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australia real estate market
What overseas doctors should know about Australian real estate

Understanding how the Australian real estate market operates is crucial for overseas doctors interested in emigrating.

Denzil Cheesley works for Ray White, the largest real estate group in Australasia.

He travelled from the UK in 2000 aged 25, following his father who made the move in the 1980s. 

That makes him well versed to advise Britons about how to best negotiate the Australian real estate market. 

He also broaches one of the most important questions – whether British doctors moving to Australia should rent first or buy.

Australia’s property market

Housing prices in Australia have soared in recent times, triggered by the post-COVID boom.

Low interest rates prior to 2022 and demand exceeding supply, thanks largely to a significant rise in immigration numbers, have also pushed Australian real estate prices north.

Adelaide in particular has witnessed a substantial increase coming off a traditionally lower price point than the eastern states markets.

Houses in Adelaide have risen an average of 17.5 per cent per annum over the three years to March, 2024, reaching an average of $870,581.

“The market is hot,” Denzil said on the Living The Australian Dream podcast.

“Especially in SA, WA and Queensland.

“I think it’s mirrored the UK in that it’s been a seller’s market for about three and a half years.

“It’s not the mad frenzy it was in Adelaide maybe two or three years ago but we still see multiple offers on most properties and most selling within a week or two.

“And renting is the same.”

The rental market

Renting in Australia has become something of an Olympic sport with the game weighted heavily in favour of vendors.

Almost all properties go online on sites such as realestate.com.au and domain.com.au

“Not much flies under the radar,” Denzil said.

“So you can go on an agent’s notification list but the properties are still going to be advertised. 

“So I would say to someone who wants to pre-apply for a rental, keep an eye almost daily on new releases. 

“There will be an online application in almost all cases.”

Denzil said you can submit an application online without seeing the property and doing so while overseas shouldn’t preclude you from securing a rental.

“The main thing is to have good back-up with references. 

“Landlords do have a choice at the moment.

“There are usually three or four applicants for every rental so credentials like a good reference, proof of income and savings gives great weight to an application.”

He said not to be deterred if trying to secure a rental property while still outside of Australia.

“I think if you explain your situation, that you’re a GP, you’re getting on a plane in three weeks, you want somewhere for 12 months not just three months, it shouldn’t disadvantage you as an applicant.”

Costs

Many of the factors that have contributed to rising house prices have also pushed rental prices rocketing skyward.

Rental prices rose by as much as 14 per cent in Adelaide in 2023 to $600/week for a house and $475/week for a unit.

Sydney, Melbourne and Perth rentals grew even faster.

But there are other costs to consider and all states in Australia vary slightly under their own state laws.

You’ll more than likely need six weeks worth of rent as bond which is lodged with an independent government bureau.

In addition, you’ll normally be required to pay two weeks’ rent up front.

Ninety percent of rentals in Australia are leased on a 12-month basis. Some may be six months and on few occasions, a long-term investor might ask for a 24-month lease.

The tenant will also need to pay for contents insurance for their belongings as well as electricity, gas and water rates.

Landlords are responsible for building insurance, landlord insurance and council rates.

Where to rent

It may only be a rental property but Denzil strongly advises against renting a property for 12 months in an area with which you are unfamiliar.

“If you’ve already done a ‘reccy’ trip and been to Adelaide before, you kind of know the area.

“But if you’ve never seen the area, get an Airbnb for a month first, even though it’s not as economical. 

“Taking out a lease for 12 months and then thinking, ‘we don’t even like this area’, you’re sort of committed. 

“At least you’ll get to learn the demographics before you take out a long-term lease.”

Renewing your lease

Leases are only renewed with the written agreement of landlord and tenant. 

There will be a lease renewal option four to six weeks in advance of the expiry of the original term. 

At this point, the vendor may increase the rent, depending largely on market forces and to an extent, the value and reliability of your tenancy.

If the market dictates, they might put the rent up $20 a week. 

Inspections are undertaken four times a year.

The property manager has the right to inspect the property as long as they give you 7-14 days’ written notice.

You don’t have to be home for the inspection.

If the tenant breaks the lease, they will be liable for any loss of rent and re-letting costs. 

In these circumstances, it is in the tenant’s interests to cooperate with the landlord so as to allow potential new tenants to view the property.

Sub-letting

Sub-letting is generally not allowed.

Any change to the term of the lease has to be agreed in writing. 

This includes pets or even a potential family member joining the household from the UK.

“It would normally be approved if you’ve been a good tenant,” Denzil said.

The same is technically true for things like hanging pictures to turn your house into a home.

“There’s no firm answer. 

“If it’s nails going into walls, sometimes tenants will just do it but you should seek permission.”

Any damage to properties may be recovered from the bond at the end of the lease.

The housing market

Just as with renting a property, Denzil said he strongly advises against buying one sight unseen.

“Over the years, I have sold at least a couple of properties to people who haven’t even arrived in the country yet,” he said.

“It’s just a mindset. They’re just thinking, ‘well it looks like a good area, we’ve got a friend who lives a few suburbs away, we’re comfortable buying’. 

“But personally, I would always visit the area first.

“You don’t want to buy a home on a whim without seeing it or the area and realise within a few months, ‘this isn’t the right place for myself or my family for the next five or 10 years’ and want to sell and buy again. 

“There’s a big cost in the transaction.

“If I were coming to the country anew and I didn’t know the area and didn’t know the lifestyle first, I’d bed in for a few weeks.

“When you land in the country, you’re not going to start work the next day and your kids aren’t going to go school the next week.

“Use that few weeks to get an Airbnb.

“It might be more costly in the short term but it might be a big saving in the long run when you get the right home rather than pay stamp duty and sales costs not once in a decade but twice. 

“Explore and see what areas feel right for you and your family.”

One of the biggest reasons to avoid unnecessary moving is that there are higher property taxes in Australia, making it less desirable to sell and buy a second time.

Taxes

Stamp duty in Australia varies from state to state.

“Dollar for dollar, it’s expensive compared to the UK, I think it’s about double,” Denzil said.

“If you are not yet a permanent resident, there is stamp duty loading as well. The government will tax you higher. 

“Some people will rent for a few years until their permanent visa comes though because otherwise their stamp duty load increases by about 40 or 50 per cent.”

Buying a house

Buying a house in Australia is much more streamlined than in the UK.

“In the UK you can get gazumping right up until the last day,” he said.

“In Australia, a contract for a property might be subject to finance but once the deposit is paid, the buyer is through their two business day cooling off period and their finances are approved, they are buying it. 

“No-one can gazump. 

“It’s very much a sellers market and you’ve got to be quick. 

“If you’re in the country and you’re ready to buy, go to the open inspections and look at the properties online. New ones come on every week.

“They’ll be open Saturday and often Monday or Tuesday evening in many circumstances. 

“Get to one of those opens because if you find a property in this market that no-one’s offered on, you’ve got to think why is that?

“Get your finances in line and be ready if you see one that you really want to make an offer on.”

Making an offer

Denzil said everyone who arrives at his open inspections are given detailed information about the property as well as clear instructions about how to make an offer.

“They’ll get a link to the property with an offer form, copy of the title, a rental appraisal in case they’re an investor and I also have hard copies of the offer forms at opens as well as the brochure.

“We talk to all offerers because in this market, it’s very rare that I have a property that drags and only has one offer.

“Agents are for the most part very ethical people. 

“Most agents I’ve dealt with in my 22 years selling properties in this area are really good people and will answer your questions honestly and ethically.”

If you still seek independent advice, Denzil said you could speak to a conveyancer before buying.

“They are independent.

“Once you’ve got a contract on a property, they will organise the transfer of funds one way and the title the other way. 

“If you want a bit of independent confidence, a British buyer might speak to an conveyancer first.”

Tips for securing your desired property

You’ve found your dream home, now it’s just a matter of securing it.

But what are sellers looking for?

“Money first, conditions a close second,” Denzil said.

“There are always a lot of buyers borrowing from a bank – almost all of them.”

By removing the finance clause from your contract and making an unconditional offer, you might land the property, even if it is not as high as a rival offer.

“It’s putting the risk of finance with themselves rather than the seller. 

“If you are 100 per cent sure you can borrow the money, a lot of buyers will make an unconditional offer and that will appeal to sellers.”

Taking the plunge

Still not sure about whether to make the move to Australia?

Denzil did and said if things don’t work out, it doesn’t have to be forever.

“I’ve had friends in various careers that almost made the move that didn’t and they get to their 40s and 50s and think, ‘what if’? 

“If you don’t settle, you can always go back but don’t get to 65 and wonder whether you should have moved to Australia when you had the chance.

“Do remember as well that most of us get very homesick in the first year. 

“About 18 months is the period when you should truly judge whether you are happy. 

“There’s a time period when you stop doing the conversion to pounds in your head. That’s when you start to feel at home.”

Contact Health Recruitment Australia today

Living and working in Australia might be the best move you ever make.

Don’t make it the best move you never made.

Health Recruitment Australia is here to turn your dream into a reality and assist you every step of the way.

HRA is a dedicated recruitment agency that specialises in matching overseas doctors of all ages with the right clinics in Australia.

There is a significant GP shortage in Australia at present and your contribution will be valued like never before.

Multiple opportunities exist for doctors interested in making the move to Australia and enjoying everything it has to offer.

If you’re one of the many thousands of doctors thinking about emigrating down under to work, let HRA make your job easier.

We’ll help you find you the right city, area, and practice to work in.

We’ll answer all of your questions about Australian real estate and working as a GP here, putting your mind at ease to make your move as comfortable as possible.

We can even help you find the right place to live, whether you are interested in renting first or buying your own little patch of the lucky country.

Why not start with an informal, no-obligation discussion with the experienced team at Health Recruitment Australia? Contact us.

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!

 

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!