Finding, Buying and Renting for Expats in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Finding Property

The majority of properties in Australia are detached houses and bungalows, though there are also blocks of flats in the cities, and ‘units’, which are built in a block, like flats, but have two storeys, like maisonettes. Newspapers do contain adverts for properties, but far more people look for accommodation online. If you are buying, you can use an estate agent to help with this. If the estate agent does help you find a suitable property, you will be charged commission. The average commission for Australia is currently around 2.3%. Note that estate agents do not generally help you look for properties if you are renting.
Useful websites to help you find accommodation include:    

The last two of these are the best sites for finding somewhere to rent.

Due to the high turnover of population, there are many properties available, and finding a place should be easy. As moving to Australia is such a big decision, it may be worth giving it some thought whereabouts you want to live exactly. Getting a feel for an area by staying there in a hostel or renting short-term should help you to do this. You will then be able to visit different areas of a city until you find the place you like best.


Rented accommodation is expensive, especially in Sydney. Nevertheless, most expats in Australia rent their property rather than buy it. Laws between landlord and tenant have been deemed neutral by the Global Property Guide. The maximum amount of advance rent and deposit a tenant has to pay are fixed by state laws. The deposit, called a rental bond, is safeguarded and not held by the landlord.

In addition to views by appointment, some properties may have ‘open for inspection’ times. This means that, within certain pre-arranged times, you are free to visit a property and meet the landlord and/or tenants. A common open for inspection day is Saturday. When you do decide on a place to rent, it’s important to know that the amount of rent offered may be negotiable. Once you have moved in, the landlord is restricted from raising the rent for a year, and after that, if you think a rent increase is unfair, you can take the matter to tribunal in most states.

Buying property

After something of a dip, house prices are rising again in Australia. This means that it may be a good time to buy a property at the moment. However, you should be aware that, as a measure to control property speculation, acquisition and purchase of property by non-permanent residents is strictly controlled. If you are thinking of buying a specific Australian residential property, bear in mind that you need to have the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) before the sale can be completed. See this web page for more details:

The FIRB review process should take 30 days. Once you have gained approval for your property, it is time for a surveyor to inspect it.  Problems with properties in Australia include termites. Assuming the property has no problems, you can make an offer. This is usually done via the seller’s estate agent. If the seller is happy with your offer, their lawyer will draw up a Contract for Sale. If you have not done so already, this is a good point at which to hire a lawyer or conveyancer. They will then examine the Contract of Sale, complete the property transfer form and deal with the remaining paperwork and legal processes.

Lastly, both parties sign the Contract to Purchase. This document should contain all relevant information about the property. You may be required to pay 10% deposit immediately, and you will have six weeks to pay the rest of the money.

Auctioning properties is common in Australia. The time period from viewing to auction can be as little as a month. Before the auction, you will need to have gained FIRB approval for the property, had a survey conducted, secured a mortgage and got together the necessary down payment. This is 10% of the property price, and is payable immediately if you are the highest bidder.



Moving to Australia

If you are considering moving to Australia or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Australian section including; details of immigration and visas, Australian forums, Australian event listings and service providers in Australia.


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From your safety to shoppingliving in Australia can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Australia with relevant news and up-to-date information.


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