Experience of an expat

April 8, 2014 / By  

As an English expat living and working in Sydney, I quite often get asked about the differences between working in the UK versus working in Australia. Most notably, the lack of sun in the UK means I rarely worried about sunscreen on a property inspection!

My strategic consulting role has provided me with a great range of exposure to the Sydney, NSW and Australian property market. From my experience so far I would note the following observations:

  • Housing is expensive. Even after allowing for earning dollars instead of pounds, housing is still expensive, both in terms of rental and purchase price. For example the rent on a one bedroom apartment in Randwick, Sydney is around USD460 per week. While it’s hard to find an exact equivalent, a similar apartment in Bristol would be USD330 per week.
  • Acronyms are confusing in any country, and just have to be learnt. For example talking about a Gross Realisation (GR) in Australia is a Gross Development Value (GDV) in the UK. Not to mention FSR, FSA, GFA to name but a few!
  • Australia is large. Having inspected Bega, Bourke and Broken Hill I now understand how the UK can fit into NSW three times, and the implications this vast geography has. That is why it is surprising that in such a vast continent, urban land values are so high. Put this down to urban planning policies that encourage high density urban living. While land in the UK is naturally scarce, the scarcity in Australia is largely contrived by planning and transport policies.
  • Despite obvious differences, it’s encouraging to find that common themes apply to the same asset classes regardless of country. For example, retail still needs a catchment, office uses need clustering, and community uses often impose limitations on development feasibility.
  • There is much that each country can learn from each other in the real estate sector. For example, student accommodation, while growing in Australia is still behind the UK, and it’ll be exciting to watch this space develop in the next few years under the impact of growing investment in the sector and the steady growth of offshore students coming to Australia to further their studies. On the other hand, the Australian retail sector is very different from the UK where high street shopping is the norm. In many ways Australian retail management is ahead of the UK which explains why Australian investment is flowing into the UK shopping centre market at the same time as UK retailers such as Topshop are arriving in Australia.

It’s been a great learning curve and one which I am sure will continue.

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