Introduction

An introduction for expats buying property in Australia

For expats moving to Australia, buying property is an achievable goal. Read our guide for tips on choosing a location, finding a property and the buying process.

Introduction

Location, location, location

Whatever your reasons for moving to Australia, one of your main considerations will be where to live! Other important factors are whether you should purchase or rent and, of course, how will your cost of housing affect your financial situation.

Most of the population reside on the east coast of Australia and within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the coast. The two main cities are Sydney and Melbourne which are both commercial and bustling. The next largest is Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, which has an entirely different atmosphere. The climate is quite different being warmer, even in winter time, so the life-style tends to be more laid- back and even solicitors and bankers are likely to be wearing open-necked shirts.

A simple Google search of ‘Australia state capital cities’ and you will then be able to find details of many towns, their locations and attractions. If you are coming to a pre-determined location then add that detail into your search request.

Property prices

Prices of property in Australia are generally high compared to countries such as the UK because though there is a mass of land everybody seems to prefer the coast. This is where the settlement is, the roads, rail, entertainment, schools etc.. Go inland another 100km and the prices drop substantially – perhaps by 50%.

The larger cities and towns, because land is expensive, have turned to building unit developments, these are group titled flats or apartments. A person can purchase one of the units and have full ownership of that unit plus the right to use and enjoy the common property, which may even be a swimming pool or tennis court. Quality for quality they are cheaper than stand-alone houses on their own block of land but some of these can still be many hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on where they are situated, their size and their fittings.

During the ‘global financial’ troubles which started around 2009, and are still continuing, the prices of property in general crashed. Drops in value of around 50% were not uncommon. Now, in 2013, there has been a slight upturn but only in the very low single figure range. This means that some properties, particularly those in the million dollar bracket, can be great deals. The general prices for properties are about the level that they were ten years ago. With very slow improvement they could represent increased values over the next few years. It is certainly unlikely that they will drop further.

In some cases the family home represents the major asset of a family and though they would like to sell they just have to sit on an unrealistic asking figure because there is still a huge mortgage hanging over the property.

Financing options

The financial institutions are tighter with their lending requirements now and will require a sizeable down-payment. The main banks are (in no particular order) ANZ , Commonwealth , National , or Westpac . With regard to information on prices and availability it is quite easy to search the market. Whilst newspapers are still used for advertising properties, the main marketing is done on the Internet.

Property searches

Realestate.com.au  is a large property portal covering all states in Australia. Domain.com.au  is another real estate site with a sophisticated search tool even allowing you to enter proximity to airports, rubbish dumps etc. 

House size is usually expressed in ‘squares meters’ with one square meter being roughly equivalent to eleven square feet. However, sometimes that may indicate the area of the roof rather than the footprint of the house, and in some places in Australia with strong sunlight the roof overhangs the outside walls considerably to afford windows shelter from the sun.

Whilst the vast majority of property sales are handled through real estate agencies it is not compulsory. Some home owners sell direct and some estate developers will also sell direct to the interested party.

Property purchases by expats

The purchase of property by non residents may be an issue depending upon your reasons for coming to Australia. If the thought of owning your own property is important to you, then you should check the website of the Foreign Investment Review Board  (FIRB). This website answers many questions about the purchase of property and will be of immense value to you. For general, well-intentioned, residents there is little barrier to purchasing property, the FIRB is mainly to monitor huge investment purchases.

This article is written to cover many state governments, territories, and climates. Interested parties are advised to seek further information from the various websites mentioned as state rules and regulations can differ significantly.

Article written by: Fred Sparrow - Legal Kit Specialists 

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