To try and bring us a little more up to speed I thought I’d write a note on the joys of finding a house to rent in Western Australia.
This is the largest entry I have written here at getting down under so when you get to the bottom of the page, click on the page numbers at the bottom to go to the next page in this entry.
There have been many stories about house prices in Western Aus (Especially Perth).
It is being reported that the five year house price boom is over, however its still expected that Perth will overtake Sydney as Australia’s most expensive city for home-buyers.
Recently, the median house price in Perth has surged 39 per cent to over $491,000 (approx £200,000), in the 12 months to September 2006 and over 500 people are entering Western Australia both from abroad and the East coasts looking for work and somewhere to live.
More interestingly for people looking to rent, it may be worth while keeping in mind that in and around Perth, house SALES have reduced by nearly 50% in the last 12 months. Many analysts put this down to the prices of many properties becoming out of the reach of the first time buyers. For me this means if they aren’t buying then they must be renting…..great!
I guess when we planned our move to Australia we were a little naive when it came to how long it would take us to find a suitable property. In the 12 months prior to entering Australia we had a good look through may of the Australian Real estate web sites to get an idea of the properties available to rent. There were hundreds of properties and the initial enquiries we made earlier in the year indicated that we wouldn’t be hard pressed to find somewhere nice pretty quickly.
When we arrived in Australia just under a month ago we rented a ‘holiday rental’ in a place called Mindarie Keys. Mindarie is about 15 minutes drive North of Sorrento, the place we stayed when we did our Rekkie and Visa activation in February. Its a beautiful little suburb with a man made harbour at its centre with easy access to a large shopping centre and the city via car or train, the latter of which can be caught from the train station in the nearby town of Clarkson.
We’d never been so far north before, when we were here in February I think we drove up about as far as Ocean Reef which is about 10 minutes south of Mindarie. We really liked the place although for us it was a little too far from the city and the little lads school to be a convenience. It was also a little too quiet for us. Mindarie appears to be a popular spot for those lucky enough to have a second ‘holiday’ home and has a large population of retirees also living there. Its a really nice place but not quite home material.
Anyway, onto the house search. I had managed to cheekily ‘piggyback’ onto someone’s wireless internet connection from the house we rented. Unfortunately I could only get a signal sat in the downstairs bathroom but it was good enough to do a daily search on realestate.com.au to identify the latest properties that had come onto the market.
We organised an Australia PAYG Mobile with Vodafone within the first week of being here. This meant we could be contactable and also had the means to quickly call estate agents to arrange viewings.
We were targeting areas within a commutable distance of the school that our little boy starts in January. A place called Iluka was recommended to me and having seen the suburb it quickly became one of our favourite areas.
Iluka (pronounced eye-luke-a) is a pretty, modern looking suburb with a really nice park at its heart. The houses are modern and expensive (to buy) although rentals can be picked up at a half decent price.
We identified a property which was being shown during an ‘open day’ which is basically a day and a set time when the estate agent turns up at the house to let interested parties view it. You turn up at the same time and have a look around and if interested you pick up and complete an application form which you present to the estate agent the following day with your application deposit.
The application deposit is typically the equivalent of one weeks rent and is basically put in place to stop potential tenants from showing an interest, being accepted by the owner and then deciding not to proceed.
If you apply for a property and don’t get the house you get the deposit back. If you are accepted by the landlord and then decide not to proceed, the landlord gets to keep the deposit. Simple as that!
So there we were, we turned up at the house at about 10:20 (open day starts at 10:30). We were told that these open days can get quite busy but weren’t prepared for what we later saw.
From the photos we had seen on the web, the house in Iluka looked perfect, three bedrooms, really nice open plan living area with a small pool. It was obvious that quite a few other people thought it was lovely too. As the time progressed from 10:20 – 10:30, in the region of 12 cars had pulled up, all contained 2 – 4 people eagerly waiting to view the property.
So we waited and waited and waited. We had a second viewing at 11am in Sorrento and we were conscious of the fact that we needed to make sure we got there in time as it was a private appointment (not an open house). We waited until 10:45 and decided that we’d leave, get to the Sorrento house early and the pop into the open house in Iluka on the way back.
We drove down to Sorrento, looked at the house which, in the end was very disappointing (and not really worth writing any more about) and then got back to the Iluka house for about 11:25am. All the cars had gone which was good, but the house was locked up (which wasn’t so good).
When we got home we called the estate agent who confirmed that they had received over 20 applications for the house so it was unlikely that there would be a second open house scheduled for this property. They never were able to confirm what happened to the estate agent who turned up late which was charming, however they did say that their open houses are typically for 10 – 15 minutes and not the presumed one hour that we had in mind.
So the high ratio of potential tenants to houses that we saw on that day remained the pattern for future visits. One thing that we did find (which is a kind of logical thought really) is that the more expensive the property was, the fewer people came to see it.
As time went on and we started to get closer to Christmas we really had to up our game and started to look at properties in a slightly higher price bracket.
We could only keep our Holiday rental until the 16th of December and the prospect of spending our first Australian Christmas in a hotel wasn’t a particularly good one. We also had a small Cricket match going on in Perth called the Ashes which meant many of the hotels were fully booked up!
Anyway, trying to keep motivated, we’d identified a beautiful (ex show house) in Iluka, $600 per week (approx £250). We went to view the property during its open day and were pleased to see that only 4 other people had turned up. The house, although it was still furnished as a show home at the time would be unfurnished but should be available near the time when we had to move out. Although expensive, we decided to go for it. We took our application home and completed the form with all our details.
I must say, the questions asked within the application forms are pretty invasive. They ask for your address, previous address, two references, employer details, salary information, pet information, next of kin information….the list goes on but we needed a house so were willing to comply.
We wanted the house (have I mentioned that yet) and having not had any previous landlord references we decided to follow the advice of many and offer additional rent paid up-front. We offered 6 months.
Having deposited our completed application form and $600 application deposit we felt pretty confident that we would be have a good chance of securing this property. We also had a private viewing booked a couple of days later at a property in a place called Gwelup.
When I asked my new work colleagues about Gwelup, the main thing I picked up is the fact that Gwelup is built on a swamp. Having said this, Gwelup was also near train stations, the freeway and about 10 minutes drive from School. The house looked lovely and was available at a more modest price.
The house was lovely,a single storage bungalow that had masses of open planned living space complemented by a beautiful wooden floor.
The only down side with this house was the fact that the property was only available on a three month lease as the owners had recently bought the house but were still to sell their property. This could be extended after the three months if the property was still to sell but no guarantees could be given by the agent.
We decided we’d go for this one to. At the end of the day if we got this house it would give us three months to find a longer term rental. It was a bit of a gamble as it also meant if we were offered either this or the Iluka house we’d loose our application deposit. Still we need to cover off a couple of bases so decided to go for this property to.
We filled in the application and felt confident that we had a good chance of securing the Gwelup property, the agent seemed optimistic and as we had been on a private viewing we knew that the numbers of people who had viewed the property would be kept to a minimum. Still, we decided to try and make it a ‘sure thing’ by offering to pay the full three months rent up front.
We submitted both application forms and waitied….and waited….and waitied…
After three days we called up both agents to try and get an update. The worse thing that could have happened, well did just that, happened!
We hadn’t got either property!
In a nutshell, the Iluka property wouldn’t be available now until January (although they couldn’t say when) which was too late for us as we needed somewhere before Christmas and didn’t want to hang around waiting for a date to be confirmed.
The Gwelup couple decided in the end to rent the property out to their friends. They also had a cat allergy which didn’t help.
One thing whilst we are talking about the cats is the fact that we have found, having two furry felines dramatically reduces the number of properties you can view. Many properties are strictly NO PETS so if you are moving out here with your pet cat or dog make sure you allow some extra time to find the home you like.
So here we were, it was now Wednesday the 13th of December and we needed to vacate our property by 10am on Saturday 16th.
Then an angel opened her wings and sprinkled me with fairy dust… OK, not quite but my boss’s, boss’s PA came in to tell me that the company I’m working for rents a number of properties in the City for contractors and long term visitors. Would you believe it but one of these properties was going to have its lease cancelled early (it runs through to April) so we had the opportunity to look at the house and have first refusal if we liked it.
This way we could all win. My company saves some early lease termination fees and we get somewhere to live.
The property is in a place called Vincent in the suburb of North Perth about 10 minutes drive from the CBD. The properties here are completely different to those in the Northern Suburbs with many of the houses being over 60 – 80 years old (very old by Aussie standards). The streets are much greener too with many plenty of tree’s and other greenery (in a similar way to some streets back in the UK I guess).
The house needed a good clean but it did the job. Its on three levels with a garage and an office on the ground floor, opening out onto a small pool at the back, Kitchen, dining and living room all open plan on the first floor followed by two double bedrooms, bathroom and en-suite on the top floor.
It was a bit of a no brainer really, the rent was reasonable and we went for it there and then. The best thing is the lease is still between the company that I work for and the landlords, this basically means that when we find a house we don’t need to worry about the timing of the current lease, assuming we can find somewhere before April 2007 anyway!
Anyway, I closed this down quite quickly in the end but I think that has to be one of the longest rambles I have ever written. Still the useful stuff we have learnt is:
– Don’t expect to be able to turn up at an estate agents and ask them to show you around a dozen properties and then choose the one you like. It is a very good time to be a landlords
– Be prepared to offer 3 + months rent in advance to secure a property
– Open days can often only last 10 – 15 minutes so get there early
– Avoid arriving in Australia in December as the rental market really appears to cool off during this time
– Keep in mind that January can also be a very busy month (as I’m sure we will see) as people try and secure properties near the schools before the school term starts at the end of January
– be aware that moving to Australia with pets can seriously limit your choice of properties.
– Ray Whites is a franchise so if you turn up at a Ray Whites office they can only talk to you about properties that particular office has on their books, no others.
Now I’m off to dunk my overworked fingers in ice. If you are reading this thinking oh my god, what have I got myself into. Don’t panic.
I think finding a rental property can be done quite easily (famous last words) but you need to plan and give yourself the time. Three weeks before Christmas for us was probably the worst time for us to arrive in Australia. This in addition to the fact that I started a new job after two weeks limiting time for us to view properties didn’t help.
If you travelling over to Australia or thinking of travelling over just give yourself plenty of time and you’ll get yourselves sorted..Good luck!