Australia: Finding a place to live

Rental properties don’t come cheap, and competition is fierce - so get your groundwork done in advance

Property in Australia: Rents and real estate prices are highest in Sydney, followed by Perth and  Melbourne.

Property in Australia: Rents and real estate prices are highest in Sydney, followed by Perth and Melbourne.

 

Finding a new place to live so far from home can be a challenge, especially for families who have to consider access to work, childcare, schools and public transport, while trying to work out affordability in a different currency. So what should you expect when searching for a home in Australia?

Renting a home
Rental properties don’t come cheap in the main Australian cities. Capital city rental prices dropped 0.5 per cent in the year to September 2016, but are still very high following a property bubble. Renting a house in any of the main cities is likely to cost about A$480 (€335) a week, if not significantly more. The median cost of renting a house in Sydney is A$593 per week, but properties close to the city or in sought-after suburbs can cost twice that much. In Perth average rents are significantly lower at A$419 and in Melbourne a similar home was A$458.

The distance between Ireland and Australia means most people will not be able to visit before they make the big move, but landlords are not permitted to rent properties to tenants unseen. It is advisable to set aside some time in the first couple of weeks to find a suitable place to live   and to do as much research in advance of the move as possible.

Schools
When choosing a location, schools should be one of the primary considerations for families. If you want to send your child to a state or Catholic school, you will need to be living within the school’s catchment area. It is worth checking with the school how strictly these zones are imposed, but popular schools will enforce the rules more tightly if they are close to capacity. Parents planning to send their children to private schools will be less constrained, but check public transport routes if the school is not within walking distance of where you want to live.

Often one parent will travel out first, staying in temporary accommodation (often paid for as part of a relocation package if they are on a sponsored visa with a large company), with their spouse and children following a few weeks or months later when a more permanent home has been found for the family.

Temporary accommodation
Those who arrive independently can rent temporary furnished accommodation through websites such as Stayz.com.au  while they search for a more permanent home. Young, single travellers often opt to stay in a hostel at first, and hostel noticeboards can be a good place to find advertisements for rooms to rent in shared houses or apartments.

Competition is fierce for rental properties in the cities and suburbs of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne so, if you are going to view a property, be prepared to pay a deposit straight away and take all the necessary paperwork to the viewing.

Documentation
Landlords and agencies in Australia require more documentation from tenants than in Ireland, and some of the groundwork for this should be done before you leave for Australia. You will need photo identification, proof of current employment and salary, a letter to show you have an Australian bank account, two character references, and a letter from a previous landlord. If you have a mortgage in Ireland, you will also need to provide a letter from the Irish bank to show your repayments are being made on time.

Tenants are usually required to pay a month’s rent in advance, plus a rental bond (deposit), which is usually equivalent to an additional month’s rent. Rental properties generally come unfurnished, without appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and fridges. This can add a considerable amount to your start-up costs, but secondhand furniture and machines are often advertised cheaply on websites such as Gumtree.com.au.  It is also worth checking if there has been a recent pest inspection, as cockroaches, spiders, ants and pantry moths are common in Australia, and landlords are responsible for their extermination.

Buying a home
Although prices have stabilised somewhat following several years of rapid growth up to 2010, the property market in Australia is still overheated, with many commentators comparing the property bubble to Ireland’s before the crash.

Sydney’s median house price is A$1,021,968, according to statistics from June 2016, with the median cost in Perth at A$568,132, and A$740,995 in Melbourne. CoreLogic  (formerly RP Data) provides comprehensive property information and analytics for Australia, with interactive tables showing price changes per region which are updated every month.

Other considerations
Those who are renting out their property in Ireland will have to declare rental income on their annual tax return in Australia. Expenses such as agency fees or maintenance and repair costs for the property in Ireland can be claimed back from the Australian government and, in certain instances, you may also be entitled to a refund on interest paid on an Irish mortgage.

See the Australian Taxation Office website for more information. A good accountant will be able to advise.

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