For a significant percentage of people planning a move abroad, their move is designed to be permanent. Rather than a temporary relocation for a short-term employment contract for example, their move is emigration for life…
If you fall in to this bracket and you’re emigrating to Australia you may well be planning to buy real estate to make your new home abroad a permanent base.
The good news is that Australia’s property buying system is secure, legally well-protected, and foreign citizens who become permanent residents in Australia have the right to own immovable property in Australia.
Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of the purchase process however, it’s important to mention the fact that as a newly arrived expat in any nation in the world you are best advised to rent a home for at least 6 months.
You may have your heart set on living in Sydney or Melbourne, Cairns or Brisbane, but as you become better integrated into the Australian way of life, as you spend time really getting to know more about your new adopted nation, you may find that your initial destination plans change.
What’s more, even if you do remain in your original location because of work, schooling or simply because it really is the best destination for your lifestyle, the time you spend getting to know the wider environs will naturally lead you to exploring new neighborhoods, towns and villages.
You therefore need to spend time in a temporary rental home exploring where you would be better off buying real estate.
Whilst the property market in Australia is relatively buoyant and there is plenty of movement in the market across the nation, it’s expensive to buy and sell property, which means that most people don’t want to make a mistake with their first purchase! Therefore, use at least the first few months in Australia researching where you should be buying.
In terms of the buying process, it’s simple: –
- Do your market research. Property prices vary dramatically across the country. Work out your budget and what it will buy you in your chosen destination.
- Sort your financing out alongside organizing viewings of multiple properties so you can really get a feel for the market.
- Know that if you have no credit history in Australia you may find getting a mortgage difficult – it’s better to know this in advance of committing to purchase! Work with your bank to determine what you need to have in place in terms of credit history, deposit and personal documentation in order to qualify for a mortgage.
- You may qualify for the First Home Owner Grant Scheme (FHOG), which is a government-funded scheme that provides a non-means tested payment of $7,000 to first time home-buyers. More information is available here http://www.firsthome.gov.au
- Once you have an offer of a home loan in place, or if you already have the cash to purchase real estate in your bank, you’re eligible to make offers on homes you’re interested in purchasing.
- In Australia some homes are sold at auction, others are sold via an offer and negotiation process referred to as ‘private treaty’. If you make an offer this is usually non-binding until you sign the contract of sale.
- If you buy a house at auction you will need to exchange contracts and pay a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) on the spot. If you’re not buying at auction and you have an offer accepted for a property you need to pay a holding deposit (usually 1%) to show good faith, and then pay the 10% deposit when you exchange contracts.
- You need to get a conveyancer (or solicitor) in place at this point. They handle the legal and administrative work involved in transferring the title of ownership of the property from one person to another.
- Your conveyancer will review the contract of sale for your chosen property. Your conveyancer should always be from a different company to the vendor’s convenacer to ensure transparency and fair representation.
- Prior to signing and exchanging contracts you need to organize pre-purchase reports, searches and inspections. These can include strata inspection reports, building and pest inspection reports. Advice about what is required depending on where you are buying and the type of property can be sought from the real estate agent, your conveyancer and independent real estate experts.
- Assuming all is in order with contracts and inspections, you and the seller will each sign a copy of the sales contract. This is known as an ‘exchange of contracts’. A cooling-off period may or may not apply after the exchange of contracts – ensure you know whether you have a cooling off period or not before you sign. You will pay your deposit at this time.
- A settlement date is then agreed upon which is generally 42 days after the contract signing date.
- You then prepare for settlement by ensuring you pay stamp duty (purchase tax), get any other funds in place, have a final inspection of the property to ensure it is in the order you expect it to be, and then it is settlement day!
- On this day funds are sent, paperwork is exchanged between legal representatives and you become the legal owner of your brand new home in Australia!
There are various fees and taxes involved in the buying process, and you’re advised to budget at least 7% of the purchase price for these, however your conveyancer will be able to give you a more accurate estimation which may vary depending on factors such as which State you’re buying in, whether you’re using a mortgage, and which pre-purchase reports you need.
A final point to mention is that if you’re not a permanent resident of Australia, you’re not an Australian citizen and you’re not a foreign national holding a special category visa, (such as a New Zealander), then you will have to have prior approval from the Australian government to buy real estate in Australia.
This does not affect the majority of expats who move permanently to live in Australia.
Rhiannon Davies writes for Shelter Offshore, the leading online expatriate resource with living abroad, offshore investment and property abroad information channels.