There is not much point in looking for a place before you arrive in Australia, as rental and property markets can move fast in the big cities. Furthermore, it is neither advisable nor legal to sign a rental agreement —never mind purchasing property— without viewing the place beforehand. Temporary furnished accommodation, especially in serviced apartments, is widely available in most cities.
Real estate agents are required by law to rent apartments on a first-come first-served basis, and competition, particularly for big apartments, can be fierce. Once a viewing has been arranged, it would be wise to bring the application form together with photocopies of your required documents so you can act immediately if you like the place.
Both you and the landlord/estate agent should complete the condition report, which records the physical state of the property before you move in. Together with your security deposit, this document will be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Bonds Authority until the termination of your contract.
Most people start their search by checking the daily local newspapers or by asking an estate agent for a list of rental properties available. The real estate agent will then arrange a viewing of the accommodation. The Internet is also a popular source when looking for your new home.
A helpful online starting point is the BCL Australian City Life Site, which offers guides to all major cities, including a section on property for rent or sale in the area. When browsing the Internet for housing, be aware of the Australian use of the word suburb; it does not necessarily denote a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of town, but may simply refer to an area defined by one postcode.
As opposed to some other states, Australia allows non-residents to buy property in the country. However, some restrictions do apply and you will need to apply for approval with the Foreign Investment Review Board. It is also possible for expats to get a mortgage with an Australian bank. For more information, you can consult the home loan expert’s website, which offers a whole section on non-resident mortgages.
If your children are joining you for your expat experience, you will be pleased to read that the Australian school system is deemed to be very good by worldwide standards. School is compulsory for children from the age of 6 to 16. However, most children stay in education or vocational training until they finish year 12 or reach the age of 17-18. Parents can choose to send their offspring to pre-school when they are four years old, but as this is a popular choice waiting lists can be long.
Approximately two-thirds of Australian school children go to public schools, which are government-funded and thus charge no tuition fees. Families living in the Australian Outback can arrange for tuition via distance learning or opt for homeschooling.
There is also a variety of private schools, either independent or with religious affiliation. Most of them are listed in the Private Schools Directory. There are several international schools among them, most of which use English as their language of instruction. In cities like Sydney and Melbourne, you can also find some bilingual schools, such as French, German, or Japanese.
Due to the general high quality of education in Australia, many expat families do not need to send their children to international schools, opting for public schools instead. Some government schools and many private schools offer courses in English as a second language, or even the International Baccalaureate. You can search for an IB school in your area via the International Baccalaureate Organization. Many universities across the world recognize the Australian Senior Secondary Certificate of Education as well.
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