This page is going to outline the various parts of our move, and a lot of the issues and challenges we ran into along the way. It is broken down into various logical areas. Feel free to add in comments if you think I need to add stuff in.
- Attached is a list of expenses that the work place relocation folks sent me. There are a few discrepancies that I noticed with this though, or at least what applied to me. Hopefully these don’t freak you out. They did scare me at first.
- Personal travel seems quite a bit high. It may be for a round trip too, I’m not sure. However, we couldn’t determine a good time to return, so we bought one way tickets. I don’t know if you have any miles saved up from any travelling, but that always helps too.
- We knew we were either going to move everything or store everything except for what we brought on the plane.
- I’m not sure what your circumstances are, but work may pick up some of these, which always helps.
- To give you a frame of reference, my wife and I moved from a 650 sqft condo in Chicago (one bedroom). We had a bit more that what would normally fit though, because she had to move out of her place a few weeks before we were going to move out here anyways.
- To find a moving company, I knew nothing, so I found http://www.123movers.com/ and submitted a request. I received about 30 responses, but most of them were pretty much garbage. There are some good guidelines at http://www.movingscam.com/international_shipping_guide.phpfor picking a mover (found that after I had narrowed it down). However, I would be wary of using some of the recommended vendors on the site (they get kickbacks). No matter what, narrow it down to and then have them come out to do a home estimate. Without a home estimate, there’s really no way to validate them or have any idea how much it will cost. I had 4 come through in Chicago: Graebel, Laser International, Unigroup/United Van Lines (who work uses), and Chicago Mobility/North American Van Lines.
- Graebel – This is the company that we ultimately chose. It was between Graebel and Laser. The movers that came in were awesome. There were 4 of them, and they took about 4 hours to pack everything. They were incredibly professional, and a great group of guys. The downside is that the person that came out doesn’t remain the same person you work with during the move. So far I don’t have any real complaints about that, but it would’ve been nice to know.
- Laser – They are actually a Chicago-based reseller to Ranier Overseas Moving. Their price was cheaper, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with what I was finding online about Rainer. The guy that came out was great, and he would’ve been who I interfaced through the whole time.
- Unigroup – While I wanted to originally use them, as they are who Adam used and I knew they were good, they priced themselves out of the picture (>$2k more). Plus, trying to get info from the Unigroup representative was incredibly painful. Things such as using loose pack vs. liftvans vs. a full container were never actually answered satisfactorily to me. The guy from United who came in seemed good enough, but ultimately the person from Unigroup is who you work with.
- Chicago Mobility – It took forever to get a quote from them (2+ weeks), and their quote was for a lot less space and weight. I asked them to correct it to compare similar offers, and it just took more time. There was no way I could’ve picked them because I simply didn’t have a quote in time. Turns out that it didn’t matter though as they were quite a bit more expensive too.
- After we received the quotes (and created a spreadsheet to ensure they all have the same things, also attached) we did some analysis to see what made sense. We started with the biggest and most expensive items. Essentially, once we blew through the furniture and a few other things, we easily were above the moving quote by multiple thousand. Then, we did another analysis based on what we think we could sell the items for. The problem we quickly came up with was actually selling it for the amount we wanted, in the timeframe. Oh, and furniture is crazy expensive here. Not having to repurchase items, I think, was a smart idea. Plus, we don’t know if we’ll actually go back to the states…
- Your specific questions:
- Attached is the spreadsheet to give you numbers
- If you are going to have them ship your items, I would recommend not to pack anything. They have to go through and repack it anyways for it to be covered with insurance. Plus, I felt better having them do it than us. We had a few boxes from moving stuff from wife’s condo. They actually unpacked them and repacked them. They then put a barcode on each one, and aligned the barcode to an inventory sheet they create (required for customs). Plus, anything you pack yourself and they don’t go through because an immediate red flag in quarantine/customs in Australia. It is pretty much guaranteed that if it is self-packed, the quarantine folks will open it (costing you more money!).
- Speed of delivery
- We primarily brought clothes and daily use items on the plane. I am 1k, so this helped a lot (3 checked bags for me and 2 checked for my wife). However, that does mean it is awkward once you get here, just because you have so much stuff!
- We didn’t ship anything UPS. If you ship it to the office, ensure it is the correct mailing address. The mail room here is awful (just ask Adam about his stuff from May that was just delivered to the office on Thursday). Attached is another email with the correct address.
- For boat shipping there are three different speeds (and costs).
- Fastest is to purchase a full container. They don’t have to wait for any other stuff to fill it, so it can be put on the boat as soon as it gets to the coast.
- Liftvans – These are enclosed plywood boxes that they put your stuff in. It is nice because they are enclosed and everything is self-contained. 5 of these fit into a 20’ container. I want to say if you need more than 3 liftvans, they automagically upgrade you to a full container.
- Loose load – I think only some places provide this. Essentially they load all of your boxes into the container, but then you have to wait for other customers to do the same (not sure if they mix liftvans with loose load, or if it is all loose load).
- We originally signed the quote for 2 liftvans. However, because the liftvans are a specific size and we have a few awkward shaped items, while the cubic feet was less than the quote, they couldn’t fit everything in to 2 and it would’ve been 3. Instead of paying the increase in cost, we went with loose load, which was actually a bit less than the original quote (the quote was 44lbs and 10 cubic ft more). Insurance is the same between all options.
- While not mentioned, get insurance! Ensure that it is their premium insurance which usually includes mold, pair replacement (if 1 speaker is trashed, they’ll replace both), and something else I don’t remember. We did it based on weight instead of itemized. We tried to itemize and then realized it was quickly becoming a huge pain. Clothes easily causes a huge issue. If you didn’t have it itemized correctly, it wasn’t covered, and we didn’t want to take that risk.
- Everything we didn’t move we donated, sold, or threw away. We tried to minimize throwing away as much as possible, but we hadn’t moved in 5 years, so there is always a lot of stuff you simply don’t need/want that can’t be sold or donated. I actually used the CDC Chicago Social distribution list to sell a lot of stuff. Other stuff was sold on craiglist, and lots of stuff (and things that didn’t sell) was donated.
- As for how we decided, we did a run through of all our stuff and then made a spreadsheet of what we were going to get rid of in one of the ways listed above. The biggest thing is any electrically powered item. US is 120v while it is 240v here. Voltage converters are expensive, especially for ones that require a lot of wattage. Things that don’t convert well include things with large electrical motors and those with heating elements. However, pretty much anything computer related is ok. We got rid of pretty much all of our kitchen appliances, because they simply won’t work. The few things we did keep are because my wife does baking and she didn’t want to give up a large mixer, food dehydrator, and maybe one or 2 other things.
- Be aware that there are certain things that are not included with any quotes coming to Australia. This is because these costs are totally determined once your stuff arrives. This is the quarantine and fumigation costs, and is dependent on size of shipment, items in your shipment, and how many hours the officers take to go through your stuff to analyze/destroy, etc.
- Look at the quarantine restrictions. Anything you bring that is in that list has a higher probability of costs above. Plus, they could destroy items they don’t allow to prevent diseases.
- We moved pretty much all of our stuff (outside of appliances that would need to be voltage converted). We took a lot of time to figure this out though. We did an analysis of all of our stuff, specifically expensive stuff (furniture). Based on how much we thought it would cost to buy it new, and how difficult it would be to sell it based on what we thought it was worth, we realized we wanted to move everything. I don’t know what you’re situation is, but it’s a large decision. I can send you numbers if you’d like too. The numbers that the work folks sent were pretty ball-park, and didn’t really fit with my situation.
- Furniture is really expensive. Honestly, if I had realized this, I would’ve bought more stuff and tried to bring it to sell!
- We used Graebel moving. The move isn’t done yet, but based on them packing, they are very professional.
- Don’t have the movers pack up your offer letter and all the other starting kit paperwork. Turns out you’ll need that completed when you get here.
- Not sure if you have any pets, but if you have a dog it is a lot of work to get them into the country. We brought a dog with us, and so if this applies I can let you in on all the info.
- We are still working on this. We have a dog, which is making it a lot harder to find someplace to rent.
- If you don’t know yet, rent is advertised per week. Be prepared for a shock, because it is a lot. You pay monthly though. As Adam says, “everything is different here.”
- We have been looking on our own at places such as www.realestate.com.au and www.domain.com.au. We’ve looked at quite a few places, but haven’t gotten a place yet. Some of this has to do with our dog, some is our choices, and some is just not getting our application in fast enough. The common real estate agencies we see are Hocking Stuart, ET Edgar, Cayzer, and Barry Plant. My wife just talked to the agents here after checking on an application to find out about them showing us around. Apparently they have brokers for that (not the agents), and I may have more info shortly.
- Our temp housing is pretty small (one bedroom/studio), but was arranged through the company. I think the best way is to get some sort of corporate housing, because your application will get moved to the bottom for regular rentals.
- Not sure, but I'm sure the broker can help with that to ensure you’re in a good area with schools nearby.
- Five days should give you an idea, especially if you’re in and out of the office some. It didn't take long for me to get going and “fit in”.
- We are staying in a corporate apartment. Just make sure the recruiter/HR stay on top of it. They sort of forgot about me until I reminded them I’m arriving in 2 weeks J The place we have is smaller than my condo in Chicago, but it works for the first 4 weeks we’ll be here. All of the stuff we brought on the plan fits fine. Not sure if you’d be in the same place, but our address is 1605/1 Freshwater Pl, Southbank, VIC 3006. We are right across the river from the CBD, and a 10-15 minute walk to the office, and 5 to the train station and trams.
- In Chicago we lived in the city (West Loop, Wicker Park, and Logan Square), and so we are looking someplace similar here. We also had a few other “requirements” coming in. Not sure how these correspond to your requirements though.
- 2+ bedrooms because everyone from home has said they are going to visit
- 2+ bathrooms because we don’t want to share with guests J
- Close-ish to a park or beach. We have a dog, so the park would be nice, and well, I’ve never lived by the ocean before, so it would be cool to.
- Areas that we have been looking (it has been great having my wife here to work on this while I’m at work). For a better idea about areas check out http://www.cityhobo.com/
- Docklands – too much industrialization. It is all brand new mid-high rise buildings.
- Port Melbourne – What my wife is liking the most so far.
- South Melbourne – Awesome market!
- Albert Park – Huge park, but a bit more pricey
- St Kilda (East/West)
- South Yarra
- I had been doing a fair amount of international travel, and so I had an unlocked phone. If your phone isn’t unlocked, you’ll need to either get it unlocked, or get a new phone. Most newer phones you can unlock online for about $20.
- My T-mobile phone (HD7) gets 3G on Optus and Vodaphone. AT&T (who another person has) seems to work on Telstra.
- I’m not sure if you can get the plan setup in the US or not. However, your phone will work here, it will just be international roaming, so I would use it sparingly. As soon as you get here, you can just get a pre-paid SIM as you do research. I’m currently on a $50/month pre-paid plan that has 3GB data and something like $650 of usable credits through vodaphone. With it, I can call internationally, get txts, etc. Adam, my wife, and myself are all on vodaphone currently, and so it is cheaper for us to talk to each other. However, Telstra has the best coverage across the complete country (not a huge deal to me right now).
- To get a pre-paid sim, we simply visited one of the billion vodaphone shops in the CBD and signed up. It took about 20 minutes to do the paperwork. Bring your passport as that will be your picture ID. The SIM cost $10, and my plan was $50 (rechargeable each month). My wife doesn’t use data as much and so hers is only $29.
Banking & Credit Cards
- You can use your credit cards here. However, most US cards have a foreign transaction fee. There are a few such as our corporate credit card and the Citibank ThankYou premier card. https://creditcards.citi.com/credit-cards/citi-thankyou-premier-card/
- I will be keeping a few of mine (such as the Citi listed above and my SPG Amex). However, I will also be getting one here. I haven’t done a lot of research yet to find out which is the best idea though.
- We just found out about XE.com, and their ability to move money between US and AUD for free (or so they say). We are going to give this a try once we get all the details about our new account here. Most banks charge for the actual conversion between currencies, and so currency A goes to XE, they do the conversion, and then it is deposited as currency B. Sounds good to me!
- Super is 9% of your salary, and is on top of whatever your offer letter says. Adam just made it difficult J Super is just the country mandated 401k plan, and that 9% is the required employer contributions. You can still add whatever you want. It’s the same as the 3 or 4% match that work does in the state, but you don’t have to match, and it’s 9%!
- I want to say if you go back to the states, you get to keep 2/3rds, but I can’t remember where I saw that (may have been from Adam).
- Cars are expensive here. Think of a new car being 2x in the dollar number between here and the US. While I was going around town that seemed to be about the correct assumption.
- We had a car in Chicago, but we barely used it living in the city. It was nice to get away from the city and to get groceries, etc. We haven’t decided on having a car here yet. Since we are living in the city, and there are trams, busses and trains out to the suburbs, I’m not sure how important it is. Talking with Adam yesterday (based on a place we found), for me it is not a requirement to have a car. Adam would have a better idea about having a car for your specific situation related to work. The few customers I’ve been to have either been in the CBD, right off a train, or right off a tram. If you are out in the suburbs, it may be a requirement just to get around though.
- I still have a lot of questions about that too, but from what I understand (and what I’ve gathered from Adam’s LAFHA):
- When you sign a lease, you send the lease to the office and they get you signed up for LAFHA
- Pre-tax you appear to get 100% of that back (along with the food allowance too). However, then taxes wipe out whatever % you are taxed at. Adam said to expect about 40% remaining, but you have a larger food allowance than either of us.
- Based on the above, I’m pretty sure there is no way to arrive a zero sum game, unless you are renting your place out for over 100% of your mortgage at home. Right now our place is sitting empty, and so we’re are going to have to look at paying for that and whatever we don’t get taken care of here. Regardless, it helps.
- LAFHA is a form of FBT
- Other things with relating to moving that you could get work to pay put in for FBT (http://gomatildaforums.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/5726004143/m/4001002203?r=3463988367#3463988367
- The norm seems to be $42/week for an adult and $21/week for a child for food compensation
- You can apply for a bank account online most places. I would recommend doing this prior to getting here. I’m slightly worried about getting paid the first pay period here because the bank hasn’t sent me my info yet.
- As soon as you get your visa, apply for your TFN. It takes a while, and I’m not sure how important it is, but it’s something HR will hound you about.
- Get a myki card as soon as you get here. You can buy one, and then create an online account and tie it to a credit card.
- My wife came over with me, and she has her own VISA. However, while I have to work with the company, she is free to work where ever she wants (if she wants).