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Do you sell everything and rebuy it in LA or ship it all over?
Moving to LA, Posts

Do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over?

It’s a great question: do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over? You’ve decided to take the plunge and live the dream. Or maybe, like us, you get an opportunity offered to you on a silver platter. “You’re moving to Hollywood.” Who wouldn’t want to be moved to Hollywood when others are busting their chops to crash on someone’s couch just to live out their dream?

This is one of the topics being debated on a really handy resource and Facebook Group Australians in LA so I thought I’d pool the responses together, give you my two cent’s worth and put it up on the pedestal that is It Started in LA for all to see.  I don’t think the answer is as straight forward as it seems: like everything you have to do what feels right for your circumstances.

Selling everything in Australia

I remember when eBay first started I would collect my baby’s clothes that didn’t fit them anymore, bundle them together and get a pretty good price for them.  We’re not talking baby’s clothes now (Apple Watch 1.0 and old Beats) but I struggle to selling anything on eBay anymore that’s worth my time listing it and taking it to the Post Office to ship.  I still have an eBay pile but just don’t quite get around to listing them.

It’s not to say you can’t sell it and it’s not to say you won’t get at least something for your stuff.

Then there’s Tradingpost.com.au. I found I had slightly better luck with that site for a time. Same with gumtree.com.au  But that was around five years ago. Things change.

I lilsted our Dining Table & chairs and no one, I mean no one wanted it.  I tried every avenue.  I think the problem with Ikea and similar places is that people can get something that looks good brand new so they don’t want second-hand stuff.  I ended up bringing them to an Auction House and getting pittance for it there.

Cars

Our cars were even harder to sell.  The convertible went to an Auction house and my treasured and most loved Audi Q7 was handed to a friend who sold it for me.  The new owner ended up getting a one-way flight from Melbourne to Sydney and driving the car back again.  Seems they’re more expensive on the second hand market in Melbourne. Go figure!

The thought of buying a car again at Australian prices when we go home makes me sick to my stomach.

Rebuying in LA

It’s true things in LA (and the US in general) are cheaper than Australia.  But you still have to buy everything full price.  Unless you’re prepared to buy everything second hand.

As one active user on the Facebook group, Paulina, said, “I think it depends on your personal situation–we moved the whole family including kids. When you sell stuff you get peanuts for it and to buy everything–even though it’s cheaper it’s still a lot. Don’t forget you’ll be buying all electricals, kitchen equipment, all electrical. Most rentals come with fridges and washing machines.”

But then, as another person in the group said, “Always loads of stuff going cheap on Aussies in LA.”

And another confirmed, “just get everything new here and throw/sell/donate everything non-essential in Sydney–unless it has major major sentimental value it won’t be worth it, it’ll cost you a lot in transport and/or storage costs. LA is a transient city people are always selling their stuff cheap online you’ll be fine, seriously.”

Flea Markets

It seems this group love the Rose Bowl flea market, the first Sunday of every month in Pasadena.  After a couple of false starts I still haven’t gone.

“Also check out the Rosebowl flea markets for great furniture. We bought an awesome table and a console there. Often they’ll deliver for a small fee,” according to Liv.

Katrina also chimed in, “Sell it and start a new. Go to the Rose Bowl market and get inspired!”

For more on vintage stuff and the flea markets check my blog here.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing

Then there’s the benefit of hindsight from Sara, “There is always the chance you will move back. Sell the big stuff and see if you can store the smaller stuff with a relative. Then buy stuff here.

“We moved back and forth and really regretted selling all our stuff. It sucked having to rebuy everything. In hindsight, I wish we had hired a storage unit.”

Hindsight is great Sara, the problem is you never know how your experience is going to end up

We put stuff in storage like our fridge, washing machine and dryer and other electrical appliances we weren’t going to be able to use.  We did this mainly because we thought we’d be 2-3 years tops and we couldn’t get much money for selling them but to rebuy is hugely expensive.  Four and a half years later I dread that storage invoice!

If only we all had a Magic 8 Ball that actually worked!

Budgeting to rebuy everything new in LA

Don’t forget the wattage is different here in the US (110v) as it is in Australia (240v). One person on the Facebook page said the converters don’t really work that well but I bought a really good one (bulky but good) and my Thermomix works a treat.

You should also check the power supply as some items are now compatible with both voltages so it pays to check.

Here’s a breakdown of some “necessities” you’ll need/we bought when we arrived.  Yep, it all adds up! Don’t forget to add tax. That’s 10% (OK 9% but you get it) here in LA so don’t forget about that!

Microwave

Oster 1.3 Cu. Ft. 1100 Watt Microwave Oven from Target   $89.99

TV (let’s say one but we ended up buying a couple)

Samsung – 55″ Class (54.6″ Diag.) – LED – 2160p – Smart – 4K Ultra HD TV from Best Buys  $499.99

Vacuum cleaner

BISSELL® PowerTrak Compact Upright Vacuum Cleaner in Black/Lime from Bed, Bath and Beyond  $69.99*

* Hot tip: save those Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off Coupons for good savings

Toaster

Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster also from Bed, Bath and Beyond for  $19.99

Sandwich maker

Cuisinart® Sandwich Grill at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $19.99

Hand mixer

KitchenAid – KHM512IC Ultra Power 5-Speed Hand Mixer – Ice Blue from Best Buys (price matched) for $31.99

Hairdryer

I chose a Conair® Infiniti Pro Hair Dryer – Orange for $24.99.

Total spent on these items is $756.93  plus tax ($68.12) equals $825.05 and not including shipping.  Many places ship for free when you spend over a certain amount so that’s not a big deal.

Also, if you are Australian you might want to buy a coffee machine, here’s a Nespresso machine for $199 plus tax with free shipping.

Most rentals come with a fridge, washing machine & dryer.  Some even come with a microwave, but not that many.

That’s the electrics taken care of. There are lots of furniture shops around and there is the biggest Ikea in nearby Burbank–every Expat family’s favourite must-do store!

Ship it over

This is the category we belong to. Mr H’s company paid for our move and, after having our things in storage while we were in Shanghai, we jumped at the chance to have our own stuff with us.

That’s not the case for others though. One person, Clare, on the Facebook group said, “I didn’t bring anything over, and I was glad, houses here are different styles and none of my furniture would have suited the house we moved into.

“Even though we had a Company paying for our items to be shipped, we went back to them and negotiated an allowance of the same amount as they were willing to pay to ship to buy all new.”

Great tip according to another Facebook group user, Liv, who said, “One other tip is to use Jetta which is excess baggage–we packed up all our artwork in doonas and bedding and it worked a charm. Jetta are very reasonable, pick up your boxes, weigh them and then everything arrived a few days after our flight.”

[Ed: I’ve never heard of Jetta so will definitely look it up. Could be a sponsor for this page ;).]

How much does it cost to ship it over?

According to Alan, “We moved over in March last year (2017) from Sydney to LA. We used Santa Fe, they were great, cost around $15,000 for 3/4 of a 40 foot container.

Lori said, “If you shop around and do some investigating, we got a 20ft for about 5k AUD plus a little extra for removalists to help load and then unload when it arrived in LA.” That doesn’t sound too bad.

Paulina said, “My friend moved with Chez and it cost $7000.”

Kym “paid $9500 for a sole use half container (21 cubic m) inc packing and insurance thru Santa Fe. But I understand If you share a container it’s cheaper.”

What’s your experience selling things in Australia? Have you sold up shop in Australia and rebought where you are? Or did you, like us, get all your things shipped over? Let us know and help others in the process!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: None of the links or businesses mentioned sponsor me, these are just my preferences.  I am, however, looking for sponsors for this post/site. Are you a moving company who can offer great value to our readers? Are you an Auction House that welcomes clients bringing in lots of stuff to sell? Ikea, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buys! If you want to jump in or offer a discount to my readers please do! If you know anyone Contact me. Cheers!

Five things to do if you're moving to LA | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Moving to LA, Posts

Five things to do if you’re moving to LA

So you’ve just found out you’re moving to LA.  LA can be such a daunting beast—it’s big, there’s lots of traffic and one end of town is completely different to the other.  So, what do you have to do if you know you’re making the move and how do you navigate the process.

Five things to do if you’re moving to LA

1.   Pick your Location

It’s a toss up whether you pick your location first or pick your schools first.  If you have kids then it may be a bit of both.

If you don’t have kids then it’s easy: location, location, location.  I’d start with areas in and around work.  Think neighbouring communities, the actual community or communities that are easily accessed via one of the major freeways.

We wanted something close to Mr H’s work so it wasn’t a huge commute and then we wanted something that would be close to school.

So we looked at every area in between.  We found two houses, within 15 minutes of each other—one closer to the school we hoped to get into and the other closer to Mr H’s work—and we let fate decide which one we’d end up living in.  As it turns out we ended up in the house closest to school.  We were really lucky as it also turned out a number of the kids friends (whose parents became my friends) also lived in the area.

For you choosing location might have everything to do with choosing schools: especially if you’ve chosen to send your kids to public school (see below).

I’ve outlined the “main” areas to live in LA in this post a year or so ago; it talks through my journey scoping out locations. Its aim is to provide an overview of where to start.

Like I say, it’s best for all concerned if you’re as close to work and school as you can possibly be if you want to avoid spending all your time in your car.  Having said that some people make a lifestyle decision to commute.  Go figure but they do.  Test the traffic patterns, especially in peak hours.  The bummer about LA is it’s a sprawling acropolis and it’s hard to get around at the best of times, let alone peak times.  During peak hours it took me just under half an hour to get home from school drop off; outside that it’s less than 10 minutes.

Once you’ve chosen your location then you need to find somewhere to live.  I’ll be linking this to a post coming up on house-hunting and tips to secure a lease without a credit rating so stay tuned.

2.   Choose your Schools

If you have kids then you know this is vital.

Your first choice is whether you’re going to private or public school.  There are also in-between schools like religious ones or Charter schools.

Despite popular movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off not everyone goes to public school.  In fact, the LA Unified School District lacks money and as a result the quality of schools can be hit and miss.

Some areas offer great houses and great schools (Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Pasadena South for example) but the high rents could still lock you out.

When we did the sums on Santa Monica for example we decided it was cheaper to pay for private school than pay the higher rent required to live in the zone.  (Schools are funded by property taxes and most landlords pass on the property tax expenses in your rent—they’re not paying for your kids to go to school in a good area, they’re just going to make the money off it!).

Public school

If you’ve decided to go to public school then you’ve most likely chosen your area based on its reputation for having good schools.  You can always check a school’s rating on the Great Schools website.  And most house listings show the schools nearby with their rating—it’s that important over here.

Private school

Private school is not so easy, they’re often oversubscribed and can be hard to get into.  I was surprised that they can be even harder to get into than they can at home.  Many of the private schools are College Preparatory schools which in a nutshell means high in academics and may not be the place for your poor gorgeous spunky kid with learning issues.

There is probably one major difference between admission at school here and Australia.

You can only apply the year before the school year you want to enter.  So, as soon as the new school year starts admissions teams start holding open days to showcase their schools.  Applications are then due by end of the year (please don’t take my word for it—check this—and each school can be different).

At a nominated date in March you are told whether your child has been accepted or waitlisted.  You then have around two weeks to accept or reject your offer.  All the schools have the same date so you have to choose.

The problem for an expat family lies in the fact that we never know when we’re going to be moving.  Imagine we only found out in early May so as my story goes I had to wake up at 4am every day for a week ringing Admissions Directors pitching our family to see if they could let us in outside their traditional admissions cycle.  Each time I think back I think how lucky we were.

The other step you’ll have to take is to take an entrance exam.  For most LA private schools it’s a test called the ISEE.  The Catholic schools have a different test and I believe this is mainly for High School.

So here’s the thing: Americans get tutors for this test and put their kids through the ringer to exceed in it.  It’s a competition and he who has the most resources to throw at their kids can generally win (unless their kids aren’t test takers or smart and then they better hope they have heaps of money to bribe the schools in donations).  It’s a cynical but true story folks; be very afraid.  But, having said that my kids had a day’s notice they had to sit it (story in the linked blog) and they did it.  Thank God we were going in under extreme circumstances and didn’t have to compete with the masses!

The piece I linked above also has with a shortlist of private schools in LA.  There’s also a link to the differences in schools between Australia and LA that you might find interesting.  It still baffles me once and a while.

3.   Open bank accounts

It might sound simple but it’s not altogether that straight forward. You will first need a US address and perhaps if you’re an Expat a letter from your employer.

We started with a Citibank account in Australia which made it so much easier to open up accounts in the US.  Once Mr H’s pay was deposited into his account we were able to get credit cards with a decent credit limit.  Also we’re able to transfer money between our Citibank accounts in Australia and here in the US without fees.  Be careful though as I’ve recently heard others say they don’t have this feature on their accounts despite being Gold customers.

You can also open up accounts with your local US banks with a greater ATM network and perhaps even more branches.  We haven’t been inconvenienced by our Citibank account at all.  Well only the once in getting a mortgage but that’s another story.

Here’s a great reference for Expats wanting to open accounts in the US. Thanks to Bright Lights of America.

4.  Sort out your credit

Oh my God. This is the BIG one.  Credit is the biggest nightmare for young people and for established families like mine moving to the US.  Everything hinges on it: your lease, a mortgage, credit cards, even opening up a bank account.  I know, go figure! The system is so fundamentally flawed but you have no choice but to play the game.

It will be virtually impossible to get a credit card as you have no credit history.  See my blog post (coming) on tips to getting your credit history up and running quick smart.  Get yourself a prepaid credit card or Amex, you’re using your own cash but it helps to establish your credit history.  Also try getting a couple of store cards.  If you do this buy a couple of small things on it and pay them off straight away.  This will build more credit.

Opening up electricity, gas and Cable/Internet accounts may also prove tricky.  Well not tricky so much as two things will happen—they’ll charge you a higher price (to them you’re a greater credit risk—yep seriously if you’re poor or struggling you pay more how is that even fair?) and they’ll most likely get you to put down a cash deposit.

5.   Get a car

With no credit it’s pretty hard to get a car without paying cash.  We managed to get a lease for the duration of our visa through BMW Finance.  They were able to say that we were previous owners of BMW and with Mr H’s letter of offer use that to secure the lease.  He arrived a couple of months before me and once I arrived it was much easier for me to get the second lease.

Another loyal reader of this Blog said his wife was able to get one car lease under her visa deal.  To get around it her and her husband applied for two leases simultaneously through two different manufacturers.  That way, when they were running the reports there was no record of the other lease.  Quite brilliant.  It worked for them so it could work for you too.

Long-term rentals are also possible.  But, beware, they are obviously considerably more expensive than a regular lease or possibly even buying the car.

My two cents worth

Take all the extra expenses into account when negotiating your move with your employer.  Or, if you’re doing the sums take into account bringing money into the US, the extra deposits you’ll have to pay and virtually living on cash as you establish yourself in the US’s highly flawed (yes I know I’ve said that before) credit system.

It will take you a good six to 12 months.  But once you get the hang of it it will get easier.  Hopefully for your sake it will be easier then when we made the move.

xx It Started in LA xx

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