- Download our Moving to Australia Guide (PDF)
Australia is a popular expat destination, and those looking to live in a close-knit expat community will certainly be able to do so. However, Australian society is also famously friendly and welcoming, and expats will have no problems fitting into a predominantly Australian neighbourhood.
Types of accommodation in Australia
Australia has plenty of housing options available, from furnished or unfurnished apartments and condominiums, to freestanding houses.
The standard of accommodation in Australia depends on area and type, but is generally excellent. Houses in Australia often have family-friendly features such as garages, big gardens and swimming pools. Newer, more upmarket houses are usually equipped with air conditioning, although ceiling fans are far more common. Indoor heating is rare since it is completely redundant for most of the year.
Home security is not a major issue for expats relocating to Australia. Although minor break-ins do occur in some neighbourhoods, more often than not, the installation of a simple alarm system should be enough to deter potential intruders. Most expats report that they feel safe in their homes, no matter where they happen to live in Australia.
Finding accommodation in Australia
Expats relocating on a short-term basis will probably opt to rent property in Australia. This process is reasonably straightforward, although expats might find that they are required to do most of the initial research and enquiries themselves. Internet portals and newspaper advertisements can be helpful in this regard. When searching, note that prices are often quoted per week. Rent is paid either every two weeks or every four weeks.
Expats should ensure they arrive at property viewings on time, as these are usually well attended. Viewings during working hours tend to have fewer attendees than on weekends, and expats should opt for weekday viewings, if possible, to get a jump on the competition.
Renting accommodation in Australia
Making an application
The rental market in Australia moves fast, leaving little time to deliberate or prepare documents. Applications are looked at on a first-come, first-served basis, and we recommend expats have all necessary documents ready ahead of time. These include proof of identity (passport/driving licence), proof of income, bank statements for the last three months – one of the most important parts of the application. Ideally these would be from previous landlords but this can be a problem for those moving from overseas. In such cases, the expat's employer may be able to act as a reference instead.
That way, when the ideal home pops up, house hunters can submit their application right away.
Documentation requirements are stringent and are determined by a country-wide system known as the 100-point identification check. This process is used for everything from applying for a driving licence to opening a local bank account.
Various types of identification documents are assigned a specific number of points. Primary proof of identity documents (such as a passport, visa or Australian residency status certificate) earn more points than secondary proof of identity documents (such as a health insurance card or local bank card).
The typical lease length in Australia is 6 or 12 months, although shorter or longer leases can sometimes be negotiated with the landlord. Before signing the lease, expats should also ask the managing agent if there are accounts set up with any utility providers. If there are, it might save having to pay a connection fee.
A deposit (or ‘bond’) of four to six weeks' rent must be paid when signing a lease. This deposit protects against any damage beyond normal wear and tear caused by the tenant during their stay, so expats should inspect the property well before moving in. At the end of the lease, costs of any damage repair are deducted before the deposit is returned to the tenant.
In some cases, expats might be asked to put down a deposit with their application, which is returned if they do not get the property.
In most cases, all utilities are paid separately by the tenant. This includes electricity, water, gas and internet connections. Some landlords cover the cost of water, but this varies, so be sure to check.
For additional support with tenant issues, each state has a tenant's association that aims to protect the rights of the renter.
Buying property in Australia
Many expats choose to buy property in Australia. The ease with which expats can obtain a mortgage approval in Australia depends on several factors, including visa type and credit rating. Before starting the house-hunting process, expats should check whether they need to apply to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) for permission to buy real estate.
House prices in Australia are usually affordable, but expats should be aware that the Australian property market can move fast, and thorough research should be done before buying a new home.
Expats should note that when buying property in Australia it may be necessary to pay Stamp Duty on the purchase price. Other unexpected fees may include the lender application fee and lenders' mortgage insurance, a mortgage registration fee which goes to the government, a land transfer fee, the legal fees that the solicitor will charge, the cost of the conveyancing and checks on the structure and pest situation. Once the sale has gone through the buyer also needs to pay for home insurance.
►Read up on healthcare in Australia
"Housing, in my experience, is of a high standard and very comfortable, although many flats are of an older style." Read more of Katie's interview about expat life in Australia.
"Houses here are incredible. You can choose older properties that need work, rundown properties on large plots that are ripe for knocking down and rebuilding, or you can buy a smaller plot from a development and have a builder put a house up for you. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it here." For more, read Karen's expat interview about living in Australia.
Are you an expat living in Australia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Australia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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