How to Rent a Long-Term Residence as New Migrants in Canberra

by Rosemarie John on May 22, 2014

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As new migrants to Canberra, we found rental procedures very different from back home in South East Asia. In Malaysia or Singapore, you will find real estate agents who will pick you up and take you around to several properties that are available for rent. You don’t really do the running around yourself. But here in Canberra, it’s a whole different culture.

We used a website called Allhomes to look at rental property listings. All major property groups list their available houses or apartments for rent (or sale) on this platform. We could have gone directly to each company’s website where they have listings as well, but Allhomes makes it much easier just like a one-stop-shop.

Property agents clearly indicate a day and time when a property can be viewed. It is only during that time frame can we pop by to take a look. Some agents don’t mind providing a private viewing but most of them prefer a set time and date where everybody who is interested in the property is invited. If the property is “hot” or in other words, a well-kept property in fantastic location, you may have to compete with all interested parties for a chance to be considered.

So how do you do that?

If you like a property, you will be handed an Application for Tenancy Form. But you need to qualify with a minimum of a 100 points based on a few parameters usually established with documents such as your Medicare Card, Australian Driver’s License, Passport, Birth Certificate, Australian Bank Statement, Australian Pay Slips, and some others which you can find listed on the last page of this sample form. May sound a bit daunting and confusing but believe me it’s quite simple.

We had come prepared with our Medicare Card and Australian Bank Account which we acquired when we visited last year, so it was easier for us. But if this is your first entry into the country as a migrant, then you have to allocate time to get your Medicare Card and Australian Bank Account sorted out before applying for property rentals. As long as you have all the right papers you can usually get these done in a day.

Here is a checklist of documents you need to organise before you fly into Australia:

  1. A cover letter that explains who you are, why you have moved to Australia, how you have sufficient funds to pay rent, your past landlord details, how much rent you have paid in the past (convert that into AUD). Explain how you would treat the rental home responsibly. This is for the property agent to gauge your suitability. So be honest and be yourself.
  2. Rental references from your past landlords are a must. If you have not rented before and own property that you rent out to others, show proof of being a landlord yourself.
  3. Copies of your birth certificate and passport as it is used as one of the many documents that allows you to reach a 100 points in order to qualify to apply in the first place.
  4. Copies of your visa grant.
  5. Make several photo copies of these documents. Don’t expect the agent to do it and when you are new you wouldn’t know where to find a place to make copies!

Make sure you arrange for a short-term rental:

  1. You can use Allhomes for this as well or google many other companies online that provide such services. You can also have a look at Canberra Furnished Accommodation or One of a Kind Apartments.
  2. We used Allhomes to secure a short-term rental for 2 weeks in the city. You can find short terms rentals either on All Homes or any other website. You may usually have to pay a two week deposit upfront to book the place. Try staying closer to the City. Transportation is easier and several rental companies are located in the City Centre.

When in Australia:

  1. First thing you do is to get your Medicare and bank account sorted. It’s ideal if your bank account has at least 6 months’ worth of rent money. It makes it easier for agents to consider your application.
  2. Try to find a job. It won’t be easy. But if you manage to secure one, it makes things a lot easier. Many people will tell you that you won’t be able to rent if you do not have a job. This is not true. We are testament to that. All you have to be is honest and have enough money in the bank to be able to secure a place. Please note that these requirements can change and vary in the way each property company operates.
  3. Start registering for viewings as soon as you have the necessary documents in hand. Only put in applications to properties you are truly interested in. If shortlisted, you will be given a few days to make a decision, so it is best to see as many houses/apartments within a period of 3 days. The most number of viewings are conducted on a Saturday. So time yourself well.
  4. Please ensure you arrive on time for property viewings because agents only allocate 10 minutes per viewing. If you are late, they would have left. You will find your time managing skills tested if you have several viewings on a day. We gave ourselves 45 minute transit time between each viewing and it helped.

We gave ourselves just 2 weeks to secure a place. We did it within 7 days. We only moved into our new apartment when our short-term rental lease had expired as we had already paid for it in advance. So we used the time to get furniture, appliances etc. sorted out.

All this process may seem very daunting at first for the newly arrived migrant. Finding ones bearings in a new place is a difficult process. Finding a home is the most basic of needs and we hope this post helps you ease into this wonderful city.

I would be sharing several other experiences of my journey as a new migrant here, so keep watching this space. If you are making your next move to Canberra, let me know how it went and I wish you good luck!

Disclaimer: The documentation mentioned and need for a job to be able to be successful in acquiring a rental lease may change. All the above is purely a narrative and tips based on our experience in this fair city we now call home.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Glynis Rathbone May 22, 2014 at 7:17 am

Excellent very useful post thanks Rosemarie

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Rosemarie John May 22, 2014 at 7:21 am

Hi Glynis, hopefully this will help others in their process of finding a home. 🙂

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Lizzy (Good Things) May 22, 2014 at 8:13 am

Plenty of useful information here!

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Bronwyn Joy May 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm

You did well in 7 days! And especially with all that new migrant documentation (lucky for your advance visit).

Is realestate.com.au much good in the Canberra area? That’s usually my go-to and where our agent lists our Brisbane property.

The best thing I find about rentals in Australia cf Singapore is usually the terms are much shorter – even as short as six months (though twelve is pretty common – still not as long as 2yrs). It means if you really make a mistake you don’t have to live with it as long. 🙂
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Rosemarie John May 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Hi Bronwyn, we were surprised how fast we managed to secure everything too. We were never recommended realestate.com.au. Allhomes seems to be the main site here other than domain.com.au but I found domain harder to use. I liked the ease of using All homes. I so relate to the two years rental procedures in Singapore! We hated that we had to sign a 2 year lease when we were there. I would have preferred just a one year lease so it gives us room to decide if we want to move elsewhere.

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Maureen May 28, 2014 at 12:53 am

I’ve been in Australia for many years now but I remember coming over the first time and finding out how the rental market worked in Melbourne. I hope you get all your cookware delivered soon!
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Rosemarie John May 28, 2014 at 1:11 am

Thanks Maureen! We are currently surviving with 2 mugs, 2 plates and cutlery. LOL We ordered furniture on our second week here but it looks like it will take the store 5 weeks to get us our goods so we are sitting on the floor till then.

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Savita November 21, 2014 at 5:48 am

This article is very detailed and absolutely useful.

I have one query what are the most important clauses in lease agreement and what if has lease of a year and want to vacate house in between ?

regards

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Rosemarie John November 22, 2014 at 12:28 am

Hi Savita. Thank you for your comment. We are not property agents so it wouldn’t be responsible for us to give you an answer. We just merely wrote about our experience hoping it will help new migrants that come over to Canberra. 🙂 But from what we know, all your answers you seek will be mentioned clearly in your lease contract. If it is not, it is best to contact your property manager to get the correct info as each property company may operate differently.

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