Finding Housing in Sydney - to rent or to buy expat’s guide

Australia has always been one of the most popular destinations amongst expats who are looking for a modern, outdoor and vibrant way of life. The HSBC Expat Explorer Survey named it the 6th best country in the world for expats. However, one of the most popular cities in Australia, Sydney, is also one of the most expensive cities in the world. So, what do you get for your money and how do you find the best value when looking for a house in Sydney?

Renting in Sydney

Although house prices in Sydney are very high, so is the demand for quality accommodation. Many people find that house hunting in Sydney is stressful and fast-paced, so if you find somewhere that you like, move quickly to get your deposit paid and the agreement signed. One of the most useful tips that keeps coming up in the online expat forums is to use a service called 1Form.
This online form allows you to fill in all the details that a real estate or property agent will need and is accepted by most of the major agents, this means that you will only have to fill in one application form. Pre-populating a form on 1Form will save you a lot of time and could help you snatch up the property before anyone else has the chance.

The 100 Point ID Check

The other important piece of advice is to make sure you have as many pieces of identification ready for inspection as possible. It is common practice for property agents to have a “100 point identity check” system. This means that each type of identification and verification is graded and you must have at least 100 points to apply for a property. For example, a passport and visa is worth 40 points, a birth certificate is 30 points, a previous tenancy reference is 20 points, a proof of income is 20 points, etc. Each agent sets their own scoring for documents, so we highly recommend that you do your research on the agents. However, many of them will be very similar.

The Rental Process

Many expats moving to Sydney also find it useful to find temporary accommodation through services such as Airbnb or serviced and furnished apartments through premium companies such as Meriton Suites. This will help you get to know the city better and find an area or neighbourhood that you would like to live in without committing to a full 6 or 12 months contract in a property from the day you arrive.
When looking for a rental property in Sydney you will quickly notice that prices are quoted as being “A$ per week”. To find the more familiar monthly price you should multiply the weekly price by 52 (number of weeks in a year) and then divide that by 12. Although advertised as being priced per week, many rentals will require you paying on a fortnightly or monthly basis, so be sure to ask about payment schedules when looking at a property.
According to an article in Australia’s ABC News, house rental prices dropped for the first time in 12 years in 2019. The article states that the average house rental price is $540 per week, which is considerably more than the national average of $446. However, it is not uncommon for people to outbid each other when it comes to renting an apartment in Sydney, much like you would expect when buying a house, especially for well looked after properties near the CBD of Sydney.

Can Expats Buy Property in Sydney?

As with any country, buying a house is more complicated than renting and Australia is no exception. Expats moving to Sydney should always seek local expert guidance before committing to a property to ensure that they are legally allowed to pursue the property.
To buy an existing property in Sydney, non-residents must intend to make it their primary residence. You will also need to seek approval using the Australian Taxation Office’s foreign investment application form.

Buying Property as an Investment

To buy a property as an investment, or if you do not intend on living in the property full time, you will be limited to buying a new build. Talking to a local estate agent will help you understand the complexities of the property market. If you are moving to Sydney for the first time and do not know the city very well a local agent will also be able to guide you to the best neighbourhoods and advise you on how to negotiate the best deal.

The Fees to Expect

Much like buying a property in the UK, buying a house in Sydney will require paying various fees. You should expect to pay around 5% of the house price in fees, which will include:

  • Agents fees
  • FIRB fees
  • Legal costs
  • Stamp duty
  • Loan fees
  • Property inspection costs
  • Property taxes
  • Property insurance costs

Getting a Mortgage

When buying a house in Sydney you have two options for getting a mortgage. If you are moving to Australia from the UK, you can use one of the main British high street banks as many of these will offer specialist expat mortgages that take your UK earnings and credit rating into account. Alternatively, several Australian banks welcome mortgage applications from non-residents looking to buy property in Australia.

To Rent or Buy?

Moving abroad always has risks attached and complications can arise if you are not fully prepared. Sydney is a very rewarding place to live and its many neighbourhoods all have their own feel and character, so it is important to know what you want before buying a property. Arguably, the best way of getting acquainted with the city is to find short-term accommodation or to rent a property before getting your feet on the Sydney property ladder.
Sydney is one of the most consistently high performing property markets in Australia, so for those considering moving to Sydney, the investment and extra paperwork will be more than worthwhile. The “Emerald City” is also one of the most desirable cities in the world to live in, especially for those with a background in technology, IT, manufacturing and science.
Cadogan Tate has a wealth of experience in moving expats to Australia. Click here to find out more about our moving to Australia service. If you are considering moving to Sydney get in touch for a quick quote.