So, you’ve finally made it. After months of agonizing decisions, nail-bitingly nerve-wracking visa and job applications, and a handful of tearful goodbyes, you’ve managed to migrate to Australia and are off to a fresh start.
Given that you’ve already landed a job, the next step is now to find yourself a home. You might be lucky enough to be staying with a relative as you work out your new routine, but the sooner you find a place of your own, the better. And if you emigrated with a family, it’s all the more crucial that there’s already a space waiting for all of you.
Now, finding a new home can be quite daunting anywhere. Having to do so in an unfamiliar and faraway territory with all the legal and territorial complexities that entails is enough to make anyone go stark raving bonkers.
Fortunately, you can spare yourself a lot of headaches by familiarizing yourself with the basic process when you set out to rent your first house down under:
1. Location, location, location.
There’s a reason why renting a small, two-bedroom house in Sydney can cost more than renting a five-bedroom spread in, say, Millicent, South Australia. Wait, where is Millicent? My point, exactly.
Choosing a house also means choosing a neighborhood to live in. Not only do you want to live in a place that’s relatively quiet and safe, but you also want a location that’s:
a.) accessible to your workplace;
b.) within striking distance of good schools (if you have children), hospitals, banks, shops, and perhaps a church if you so require;
c.) has good facilities for basic utilities (e.g., strong water pressure, decent Internet speeds, etc.)
If you’ve already got a job, you can use your office address as a compass for choosing a good location. If you haven’t got one yet, look for a place with a lot of employment opportunities.
Your best bets are usually major cities like Sydney or Melbourne, but there’s also a sizeable community of Filipino expat workers living in New South Wales, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
How else can you explore other Australian suburbs? Good ol’ Wikipedia.
2. Set a realistic budget.
3.) Go online.
Local newspapers usually feature classified ads for property rentals, but these aren’t always as updated as online listings. Not only does the latter have more up-to-date offerings, but they also have far more details available on each property.
Unlike newspaper ads that typically have just a few lines of information, online property listings provide you with a detailed map of the property location, elaborate descriptions of features like hardwood floors, central heating, etc., and even high-resolution photos of a house’s exteriors and interiors.
Another plus is how user-friendly the online process can be. You can punch in your chosen location, budget, and desired size (1-bedroom, 3-bedrooms, etc.), and the search engine draws up all relevant listings for you in a second.
Do make sure to choose only reliable and accredited websites.
4. Once you’ve found a suitable property, look up the agent handling it and arrange a viewing.
Most rental properties are managed by an agency, and you can usually find their contact details on the online listing. Call up the agency and get in touch with the agent who is directly managing the property you are interested in. S/he is best equipped to answer further questions and most importantly, to begin the application process.
If you really want the property in question, you may need to pursue its agent like an ardent manliligaw (suitor). For instance, if your call goes unanswered, leave them a voicemail and an email with all the necessary written details as well. Because Australia’s rental market is quite cutthroat, this is not the time to be pakipot (shy).
Legally, an agent cannot lease a property to a tenant unless the latter views it first, so the next step is to schedule a viewing.
Pro-tip: Schedule your viewing during the week rather than on the weekend. There are far less people coming in (if you’re lucky, you could be the only one looking around), so you can really take as much time as you need to check out the place. You can also bring all the complete requirements along with you at the viewing so you can secure the property on the spot and thus take it off the listing before the weekend rolls around.
5. Submit your application.
Applying to rent a house in Australia is much like applying for a visa. You will need to submit documents and references that attest to your identity and your income level, such as:
a.) Clear photocopies of government-issued ID’s like passports or driver’s licenses;
b.) Bank statements covering the last three months;
c.) Three months’ worth of payslips or a letter from your accountant if you are self-employed or in business;
d.) Employment and personal references, such as endorsement letters from your boss and/or from a previous landlord or landlady;
It may also be wise to bring your checkbook to the viewing since expats are sometimes required to make a deposit when applying. This deposit is refundable in case your application is rejected, however.
6. Sign the lease.
Once the property owner approves your application, the next step is to sign the contract (sometimes called a “tenancy agreement”) and to settle the security deposit. Your lease contract should indicate how long you will be renting the house, the agreed-upon rate per month, and any other house rules that may apply (e.g., no pets, etc.).
Upon signing the lease, you are usually required to pay the first month’s rent, along with a security deposit or a bond. Depending on the terms of your contract, the bond is equal to at least one month’s rent. This protects the property owner from any damages that the tenant might inflict on the property and any unpaid bills s/he might leave behind.
Security deposits are usually kept by an independent, government-owned body, such as the Rental Bond Board in New South Wales.
7. Prepare to move in.
Before you move your things in, inspect the house for any signs of pre-existing damage first. If you find any, bring it to the leasing agent’s attention and have it documented or photographed.
You should also ask for a complete inventory of the house’s contents if you are renting a furnished unit and check if they are all accounted for. These precautionary steps all serve to alert both your leasing agent and the property owner to any existing discrepancies so that your security deposit won’t be charged for them once you end your lease.
Don’t forget to ask your leasing agent if the house has accounts set-up with services providing utilities such as water or electricity. If so, you can simply take over the accounts rather than having to pay connection fees.