Moving to Australia

Tips for renting or house sharing in Australia

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Moving to a new country is an exciting time, but there’s a lot to think about when it comes to finding a place to call home.

You’ll need to find a suitable property and choose the right area or suburb to live in, so there’s a lot to figure out. Renting a property or house sharing is great if you want to try out different areas and suburbs and it can also help you to make new friends.

The rental market in most of Australia's major cities moves quickly, so finding, and moving into, the right rental property isn't always easy. Some regional and rural areas, for example places that have benefited from the mining boom, can also have a lot of competition. Here are a few tips and guidelines that can make finding a new home in Australia considerably easier.

Some key words

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It seems simple, but it’s an important step.  Listen to the sort of language people are using when they talk about property in the area.

If you’re dealing with a real estate agent it will really help if you understand some of these standard phrases:

  • Flat or unit = apartment, maybe with one to three or four rooms with shared areas
  • Studio = a flat or unit that has the bedroom and other areas all together in one space
  • House = usually a stand alone large house, sometimes with outdoor space

Houses are typically larger than flats and come with an outdoor space; so it makes sense for a two-bedroom flat to cost less than a two-bedroom house, but it's not always the case.  Look at what’s on offer in the area and compare prices.

Choose your location wisely

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Next, you will want to choose an area that you feel comfortable in. If you’re moving to a major city, you should come up with a short list of three or four suburbs or areas. It’s best to visit the area and get to know the shops, cafes, bus/rail routes and other important amenities. Visiting a place is a lot different to looking at it online and it will help you get a feel for what you like and don't like too!

Part of finding the perfect location is knowing what kind of commute you might expect from home to the workplace, your place of study or to the children's school.

If you are planning to use a car you will also need to make sure that you have somewhere to park it. This is often a factor that people new to Australia overlook and it is particularly important in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

Use online resources

The most cost effective and simple way to house hunt is by enlisting the help of technology.

Looking for a whole house or flat?

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There are a lot of online resources you can rely upon.  Try www.domain.com.au or www.realestate.com.au

Looking for a share house?

Similarly there are a lot of online resources that will assist you when looking for a housemate or a house share.  Try https://flatmates.com.au or www.gumtree.com.au

Dealing with agents, landlords or housemates

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Once you’ve found somewhere you like, the next step is to arrange a property inspection.

Find out who is managing the property and always ask for your agent by name (you can find this out from the rental listing and by contacting the agency). The managing agent is the one most likely to be able to answer questions and start the application process.

If you are house sharing, make contact with the people who currently live at the house and arrange a good time to visit.  Sometimes it’s good to bring along a friend who can help you make the decision. Prepare some questions to ask them about the living arrangements – it’s good to find out why the previous tenant has departed too.

If you phone and no one answers, leave a message, but also send the estate agent or house share contact an email, then they'll have all the necessary details in written form. If you really like a property you might need to chase them – don't be shy, the rental market can often be cutthroat and it's in your best interest to pursue them.

Paper work

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When you’re viewing, bring your paperwork with you, as applications for good properties can be cut-throat and you need to be ready to make an application on the spot for somewhere you like.

Make sure when submitting your forms that you provide all the correct information. You’ll need:

  • Proof of your identity (your passport, birth certificate or drivers license)
  • Proof of income (either use your bank statements for the last three months or use another way to prove your income)
  • Previous rental agreements if you have rented before
  • These are one of the most important parts of the application; if possible include you current employer and a previous landlord.  If this isn’t possible, then ask someone in a respected position such as a teacher or doctor, who knows you.

 

Once the estate agent has checked references, the whole application will go to the owner of the property for final approval.

It is illegal for agents to favour one application over another except in the order of receiving them, or if someone offers more rent.

Never hand over money on the spot, there is a correct process that must be followed before any money changes hands.  The estate agent checks references and your identity, and the application must be approved by the owner. 

If you are house sharing, check to see if you will be included on the lease. Being on the lease can protect you as much as it protects the owner so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re on it. It will also mean your bond is properly recorded and isn’t being ‘pocketed’ by your new housemates.

You’re moving in!

When signing the lease you have to pay the first fortnight/month's rent, plus a bond (a security deposit) which is usually equal to a month or six weeks' rent.

The bond protects the owner against damage to the property or any bills left unpaid by the tenant. In all states, except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, an independent government-owned body keeps the bond.

Normally you would inspect the property thoroughly for damage before moving in. There should be an inspection form attached to the lease where you will note any existing damage or marks.  It’s important to complete this carefully as you will be liable for any damage not noted on the form when the lease ends. 

If you find anything damaged note it on the form or inform the managing agent or landlord in writing.

If it's a furnished property, you should also be given an inventory. At the end of the lease, you’ll be liable for any missing items so make sure it’s accurate.

About your rights

Each state has it’s own governing body for rentals.  They provide tenancy information, bond management, dispute resolution, investigation, policy and education services. Ensure you contact the relevant state body if you need help or have a problem with your rental – they’re here to help.

 

Reference sites:

  • Domain.com.au
  • Real Estate.com.au
  • Flatmates.com.au

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