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Long and short term accommodation in Australia

There’s nothing more reassuring when moving countries than knowing that you have a home already waiting for you when you arrive.

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One of the first things that’ll be on your checklist after you’ve committed to moving to Australia is to physically pack up your life and move everything you need to… where? Suffice to say, if you’re going on holiday, it’s possible to “wing it”. If you’re moving for an indefinite period of time, winging it might not cut it, especially when it comes to accommodation. This is when planning can make things so much easier when you finally plant your excited Kiwi feet on Australian soil.

The good news is that you have plenty of options to choose from when looking for a place to stay in Australia. At the top of most new residents’ lists (and a good way to introduce you to the city and give you time to decide where you’d like to call home permanently) is arrival or temporary accommodation. This includes hotels, hostels and other traveller options.

Other new arrivals prefer to look for short-term accommodation, such as a rental property or flatting. If you’re a student, you can look for somewhere to stay either on- or off-campus, while those in a more secure financial situation might prefer to look at signing a long-term lease or even buying a home.

Each accommodation option has its own benefits and caters to a different type of new Australian – so if you’re wondering, “Which type of accommodation should I look for and how can I find it?” then read on to find the right place for you.


Arrival accommodation

Arrival accommodation, as the name suggests, offers somewhere to stay when you first arrive in Australia. The aim is to find somewhere comfortable and convenient to call a “base” until you find your feet. While staying in arrival accommodation you can look for work and somewhere more permanent to stay, or you could take the time to acclimatise to your new surroundings.

Your taste and budget largely influence the exact type of arrival accommodation you select. For students or those with limited finances, a hostel might be the best option to begin with. Australia has an excellent range of hostels to choose from, especially in capital cities, with travellers able to choose from budget options or more premium digs.

Another option to consider is a hotel. Once again, there’s no shortage of options to choose from, though many hotels may be out of the reach for those with limited finances. If you’re looking for an alternative, motels and caravan parks usually offer cheaper rooms, while self-catered apartments and units are also available.

While it’s important to find somewhere you are comfortable in and meet your needs, remember that this is only temporary accommodation. You’ll soon be looking for somewhere more permanent to live.

How can I book arrival accommodation?

Booking arrival accommodation can be handled quickly and easily online while still in New Zealand. Many accommodation websites let you book hotels, hostels or apartments in Australia, including sites like Expedia, hotels.com, Hotels Combined, Airbnb and many more.

These accommodation sites are designed to be as simple as possible. All you have to do is search for available accommodation options on the dates you’re planning to stay in a certain destination. You are then presented with a range of options, which you can browse and compare to find one that best matches your needs. You can book and pay for everything online with your credit card, thus ensuring you have somewhere to stay when you land in Australia.

Alternatively, you can look at homestay accommodation options. Browse the sites to see what arrival accommodation is available for you.


Short term accommodation

For many Kiwis moving to Australia, short-term accommodation offers the best solution when they first arrive. It can be a good way to settle into the Australian lifestyle and get to know the country and its people. It gives you time to adapt before you make any long-term or permanent decisions about where to live.

The first option you might want to look at is renting a property. You can find rental properties to suit all sizes and budgets, from units and apartments to small or large houses. Rental costs are obviously influenced by several factors, including the residence size, location, proximity to public transport, and how old it is.

It’s also worth pointing out that Australia’s rental market is quite competitive, particularly in capital cities. In the popular inner-city suburbs of major centres, you can expect to battle it out with other property hunters and pay more than you would otherwise expect.

If renting on your own is not a viable option, flatting (“share-house living” in Aussie speak) might be the best approach. Once again, there is typically a stack of flatting accommodation options to choose from, particularly in inner-city areas or places with high student populations. Of course, you obviously need to be willing to put up with all the highs and lows of sharing a house with strangers, which is sometimes easier said than done.

Renting is an attractive option for many New Zealanders because the process is much simpler than when buying a house. It also gives you a chance to settle into the Australian way of life and learn more about the areas of the country you like before making a permanent decision on your living arrangements.

If you want to rent a property on your own, your best bet is to lease a property through a qualified real estate agent. You can find rental listings on sites like realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. Rents vary depending on where you’re looking and the size of the home. Prices in Sydney are much higher than in a city like Adelaide, and the closer you are to the city centre, the more you can expect to pay.

While prices vary greatly, as a general guide, you can expect to pay somewhere between AUD$200 and AUD$500 per week for a two-bedroom apartment and anywhere from AUD$250 to AUD$750 per week for a three-bedroom house. Check online listings for a more accurate guide to prices in specific areas.

If you plan to rent, it’s a good idea to bring previous rental references and copies of your passport to rental inspections. Once you find a property you like, you can sign a lease agreement, the terms of which usually last for six or 12 months. This legal document sets out all the terms of your rental agreement and ensures you are treated fairly. Bear in mind that it also means you may be liable to serve out the term of your lease, and breaking a lease can result in expensive fees. If you need help paying your rent, the Department of Human Services can offer rent assistance to people in certain circumstances.

The Residential Tenancies Bond Authority in Australia stipulates that you must pay a security deposit (rental bond) when renting a property. This usually amounts to one month’s rent, and it is returned at the end of the tenancy unless used to repair any damage you cause while renting the property.

If you’re looking to share a flat or house, this can be a more affordable option. You can find apartments or flatting options in popular student areas or busy inner-city suburbs on notice boards or websites. Many rental arrangements require you to stay for a minimum period (perhaps three months) and pay a small security deposit. However, in many cases, you aren’t required to put your name on a lease.

Prices for flatting vary depending on where you want to live and whether utilities are included in the cost. Typically, you can expect to pay upwards of $100 per week. Shop around for an arrangement that best suits your living and financial needs.

Meeting your rent payment deadlines can be difficult for many people. This problem can be compounded when you first move to a foreign country and settle into your new home. Luckily, there are some options available to help out those who are financially struggling. Australia has an agency called the Department of Human Services that provides rent assistance. Also, all states and territories have government agencies that help people with low incomes pay their rent. There are many options at a local and national level that provide help.

Public and emergency housing

Public housing is a good option for people who want to find a place to rent but cannot afford its private market cost. The various housing authorities of Australia include:

Did you know?

While some houses come furnished, it’s more common in Australia for rental properties to only come with general amenities. Once you lease a property, you have to start thinking about pots, pans, couches and beds. For anyone on a tight budget, who’s unafraid to purchase secondhand goods, a good place to start is gumtree.com.au., you might even find a freebie. Those who’d prefer to purchase new items can always find a bargain through finder.com.au’s deals page.


Student accommodation

Kiwis holding a student visa or those in Australia for educational purposes have several options available. We think it pretty much goes without saying that student accommodation needs to be affordable and accessible to your nominated educational institution.

With this in mind, your first option is obviously on-campus accommodation. The vast majority of Australian universities offer on-campus accommodation options designed for students from overseas or rural-based areas. These options suit various budgets and tastes (flatshares, catered accommodation in dorm rooms), with the added benefit of being located extremely close to, or even on, your place of study.

Another positive about on-campus accommodation is the opportunity to develop relationships with other students and build a sense of community. With an emphasis on social activities and education, living on-campus can be a great way to broaden your horizons.

If on-campus accommodation isn’t your cup of tea, off-campus living is also a valid option. You can reside in a homestay, which involves being placed with a family in a nearby home, or choose to live in a privately-owned student residence. Many unis run accommodation databases to help you find off-campus accommodation.

Finally, students can choose to rent a property independently rather than taking up student accommodation. For details on how to secure a rental property, read the above section on renting.

The simplest way to start organising student accommodation is to go through your university. Most unis have housing officers specialising in looking after both the on- and off-campus accommodation needs of its students. You can research and compare accommodation options and find out more about the benefits of on-campus living. Applications can typically be completed online.

For those interested in off-campus accommodation, there are also independent agencies that specialise in organising homestay arrangements. If you want to rent independently, begin your property search on a website like realestate.com.au or domain.com.au.

Long-term accommodation

Once you’ve been in Australia for a while and have decided where you would like to live, it’s time to start looking for a long-term accommodation solution. If you’re ready to settle down in a particular area, this is typically the most cost-effective option you can take.

For some, signing a long-term lease is optimal. This option has the advantages of ensuring that you aren’t kicked out of your home while your lease is in force and that you don’t have to struggle with the larger financial commitment of buying a home.

If you’re ready to realise your dream of owning a home, you can start looking to buy a property. The Australian real estate market is quite competitive in some areas, particularly in the major capital cities, so you should be prepared for a lengthy house-hunting expedition. It’ll be worth it once you find that perfect apartment or house and can enjoy the freedom that comes with owning a home.

How to buy a house in Australia as a temporary resident

If you’re a temporary resident, you need to jump through several hoops to buy property in Australia. First, the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) needs to permit you to purchase a property. You need to apply to the board for approval, which can take up to 40 days.

However, if you’re a permanent resident, you’ll find it much easier to buy property in Australia and don’t require permission from the FIRB to purchase a home.

While you can exchange contracts before you’ve received FIRB approval, the contract is, of course, conditional on approval being granted. Unfortunately, as auction bids can only be made without conditional clauses, this prevents you from purchasing a property at auction.

Once contracts have been exchanged and a cooling-off period served, you need to pay a deposit on your home, which on average is 20% of the asking price. You probably need to arrange a mortgage, too, so you must have records of your credit history and financial situation with you. You may find getting a mortgage with an Australian lender is much easier than seeking finance from a lender back home in New Zealand. To increase your chances of being approved for a mortgage, you need to be earning sufficient regular income to prove that you can manage your ongoing loan repayments. If you don’t have a steady income stream, your chances of being approved for a loan are slim. Once again, permanent residents find it much easier to obtain a loan than temporary residents.

In addition to your deposit and mortgage, you need to remember that certain fees and taxes apply when buying a property in Australia. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect these costs to add up to roughly five per cent of the property’s value. You need to contend with a Land Transfer Registration fee, legal fees, mortgage fees, local taxes and perhaps even insurance. You may also incur other costs like strata inspections or termite and pest inspections.

One final point to remember is that you need to have any necessary visas and work permits before buying a home in Australia. Residence, temporary residence, migrations and visitors visas are all available, so make sure you have the necessary paperwork before you proceed.


Moving house and relocation checklist

It goes without saying that you should take everything you need and leave everything you don’t (or can buy in Australia) in New Zealand. We leave it up to your own discretion what you take and what you leave behind, but here are some things to bear in mind before you relocate to Australia:

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  • Accommodation in New Zealand. If you currently rent or own property in New Zealand, you need to arrange what to do with that accommodation. You might have to end your lease, sell your home, or rent your home out to someone while you’re away. Once you know the date you are leaving, you can start organising what will happen to your current accommodation.
  • Long-term storage. If there are certain items you’re not going to take with you, consider putting them in long-term storage. Storage lockers can be quite affordable to lease for long periods, so shop around for an option that’s affordable and secure.
  • Shipping your personal effects. Many companies specialise in shipping your personal belongings overseas, including everything from a few bags to a whole shipping container of effects. Compare the services and prices of different companies before choosing one. Two companies that specialise in international relocation are World Baggage and Seven Seas Worldwide. If you enlist the help of a migration agent to help you relocate, they can provide advice on the best way to ship your personal effects. The best part? If you’ve organised your accommodation in Australia early, you can have your effects shipped directly to that address in time for your arrival.
  • Customs taxes. If you want to ship used personal effects and household goods to Australia, you don’t have to pay customs duties, or tax provided the items have been owned and used for at least 12-months. Items that have been owned and used for less than 12-months are subject to taxes.
  • Restricted or prohibited items. Any restricted or contraband items need to be declared to customs when you enter Australia, at which point they may be confiscated. These items include drugs, weapons and items that could harbour diseases that could harm Australia’s natural environment like wood and food. Australia has a strict customs policy. Please familiarise yourself with any restricted or prohibited items before you pack and leave them at home to avoid any hassle at the airport.

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