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Setting Up Home in Australia

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Harbour Bridge Australia

Setting up home in Australia once you are ready to emigrate can be an exciting time for all the family. You’re moving to a country that has a semi-legendary hold on children’s imaginations, even if they aren’t actually going to see many kangaroos, but you’re choosing what many people feel is a better quality of life in one of the most vibrant cultures on earth too. It’s an adventure for everyone; as such, though it can be worrying or downright scary as well as exciting.

After you get your visa and employment situation sorted out, the next step on many people’s lists is to find somewhere to live, though depending on how you’ve managed your move, you might be looking for a house first and a job afterwards.

The Honeymoon Period

From personal experience, many expatriates warn of a ‘honeymoon period’ when you first arrive – the balmy weather, combined with not having got to grips with the real costs of living and the worth of the Aussie dollar, can give an inflated sense of wealth that leaves you getting bushwhacked with bills down the line, especially if you’ve sold property to move and are coming in with a lump sum. It’s a good idea to set a list of ‘priority purchases’ and work to a budget: even if it has to be constantly re-evaluated, it still gives you some financial control.

Buying Property in Australia

Australian land and property prices are currently rising , showing about 10% annual growth, well ahead of Australia’s economic growth. The typical price for a single-family home varies across Australia – in Melbourne, it’s AUS$652,500 for a house and about $500,000 for an apartment, £362,560 and £278,000 respectively. Homes in metropolitan areas are typically more expensive while those in rural locations are often much cheaper, but to take advantage of those reduced prices you’ll need to have a taste for isolation and a means of making a living that doesn’t rely on having a city nearby.

Australian house

If you have your residency sorted out, you shouldn’t face any restrictions on buying property. If you’re not a permanent resident, you will probably face some restrictions – the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) will guide you thorugh the process.

Assuming your residency is settled, you’ll be looking at a typical mortgage of about 80% of the purchase price. Some lenders will allow a lower deposit, depending on your circumstances, but 20% is standard. Stamp Duty will add to the cost of buying a home too: you should look into stamp duty at the Office of State Revenue of the state or territory you’re moving to:

New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia or Tasmania

This commercial calculator will give you a general idea, but you should check with the official site to make sure.

It’s also a good idea to have a lawyer, and you can use this site to search for one.

When you’re looking for a potential home to buy, sites like www.realestate.com.au or www.domain.com.au can help to point you in the right direction, and sites like www.myrp.com.au offer the chance to compare prices in more specific areas. You should definitely check prices so you know the going rate.

Once you’ve settled on a property you’ll need to apply for finance. This will involve providing ID, evidence of income and assets and proof of your financial situation.

Buying at Auction

Compared with the UK, it’s much more common for Australian properties to be sold by auction. There’s often a fairly short turnaround from first inspection to sale – this is frequently between 3 and 6 weeks. For people used to the seemingly endless process of buying and selling property in the UK, this can seem very fast, but in some cases it has its advantages, especially if you’ve made your decision and know which property you want. You should have finance approved prior to bidding at auction, and it’s usually a good idea to have the property inspected and checked for pests. You should also have a copy of the contract of sale checked over by a lawyer on your behalf.

If you’re the winning bidder at a house auction, you’ll usually be expected to put 10% of the purchase price up immediately, and the standard period for settling the full amount is 42 days. In some cases, properties are sold prior to the auction – if they don’t perform well at auction, the most interested parties will come together afterwards to negotiate on price.

There is assistance available for house purchase in Australia – there are territorial and national homebuyer’s grants and relocation grants available, like the regional relocation grant, or the housing construction grant, and as a permanent resident you might be eligible, so it’s a good idea to check. The schemes are usually administered at the territorial level, so you should look on the government website of the territory you’re moving to.

Where you can get finance will also depend on your immigration status. Some mortgage companies are willing to help overseas buyers on temporary visas, while many aren’t, so if you’re buying a house to move to later, shop around.

Renting Property

There’s also the option of renting. Again, specifics vary from territory to territory, but the majority of Australian homes are rented unfurnished, so you’ll need to find furniture if you’re not taking it with you. Smaller units are usually let on a half-yearly basis, while larger ones typically are let for a year at a time, and the usual deposit is a month’s rent. Before you can move in, you’ll usually need to pay two to four weeks’ rent upfront too.

Buying or renting property in Australia isn’t that far different from in the UK – the basic legal structures involved are fairly similar and the majority of sales are by auction or private sale. Australians are neighbourly – British people often remark that Australians are very social and love a chat, a barbecue or an evening at the local, which is thought to be one reason why Australian TV is so dire! Supermarkets are usually lacklustre compared with the UK, but as a result independent suppliers of fish and meat, vegetables and beverages, continue to thrive and in many cases you’ll find yourself eating food that’s been produced by people you know. All of that means that after you’ve settled into your new home, the real adventure – settling into and enjoying Australian culture – is still waiting for you.