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Housing in Australia

Everything You Need to Know About Finding a New Home

There are plenty of types of accommodation in Australia to choose from but be advised: the market is competitive. If you decide to rent as an expat, you will want to be prepared with the right documentation or risk losing your dream home. If you choose to buy as a foreigner, you will have to seek permission from the Foreign Review Board.

Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats ourselves, we understand what you need, and offer the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us to jump start your move abroad!

Housing in Australia can be expensive, especially in capital cities. Nevertheless, there are many different types of houses to choose from in the country, including single-family homes, apartments, units, and more depending on your and your family’s needs and budget.

Before you settle on a house or apartment for rent and sign a long-term lease, it is recommended you book a short-term rental, to start. This will allow you to explore various neighborhoods in your new city.

If you choose to buy a house in the Commonwealth country, be prepared to jump through a few hoops to do so successfully. It can be challenging to purchase property in Australia as a non-resident or even a temporary resident. Housing options are limited, and conditions apply.

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Renting a House or Apartment

If you are wondering how to rent houses or apartments in Australia, the first thing you will have to become familiar with is Australia’s 100 point check. This is a personal identification system adopted by the Australian Government and utilized by many landlords before renting out a place to tenants.

Different pieces of ID that an individual can produce (such as a driver’s license, passport, previous tenancy agreement, utility account, etc.) are worth a certain number of points. Essentially, you need to satisfy a minimum of 100 points for a rental application to be considered.

How Much is Rent in Australia?

Following the first quarter of 2019, the average rent in Australia was 436 AUD (304 USD) per week. The minimum house rent you will need to live in Australia’s most affordable capital city (Perth) is 385 AUD (269 USD) per week. The following is an overview of Australia’s rent prices per week across its main cities.

  • Sydney—582 AUD (406 USD)
  • Canberra—559 AUD (390 USD)
  • Melbourne—454 AUD (317 USD)
  • Brisbane—436 AUD (304 USD)
  • Perth—385 AUD (269 USD)
  • Adelaide—386 AUD (269 USD)
  • Hobart—453 AUD (316 USD)
  • Darwin—458 AUD (320 USD)

Renting in Australia as a Foreigner

Renting in Australia as an expat is possible—it may just require a bit more paperwork and preparation. For example, Australian landlords may ask for references from previous landlords, but may not be willing to call internationally if your previous landlords are all abroad. There are ways around this, though, so read on to learn more about the rental process for foreigners.

Rental Process and Rules

Step 1—Learn the Terminology

Expats should make an effort to learn the local lingo to facilitate their search. For example, apartments are known as “flats” in Australia, while “house” is used for large houses with outdoor spaces. Apartments with one room are known as “studio flats” or “studios,” and a “unit” is used to describe large apartments that are separated but built into blocks.

Step 2—Choose your Location

Once in Australia, take time to explore different neighborhoods in your new city. Different areas may change drastically with regard to rental price, so it is worth exploring your options upon arrival.

Step 3—Start your Search

You can use the internet, newspapers, or even real estate agents to help you in your rental search. Be aware, though, that in Australia, real estate agents may not be so helpful. Therefore, if you do require professional assistance, it is best to hire an experienced destinations service provider to help you with your home search.

Step 4—Set Up a Viewing

Once you have found a few places you are interested in, it is time to reach out and set up a viewing. In Australia, you will find that real estate agencies often manage rental properties. Reach out to the agent via telephone and leave a message if you get no answer. Also, do not be shy about reaching out via e-mail too—you may need to chase an agent as the market can be quite competitive.

Agents in Australia will not rent out a property without a tenant having viewed it in person first; therefore, this is an important step. Agents often hold open houses where more than one person can visit a space at a time. Therefore, make sure you show up prepared with all your documents ready to put in an application on the spot.

Step 5—Put in your Rental Application

Requirements and documents for renting that may be asked of you by the agent/landlord can include

  • proof of identity (must satisfy 100 point check);
  • proof of income / bank statements for the last three months;
  • references (if you do not have a previous landlord or they are overseas, sometimes an employer is an acceptable alternative);
  • employment details;
  • prior rental agreements, and
  • down payment (will be returned to you if you fail to get the property).

Step 5—Rental Contract and Deposit

In Australia, there is no rule for how much rent you need to pay in advance to secure a space. However, you will be required to put down your security deposit, known as a bond. This is typically for the amount of four to six weeks’ rent.

The bond is to protect the property owner from any damages to the space or unpaid rent/bills. For this reason, it is crucial to inspect the property for any damage before moving in. An unfurnished apartment may have some appliances, such as a washer, dryer, and refrigerator but usually nothing more than this. Make sure these appliances are in working order. If the rental is a furnished apartment, an inventory list should be kept. If anything is missing at the end of the lease, costs may be taken from the bond. Unlike in some countries, the bond is held by an independent government-owned body.

A standard, long-term lease in Australia will usually be for six to 12 months. Before signing your rental contract, be sure to inspect it thoroughly. Both you and the landlord should sign it, and both parties must keep a copy. A tenancy agreement must include

  • name, address, phone number, and registration number of the agent (if applicable);
  • landlord’s name, address, and phone number (number only needed if an agent is not used);
  • name of all tenants in the agreement;
  • address of the rental;
  • rent amount plus how and when it is to be paid;
  • bond amount;
  • leasing period;
  • who pays for water supply and use;
  • list of all domestic appliances;
  • additional terms such as a pet clause, and
  • date and signature of all parties.

Additional conditions and clauses may be included so long as they are not in violation of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995.

The owner is responsible for property taxes and unit service charges while the tenant is in charge of utility bills payment unless stated otherwise in the contract. Maintenance costs may be included in the rent if you choose a place with a pool or garden. Throughout a tenant’s stay, they are responsible for the general maintenance of the home. The landlord is responsible for keeping the place habitable and ensuring that essential services, such as water and sewerage are in working order. If necessary repairs are not carried out by the landlord in a timely fashion, you can arrange to have repairs done yourself and send him/her the bill afterward. However, do not deduct it from your rent.

If you wish to terminate a contract early, you are still responsible for rent until the end of the lease period. However, in some cases, you may be allowed to find someone to take over the remaining period and repay your bond (check with your agent/landlord about this).

You cannot be evicted from your place with an eviction order. You can only be evicted if you are in breach of contract (e.g. damaging the property, failure to pay rent, etc.). A landlord cannot evict you by removing your belongings from the place, changing the locks, or cutting off services.

Short-Term Rentals

Temporary rentals are certainly recommended when you first arrive in Australia as you search for something more permanent. Expats have a variety of options from hotels to shared homes and other temporary accommodation. You typically will not need as many documents for renting short-term, so making the booking should be a lot simpler.

Things to Know

There are plenty of accommodation websites that let you book monthly furnished rentals. Do a bit of research to find apartments for rent that meet your needs and budget. You could also contact InterNations GO! to help you secure a short-term solution that satisfies all your housing requirements.

Average Price

  • Sydney—213 AUD (149 USD) per night
  • Melbourne—144 AUD (101 USD) per night

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Buying Property as a Foreigner

If you are wondering how to buy a house as a non-resident in Australia, be aware that you cannot purchase an established residential dwelling in the country either directly or indirectly. An established dwelling refers to residential properties that are on the secondary market. It is a residential property that is constructed and occupied. Penalties will apply for breaking this rule.

Keep in mind that there is no direct Australia Citizenship by Investment program Down Under, meaning you cannot buy a house in the country and get citizenship. The same is true for buying a house in Australia for permanent residency. It can be difficult for a foreigner to buy a home in Australia as conditions and limitations will apply. Getting a home will also depend on the type of visa you hold. Therefore, being a visa holder is the first step to owning a home in Australia as an expat—you cannot buy a house in Australia and get a visa.

Buying a Home in Australia Guide

Whether you are a foreign non-resident or temporary resident in Australia, you are allowed to buy new dwellings (i.e. not previously occupied); vacant land; and residential property for development. The following outlines the process and steps for buying a house in Australia, and requirements to buy a property.

Step 1—Get a Tax File Number (TFN)

This is needed if you are interested in acquiring Australian real estate, so you meet with your Australian tax obligations. Learn more about applying for your TFN in our Working section.

Step 2—Hire Professionals

You may require the services of a conveyancer who takes care of the legal work for you, a mortgage broker with experience working with non-residents, an accountant to help you understand your Australian tax obligations and double taxation laws after you become a property owner in the country, and finally a buyer’s agent if required. InterNations GO! can arrange the services of professionals who speak your language.

Step 3—Get a Pre-Approval on your Loan

This is an essential step before looking into properties so you know exactly how much you can borrow and what you will be able to afford. The amount you are allowed to borrow in Australia will depend on the type of visa you hold.

  • 80% of the property value—Most temporary visa holders can apply for a mortgage so long as they are permitted to work in the country for at least 12 months.
  • 90% of the property value—Applies to visa holders with a high income, stable employment, and a long-term visa.
  • 95% of the property value—If you are the spouse of an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you will be eligible for this amount regardless of your visa. This amount also applies to New Zealand citizens living in Australia.
Step 4—Apply for a Mortgage

To apply for a mortgage in Australia, you will want to make sure you are actually in the country as applying for a bank loan overseas can be difficult. This is also where you may wish to utilize the services of a professional broker with experience working with expats. To obtain a mortgage, you will require

  • copies of your ID (passport, etc.);
  • proof you qualify to buy a home under the Foreign Review Board (see Step 6 below);
  • proof of legal residence in the country;
  • documents proving you are creditworthy (credit check, tax returns, bank statements, payslips, employment letter with salary details, etc.), and
  • documents proving you can afford the mortgage (household cash flow statements, utility bills, bank statements, etc.).
Step 5—Find your Dream Home

Search for a property that falls within your budget and agree on a purchase price with the seller. This is where your conveyancer will come into play to help you with all the legal aspects of the purchase. You will then pay your deposit to secure the sale of the property.

Step 6—Obtain Approval from the Foreign Review Board

Expats must get permission from this board before purchasing. Temporary residents are only allowed to purchase one established dwelling as long as they plan to use it as their residence (i.e., not for leasing nor held as an investment property), with approval from the board. They must sell the property within three months of ceasing use.

To obtain permission, you will have to complete a residential real estate application. This is needed for foreigners wishing to buy

  • new dwellings;
  • established dwellings to live in;
  • properties for redevelopment;
  • off the plan properties, and
  • vacant residential land.

There is a fee for applying, and this is determined by the value of the property. For properties under 1 million AUD (697,500 USD) the fee is 10,000 AUD (6,975 USD). For every additional million dollars in property value, there is an extra 10,000 AUD (6,975 USD) charged.

Step 7—Complete the Sale

Once you have been approved and paid your fees to the board, you can now move ahead and complete your purchase. You may now call yourself the proud new owner of an Australian home!

Types of Property

Apartment—These are sometimes called “flats” Down Under, which range from “studios” or “studio flats” to one-bedrooms, even four- or five-bedrooms. This is a good option for expats who cannot afford to purchase an entire house or single-family home, only require limited space, and want to be near amenities.

Unit—This term is used to describe large apartments that are separated but built into blocks. They are usually situated in resort towns or commercialized areas.

House / Single-Family Homes—Australians use house to refer to a home with an outdoor space. Single-family homes are detached houses typically located in the suburbs outside of the city, or regional and rural towns. Other features may include a driveway and private entrance.

Semi-detached Duplex—This is two side-by-side homes divided by a wall.

Australian House Prices

As of January 2019:

  • Sydney—955,000 AUD (666,036 USD)
  • Melbourne—737,000 AUD (513,999 USD)
  • Brisbane—530,000 AUD (369,633 USD)
  • Adelaide—465,000 AUD (324,286 USD)
  • Perth—500,000 AUD (348,695 USD)
  • Hobart—450,000 AUD (313,826 USD)
  • Canberra—670,000 AUD (467,251 USD)

Utilities

Some utility companies in Australia include:

  • Sydney Water—This is a government-owned corporation offering potable drinking water, recycled water, wastewater, and some stormwater to more than five million people in New South Wales.
  • Diamond Energy—This is one of the country’s greenest energy retailers and offers only electricity, not gas.
  • Powershop—Similar to Diamond Energy; it is also known for being one of the country’s greenest energy retailers. It offers electricity only. Powershop works entirely online, and you can pay your bills via an application as well as manage your account. Meridian Energy owns the company.
  • EnergyAustralia—This retailer is one of the largest in Australia, offering energy and gas to more than 1.7 million customers. It is known for its high customer service rating.
  • AGL—This is also one of the biggest energy retailers in the country, offering both electricity and gas in five Australian states. It has a customer service rating of 85% and offers a rewards program to its customers.

Setting up services in Australia is not complicated. To set up utilities in this country, these are the required documents:

  • your new address in Australia
  • date you want services connected
  • personal details (contact number and piece of ID)

Things to Know

In Australia, you will have the freedom to choose your own utility provider for the essential services you need. However, keep in mind that utility companies may be limited, depending on where you live in the country. More remote areas will have fewer to choose from. You will have a greater variety of choice in capital cities.

Feel free to shop around and compare various rates with different companies. It is recommended you use a comparison website to assist you with this. Ensure you read the fine print before signing any contract and ask about any potential hidden costs. For example, there may be a fee for any overdue bill payments, or a hefty reconnection charge.

Do not fall for appealing offers as many retailers will try to convince potential customers to sign with them with offers of saving money upfront. These could be sign-up discounts, gift voucher rebates, etc. In reality, though, they may be among the more expensive companies, so do your research thoroughly.

Finally, there is a ten-day “cooling-off” period after you sign with any energy supplier in case you change your mind or find a better offer. You can get out of your signed contract with no penalty fees.

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Internet and Mobile Phones

Getting an internet and cell phone in Australia is straightforward.

If you are wondering how to get a phone number in this country, it is just a matter of getting in touch with one of the following connectivity providers:

  • Telstra Mobile—This is Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network covering 99% of the country’s population. This is ideal for internet smartphones.
  • Vodafone Mobile—Standard national calls and texts are included in some of their plans across Australia.
  • TPG Mobile—This provider offers affordable, contract-free, post-paid plans along with a pay-as-you-go plan.
  • iPrimus Mobile—Get unlimited access to several social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter with this provider. They also offer low-cost plans for occasional users.
  • amaysim Mobile—This provider offers cheap call rates with simple prepaid and post-paid plans, contract-free.

To get connected to the web, contact:

  • Telstra—Telstra is also the country’s largest internet provider serving 40% of homes and businesses in Australia.
  • Optus—This is the second-best known internet supplier in Australia offering NBN and ADSL plans.
  • TPG—This provider offers three NBN speed tiers with unlimited data: basic, standard plus, and premium. They also offer a bundle package with landline service and unlimited calls to other Australian landlines.
  • Dodo—This internet provider offers affordable internet but does not provide the fastest NBN plan on the market.
  • iiNet—With this provider and their Fetch TV bundle package, you can get Australian television and even some international channels so you can watch your home country’s TV in Australia.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 20, 2019
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