Today we start a series of posts written by Karen, who moved to Tasmania from Perth with her husband Gene.
Their story and tips for others moving provide a great insight into Tasmania and also the process of making the move. Enjoy!
Ever since seeing a picture of autumn-coloured trees on a road in New Norfolk, I’d wanted to visit Tasmania. Over the years there was always something that prevented the trip, but the desire never abated.
In 2013, having had a couple of major health problems that brought my own mortality to my notice, I began to filch time from more urgent work and trawled the real estate sites in Tasmania. The hotter the Western Australian summer got, the more keenly I looked at Tasmanian real estate. A horrific fire in the Perth Hills that only barely missed us, and burnt out 70 of our friends and neighbours, made my search even more urgent.
Finally in February 2014 I booked us into a small hotel in Hobart for a week and bought two non-refundable air tickets, and reserved a posh apartment at the cattery in the for our two spoiled felines. I pointed out to my husband we hadn’t had a holiday together without children in tow for decades, and if we didn’t make a move soon, we’d be doing it in a Frail Aged Bus Tour.
“Gotta catch me first,” he muttered, but he packed a few shirts and off we went on the Red Eye from Perth to Melbourne, arriving in Hobart before lunch. The small hotel was in fact an apartment in an old house, right on a major road. It was odd but charming, and the landlady had left a folder with all sorts of advice about where to find food, laundry service and, most important, wine.
We spent the week driving around looking at towns and houses, and clocked up 2,000 kilometers on the rental car. Just about every property we inspected we’d have been happy to buy on the spot. Every town and every road had a view worthy of inclusion on a calendar. Whether you wanted hills or valleys, seacoast or forest, city or village or back-of-beyonds, there was something for every taste. Every place we stopped at we met friendly, helpful people. “Where do you suppose they are keeping the nasty, crabby ones?” I asked Gene. (We still haven’t found that out.)
We were tempted to make an offer on several properties but had been warned that the real estate laws were somewhat different here to those of Western Australia: if you made an offer there was no cooling off period, and you could well end up in a breach of contract if you weren’t careful. If you are coming from interstate or overseas, DO bone up on the real estate rule and regs before you get into a mess. The woman who was our settlement agent for the house we owned in Western Australia had a friend in Hobart who was also a settlement agent and solicitor, so we contacted her and she offered much useful advice, as well as recommending a house inspection agency.
With great reluctance we packed up on the last day, drove to the airport the long way around by going up Mount Wellington and down again, and got on the plane for home—which suddenly didn’t seem as much like home as it had up to now. We got off the plane in a muggy and still warm Perth evening. “I don’t know where you’re spending next summer, but I’m not spending it here,” I told Gene.
Hint for prospective immigrants: Despite several of our new friends having bought houses sight-unseen from afar, we believe there is no substitute for coming to Tasmania on a fact-finding mission before you commit to moving here. Many house agents have magic cameras which make properties look much larger than they are, and manage not to include a view of the abattoir or tip that’s across the street.
Having decided that our future lay in Tasmania, we had to sell our own house before we could buy another. Fortunately a friendly real estate agent had been keeping a watching brief on our place for years, and after a whirlwind round of small repairs and tidying (mainly by Gene), we handed the house to Nanette to sell at the end of June. Within four weeks she had a firm acceptable offer for us. We could have held out for a higher offer, but keeping in mind my Grandma’s dictum “Enough is as good as plenty”, we decided to take the first reasonable one, and that proved to be a good decision. Not everyone wants a middle-aged house in the exurbs, and it’s a wise home owner who can see past the sentiment to a realistic appraisal of her property. It may be home to you, but to a buyer, it’s just a building.
There’s nothing like knowing your home of 22 years will soon belong to someone else to galvanise you into activity. Gene contacted several moving companies and they gave us quotes for moving all our worldly goods and chattels across a continent, over Bass Strait, and down to a new home somewhere on a tiny island at the bottom of the world. I say ‘tiny’ because Tasmania is only 1% of the Australian landmass. However, due to the complexities of its topography and geology and the character of the road network, Tasmania is rather like the Tardis: much bigger when you’re in it than it appears from outside.
While Gene did most of the hard work in preparing the house for sale, I began packing. We purchased purpose-made movers’ boxes; well-made cardboard constructions that would take a lot of weight without collapsing. When you are using a seatainer, boxes that are strong and of matching or complementary sizes are preferable to recycled beer boxes. There is also the consideration that such things as banana boxes, while strong, may harbour fungus or germs that you would not want to bring to Tasmania. Don’t pack anything that might get AQIS wanting to fumigate your entire container—at your expense!
We discovered that the size sold as a ‘book box’ was so heavy when filled that only the Incredible Hulk could lift them. We ended up using the 30 or 40 centimeter square boxes for almost everything except large lightweight items such as bedding. We used bath towels where possible rather than bubble wrap, and many items of clothing we felt we could live without for a month or so were also used as packing.
Had we to do the packing again, we’d have been much more ruthless in weeding out our 1500 or so books. I would have donated more items from the linen cupboard to my local op shop, and I would have been twice as firm with myself about the kitchen and its contents. And I’d have been more generous with the contents of my wardrobe, a lot of went it to the Winter Appeal here in Tasmania. Living out of four suitcases for 7 weeks teaches you about what you do and don’t need.
By the time everything was boxed and the movers were due to arrive in a few days, I’d come to the conclusion that the best way to move house would have been to pick just the very best and most beloved items from the old house and move them into the new one—and then call in the Salvos or Vinnies and tell them they can have everything that’s left!
Hint for prospective immigrants: Be ruthless. If you haven’t worn it, read it, or used it in more than a year, you won’t miss it. If your children are grown and gone, you no probably longer need things the family-size electric griddle or the crock pot that feeds 20—pass them on to someone who will use them. And face it: you are never going to lose those 15 kilograms that are keeping you from fitting into the ten-year-old Capri pants. Give them away!
We will share more of Karen and Gene’s moving to Tasmania story next week. Stay tuned!