I’ve got another great guest post to share with you today from an American expat family living in Sydney.

John and Erin’s blog is Living EZ where they have a free, printable inspection checklist for parents looking for toddler-friendly apartments in Sydney. Definitely worth getting before you start going to inspections.

Alright, I’ll now turn things over to John and Erin and, their toddler, Cecilia.

Hi, we are Erin, John (JZ) & Cecilia (CZ).

We are an American family exploring the everyday adventures of expat living, 10,000 miles from home. We are analysts, artists, and most importantly parents. We anxiously arrived in Sydney with an 8 week old, and continue to be amazed with the joy she brings to each experience.

In this article, we will help you find your ideal Sydney living situation, walking you through our initial criteria, then focusing in on five non-negotiable elements, and laying out the the four reasons for our ultimate decision. These time-saving tips will allow you to quickly narrow your housing choices without scurrying all over town, baby in tow, for endless inspections.

We arrived in Sydney, jet-lagged and confronted with an unusual, blistering, summer heat. We had a singular focus: housing. Fortunately, JZ’s relocation package included three weeks of corporate housing, but with Christmas a mere 2 weeks away, we needed to move quickly. In Sydney, real estate agents start shutting down for the holidays the week before Christmas, and they are all gone until mid-January. Our corporate housing would take us to Christmas, but we had no desire to be homeless for New Year’s Eve! We poured over all Lauren’s tips on Sydney Moving Guide in terms of building a relationship with an agent, finding the best suburbs, and conquering the inspections, and it was this assistance that let us focus on the toddler-friendly requirement.

Starting the Search by the Sea

We were so excited for an opportunity to live by the water, that we focused all of our pre-arrival time looking at units on the North Shore (Manly and beyond) and the Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Coogee, etc). We decided to use our corporate housing as a time to see if beach living was worth the price tag, and asked for accommodation in Bondi Junction, basically on top of the train station.

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We soon realized that the trains are generally the fastest, most consistent form of public transport (buses can get stuck in traffic and significantly delayed). JZ read that Sydney has many cycling friendly areas, and the long term plan was bike-commuting to the CBD. However, he still needs needed reliable transportation to and from the city for rainy days, and our bikes were on a shipping container, months away. Living in Bondi Junction was as far into the Eastern Suburbs as we could manage, and we were still a 30 minute bus ride from the beach. Any closer to the beach added a 15 minute walk to the train, and it seemed like a lose, lose situation for our needs.

Scoping Out Charming Terraces

After deciding that the beaches added too much commuting time, we moved our search closer to the city. I love the style and design of the 100-year-old terraces in Surry Hills and surrounds, so we focused in those neighborhoods. Several inspections later, we realized that these charming apartments lack some of the key elements that we now required, as new parents.

At this point, we paused, and wrote this list of non-negotiable elements for a baby-friendly apartment before scheduling any further inspections:

  • Ground floor entry wide enough for a pram – Carrying groceries, the pram, and the baby in and out of the main front door made us unwilling to deal with navigating stairs and/or narrow passages
  • Floating staircases – The delicate, open, floating staircases were common features in the terraces we viewed. When we toured one of our first apartments, I realized how dangerous they are for a crawling baby and nearly impossible to gate off. Additionally, there are very few baby gates with safety ratings for the top of stairs that do not require drilling into the wall, which is not an option for most Sydney rentals.
  • Bedrooms and bathrooms on the same floor – New parents change nappies, wash hands, and clean all sorts of liquid messes several times a night. Having to maneuver down a staircase, holding an unhappy baby, in the dark, seemed dangerous and tiring. Now that we are potty training, we realise how happy we are because stairs are not an impediment to liberating our house from the ironclad grip of Huggies.
  • No recessed areas – In several apartments, access to the kitchen or back patio required descending a few steps down. With a soon-to-be crawling baby, we avoided these tripping/fall hazards. It is nice to let her roam free without worrying constantly about a big tumble.
  • Air conditioning/heat – We searched for apartments in the blazing summer sun, often in the middle of the day. The units without air conditioning were stuffy, humid, and swampy.
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Knowing I would be spending much of my time at home with the baby, I made A/C a requirement. This is even more important in lower areas like Pyrmont that are surrounded by water. We met a lady in the grocery store after an inspection, and she adamantly let us know that the oppressive humidity would ruin our sleep without aircon.

Making the Practical Choice

Having the above list streamlined our search process so much! We saved loads of time by looking through listing photos and crossing off potential apartments, if they did not meet our criteria. This was especially helpful when having to decide between multiple flats with the same inspection times. In the end, we chose a brand new apartment in Redfern and moved in on Christmas Eve. Here are a few other tips that make our flat worth staying on for another 18 months.

  • Location – Redfern is less than 3 km from the city, on several major train lines, and packed with tons of walkable (and bikeable) amenities. On several occasions, we appreciate living two blocks from CZ’s doctor, and you can’t beat the convenience of having a grocery store practically downstairs.
  • Noise/smells – Many brand new high rises have concrete between floors, which stops noise and smells seeping from unit to unit. We don’t have to worry about an evening party affecting CZ’s sleep, and we also don’t smell our neighbor’s dog on rainy days.JZ and I instituted “The Stomp Test” which is a pseudo-scientific experiment to conduct when touring a two-floor unit. One person runs upstairs and stomps around, while the downstairs person listens keenly, and reports their findings. It is a good indicator of the noise that may come through the walls and floors.
  • Open floor plan – With a little one on the move, it is convenient to supervise her shenanigans while cooking, doing laundry, or eating, if you can see from one end of the unit to the other. We opted for an all-in-one kitchen, dining, and living space so we could easily keep an eye on her.
  • Storage – We came to Sydney with way more furniture than we could fit into an apartment – or even two! Luckily, our unit comes with a lockable storage unit where we can put bikes, baby gear, and a pile of donation items.
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If you are interested in streamlining your inspections, visit us at Living EZ, and download our free, printable inspection checklist to save time searching for a baby/toddler-friendly apartment!