BUYING IN AUSTRALIA
Expats should note that the process will vary from state to state, but there are some general steps that apply on a national level. Expats should also realise that the Australian property market can move fast and furiously. For this reason, even once contracts have been exchanged, until everything is finalised, the buyer could still be ‘gazumped’ by another party offering more. This is considered bad form by some but is an unfortunate reality of buying property in Australia.
WHERE TO BUY
Australia is divided into six states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The country is made up of two territories: the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Popular Australian expat cities include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
WHAT TO BUY
The Australian house may be any size, though it tends to have at least some land. In a residential area, especially in the inner cities, the amount of land is usually smaller. However, in the suburban areas you can expect to find as much as several acres of land to purchase along with the house. t is estimated that more than 75% of the homes in Australia are detached houses. Another 15% of homes are apartments and just 10% are in the form of terraced houses, semi-detached or townhouses. Of these, the detached bungalow is by far the most favoured option. Most homes will have a minimum of three bedrooms, a large combined lounge and dining room, a large kitchen diner, often more than one bathroom, a separate laundry room and a family room or den. Usually if the house has more than four bedrooms at least one will have an en-suite bathroom. As the climate is excellent all year round in most places, Australians make the most of the outdoor space that they have.
Buying vs Renting
New expats will not only need to find a suitable property for their needs but they will also need to choose the right area or suburb to live in. For this reason, most expats prefer renting property in Australia before they buy; a choice that works best for trying on different areas and suburbs for size.
The rental market in most of Australia’s major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, moves quickly, and finding, and moving into, the right rental property isn’t always easy
Selling in Australia
It is becoming very easy and very popular to sell your own house in Australia. The increased use of the internet means that people are finding out just how easy the process is and they are also aware of just how much money can be saved by handling the sale without an estate agent. In recent years the process of selling a home yourself has been made much easier in Australia. The cost of doing this yourself is in the region of $500, which is a great saving on traditional estate agents fees which are based on a percentage of the sale price and can run into thousands of dollars.
When you sell your home in Australia there are two ways of doing so. You can sell your house under ‘private treaty’. In this case the seller sets a price and invites offers from buyers. The second method of selling is to put the house through an auction. It is a good idea to seek advice from estate agents and those in the area that have sold property as they will be able to tell you which method works best in your region.
Migrating to Australia
The first step is to find out more about the visas that are available to you on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. If you have skills or qualifications that Australia needs, you can be: nominated for a skilled visa by an employer, nominated for a skilled visa by a state or territory government.
There are a number of basic requirements that applicants must meet in order to be considered for the GSM program. While this is not a comprehensive list of all eligibility criteria, it does give a good idea of the minimum standards applicants must meet:
Age – you must be under 50 years of age when you apply.
English language – you should have sufficient ability in the English language to work in Australia (at least at competent level). This is measured through the International English Language Testing System
Qualifications – you must have your skills and qualifications assessed by the relevant assessing authority as suitable for your nominated occupation.
Nominated occupation – when you apply you nominate a skilled occupation, which fits your skills and qualifications.
Skills assessment – before you apply, you must have your skills assessed by the Australian assessing authority designated to assess your nominated occupation.
Health assessment – you must undergo a medical assessment, and show that you are in reasonably good health.
Character assessment – you must be of good character, usually this means a criminal record check.
LIVING IN AUSTRALIA
The standard of education in Australia is world-renowned, and many expats even migrate to Australia’s sunny shores specifically to become students. The national government places a strong emphasis on diversity and quality and is committed to excellence in research, teaching and student support.
Concerned parents moving with children of any age will find plenty of options for school in Australia, and will need to choose between public, faith-based or private (and international) institutions. Each has their respective pros and cons, and factors influencing decisions tend to revolve around curriculum and cost.
The mandatory ages for school attendance vary from state to state, but generally, attendance is compulsory for kids younger than 17 and older than five. However, the government also actively encourages parents to enrol their children in one year of early education (pre-school) prior to primary school.
Primary school in Australia lasts from Kindergarten to Year 6 (5 to 12 years old), and high school runs from Year 7 to 12 (12 to 18 years old).
The healthcare system in Australia is exceptional, and it comes as no surprise that the country’s population therefore claims one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Expats will learn that the governing principle behind healthcare in Australia is that it is a hybrid of both public and private service provision. In a nutshell, it can be regarded as sitting somewhere between the National Health Service (UK) and the fully privatised US system; but unlike the NHS, there is no universal free healthcare for expats.
That means that although most foreigners who come to live and work in Australia on a temporary basis may have access to the best available healthcare in the private and public system, they will have to pay for both. This ‘user-pay’ principle means that expats generally will have to pay for everything – from GP visits to a stay in a public hospital, if they are admitted in an emergency.
Expats working in Australia may not have sky-high salaries to boast about but, for the most part, they seem to be happy with their job, their work environment and their work-life balance; a statement that arguably stands as the most underestimated advantage of moving to and living in Oz.
Furthermore, those that do decide to relocate to Australia will find themselves within a national economy that’s strong and stable; the Oceanic island remains one of the only developed nations, other than Germany, to see an improvement in labour markets even in the face of the world’s financial crisis. Though 17 years of growth was curtailed by the recession, the country quickly recovered, and has since reinstated a remarkably low unemployment rate and a rising GDP.
While it’s true that certain well-thought out fiscal policies were partially responsible for salvaging progress, it’s also clear that Australia’s close associations with China and India, nations in the throes of rapid growth and industrialisation, have proved incredibly advantageous.
The three countries have become close trading partners, and resource-rich Australia has become a primary supplier for the growing populations of the emerging Asian superpowers.
It follows then that expats interested in working in Australia would do well to explore opportunities in mining and construction – both booming industries that the country finds itself without the proper manpower to service. As a result, individual companies and even regional and national governments have started going out of their way to secure foreign labour that can satisfy skills shortages, and keep their projects afloat.
Apart from meeting in the pubs or restaurants, Australians are into the habit of frequent home gatherings. They entertain friends at home with elaborate barbecues. A very warm welcome is offered to the guests who are treated with incredible hospitality thus making the Australians one of the best informal hosts you can ever come across.
The cosmopolitan complexion of Australia’s population has brought with it a wide and varied range of culinary treats. The Australian cuisine has been given an international make-over by the immigrant communities. In general the quick service restaurants are very popular in Australia. These places are also the sought after spots for the socializing crowds.
One important way of socializing in Australia is holing colorful festivals that attract tourists from every corner of the world. The Australian society is looked upon as a highly tolerant society that has accommodated people with diverse cultural backgrounds. In this society, each individual is given his space to retain and share their cultural beliefs and practices. All this has evolved a unique pattern of socializing where the rights of others are respected as your own.
Financing Your Property
The Australians don’t really call them mortgages, but call them more often as Home Loans. In essence the systems are much the same. Single people can borrow up to 3 times their annual salary, whilst couples can borrow up to 4.5 times their combined annual salary and most banks will bend these limits if they feel happy that you can support the repayments. However, there are catches and potential brick walls that will limit the borrowing potential for your Australian Mortgage.
You can only purchase a property in Australia if you are an Australian or a resident. If your visa does not say words like allowed to stay in Australia indefinitely, then you are more than likely NOT allowed to purchase a house.
Residents in Australia are expected to pay Australian tax for all income earned worldwide. There are allowances for those who have to pay tax on some income in another country and this amount can be offset against the Australian income tax. There are some types of work such as charity work where people who are out of the country for long periods of time will be exempt from Australian tax on the monies they earn while abroad. Those in this situation should be prepared to pay tax in the country where they are living and working. If you are considered to be a non-resident then you will need to pay tax in Australia only on income earned within the country. Those who are on a temporary resident’s visa are considered to be residents for the purposes of taxation.
There are a number of criteria for assessing the residency status of a person in Australia. If the person’s main home is in the country or if they spend more than half of the tax year living there then they are considered to be residents. If a person makes contributions to a superannuation fund then they are also considered to be a resident.
Tax returns are filed annually for those who need to complete them and it is not possible to file a joint return with your partner. The tax year in Australia runs from the 1st July to 30th June each year.
Cost of Living
In recent years, Australia had become known as an expat destination with a high cost of living due the strengthening of the local currency and a rise in house rental prices across the country.
According to the 2015 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Australian cities witnessed some falls in the rankings as the local currency depreciated against the US Dollar. Sydney (31) is ranked as Australia’s most expensive city for expats, however it dropped a number of places from its 2014 spot. Melbourne is ranked at 47th, also falling a number of places. Perth is ranked straight after Melbourne at 48th.
Regardless, expats should ensure that the salary they receive is enough to cover their expenses. Australians still complain about stretched household incomes, and the famed social welfare and benefit systems in place in Oz, like Medicare and superannuation, don’t seem to be mitigating the financial discomfort.