The CBD is small enough to cover on foot without getting tired.
  3. You’re at the end of the Earth. If there’s going to be a nuclear war, Hobart is the place to be if you want to survive. It’s about as far away from anywhere as it’s possible to be, and still have an international airport.
  4. The weather. Despite how much Hobartians love complaining about it, it’s really not that bad. It doesn’t get stinking hot in the summer, nor is it freezing cold in winter. We don’t have acid rain and we’re not on a fault line.
  5. There’s still enough drinking water to go around. For the moment.
  6. The city itself is beautiful. Aside from a few buildings which really need to get pulled down, everything in Hobart is generally very pretty. The flower beds are all tended to nicely as well.
  7. The busses are always empty. To a Hobartian, a ‘full’ bus is one where more than half the seats are taken. If anybody has to stand up… well, something has probably gone wrong.
  8. It’s only an hour’s drive into the middle of nowhere. When you get there, there’s tonnes of pretty mountains and rivers where you can walk. And that’s probably the most underated thing of all.