Haven’t been able to sit down, reflect, and journal about the things that have been happening here in Melbourne since Daniel and I arrived slightly more than a month ago. Everyday has been flying by real quick, but it has been a fulfilling journey thus far! 🙂

Quick background – I am currently on a semester-long student exchange program with the University of Melbourne. Daniel came along to Melbourne too because God has allowed for things to pan out such that he can take the time to travel and experience a fresh environment!

There is a whole long story behind why we are here but to keep things short, we believe God has brought us here to Melbourne and when He does something, there is always a purpose behind it.

Sure enough, His promises unfolds before our eyes daily and all we can ever say is, “God, we acknowledge it is You, and we are just so thankful.”

Search for a home (beware of pests!)

It is really difficult to rent an apartment in the city of Melbourne during this period because there is an over-demand of apartments. What made the situation worse for us was that we could only lease the place for four months, and many owners and agents were unwilling to do that for us.

Being typical Singaporeans, we started searching for a rental apartment since November 2015. Yet, those attempts were largely futile. Some agents said it was too early to book an apartment, and most just didn’t reply. By end-January, we were getting pretty worried that we would arrive without a long-term apartment. We certainly had to lower our expectations! Even what would seem basic to many became an option for us.

Just at the right time, one of our friends living in Melbourne City gave us lots of advice on the various apartments around, and even helped us to inspect some places. Her aid definitely lightened our burden, and eventually we found a place along Swanston Street through her. The place wasn’t great, but we took it anyway because it seemed like we had no choice! Anyway, we got the housing issue out of our minds and was able to travel with one less load.

As we arrived in Melbourne, we took the advice of other well-traveled people and rented an Airbnb apartment for the first 3 nights. Our Airbnb place was at Upper West Side, just across Southern Cross Station. The view was amazing!

Renting a temporary abode was essential since those initial days were required for us to settle many administrative matters. Meanwhile, we also went down to take a look at our future “home” at Swanston Street, sign the lease agreement, pay one month’s worth of bond and rent, and collect the keys. We could have easily stayed at the Airbnb apartment for longer, but budget was a huge issue. So we moved out (very reluctantly) on the fourth day, into our Swanston Street apartment.

Upon arrival in the afternoon, everything seemed fine and we went on to purchase some household items. However, as we returned in the evening, we noticed a few little cockroaches running around the kitchen area (which was adjoined to the living room). It was horrifying to us, especially when our friend had previously told us that she had never seen any cockroaches in Australia over the years.

We immediately contacted the rental agent to alert her of the problem and tried to get rid of them by ourselves. However, the situation persisted and we realised the place was probably infested with cockroaches. Imagine the frustration we faced battling the cockroaches day and night, not being able to cook proper food because the kitchen was so unhygienic (we ate instant noodles most of the time), and having to figure a solution to this in a completely new environment.

In any case, to cut the long story short, we spent most of our days reading up on tenancy laws and agreements, calling and visiting  places which might be able to help us, inspecting close to ten other places (in futility), and getting the agent to work something out. It honestly didn’t help that the agent’s priority was in renting the place out, though after much persuasion she did send an exterminator down to deal with the cockroaches.

By now, one week had passed and little had changed. All we wanted to do was to move to another place. Yet in the midst of it all, my greatest comfort came from Psalm 81 which God spoke through so clearly one night.

I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

– Psalm 81:10

God reminded me that He was the one who paved the way for me to come here, and He will most certainly provide for us! We need only to trust and rely on Him. Such is the lesson that I believe, we have to learn over and over again. At the same time, as we were obliged to live outside of our comfort zone, we learnt how to settle issues together, sought God together, and grew in our relationship together.

On the Sunday that came, we witnessed the faithfulness of God unfold before our eyes as we attended service at Cross Culture Church. We had met our current housemate at church the previous week when we walked in casually during White Night Melbourne, and she invited us for service on Sunday. We joined some of her life group members for lunch that day and shared with them our housing issue as the conversation progressed.

With that, the same lady (a Malaysian) who invited us to Cross Culture shared that the apartment that she was renting from another Singaporean lady, could most possibly take us in. She even invited us to take a look at the apartment the evening itself, and we did!

As we went on to confirm our stay, we recognised that it was definitely God at work. Not only was the rent cheaper than our previous place (and not to say all other places we have inspected), the place was nicer and fully furnished with way more household items which we could use, there was gym and pool and it was in the city.

Even little things like the presence of a guitar in the apartment showed us how detailed God is – Daniel plays the guitar and was contemplating on bringing his guitar to Melbourne but didn’t do so in the end because of the flight’s weight limit. Such is the extent to which God loves us and takes care of us.

Some rental advice

If you are planning to rent an apartment in Melbourne, take note: your chances of getting the apartment is much higher if you are in Melbourne yourself. The agent really appreciates it if you go down for the inspection and submit your documents quickly (best on the day itself).

Our advice is to go to https://www.realestate.com.au/rent or http://www.domain.com.au/ and book as many inspections as you can a week or two before you arrive in Melbourne. At the same time, prepare your documents in soft copy.

Different real estate companies require different documents, but here are the basics: Passport, visa, student ID/eCOE or latest payslip, and bank statement. Right after you have inspected the place and decide you would like to rent it, grab an application form from the agent and submit it along with the supporting documents on the day itself. Most of them accept email applications (scan the completed form) so it’s really easy!

Expect to pay about A$350 to 400 per week for a furnished studio apartment, A$400 to 500 per week for a one bedder, and A$500 to 600 per week for a two bedder, in Melbourne CBD.

If you require wifi or printer, head to the State Library just opposite Melbourne Central. We literally camped at the Library the entire week when our place didn’t have wifi and we had to sort the documents out.

For more tips on what to take note of before moving from Singapore (or anywhere) to Australia, read: 5 Important Things We Learned When Moving To Australia From Singapore

All the best!