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UK Expert Guide to Buying Property in Australia

May 3, 2016 expats / property / retirees


Everything You Need to Know About Buying Property in Australia

You’ve fallen in love with Australia and you want to call it home. Now what?

Even if you have a good understanding of real estate in your home country, you may find that things aren’t done the same way abroad. Property experts can help clients navigate the tricky parts of buying real estate overseas, and Brits thinking of buying property Down Under have several such experts whom they can turn to.

Things to do Before You Buy Property in Australia

You Must Go Through the Foreign Investment Review Board Before Buying Property

The staff at Worldwide Lawyers writes that all expats who plan to move to Australia must first contact the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), unless their spouse is an Australian resident. “Once you have made your application for FIRB permission, found your perfect Australian property, agreed to the purchase price…you are ready to move forward with the property buying process,” they say.

Open an Overseas Bank Account Before You Move

You’ll need access to your money once you move, so get your bank account up and running before you leave, HSBC recommends. Do this early on, as the bank warns that it can take up to 30 days for bank account applications to go through. Further, you will want to establish a banking relationship in Australia to make financing any big purchases much easier.

Dealing With Australian Banks

This is the followup to the point above.

Richard Musty, international director at Lloyds Banks, did a Q&A recently in The Telegraph in which he addressed the question of a dual Australian/UK citizen in Sydney who was told he could only acquire a mortgage from an Australian clearing bank when buying property locally.

Musty mostly confirmed that advice, noting that “the legalities and finance regulations are extremely complicated,” and doing business with a local bank is the safest way to secure a mortgage.

Australian Property Values

If you dream of waking up to the smell of salty sea air and the soothing sound of crashing waves, it’ll cost you.

As Fred Sparrow at Just Landed writes, in Australia everyone wants to live along the coast, not only for the views, but because this area has more schools, businesses and transportation options. However, Sparrow notes that it may be wise to consider living further from the coast, where “prices drop substantially — perhaps by 50%.”

Foreign Property Investor Fees

In 2015, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott sought to enact charges against foreign investors. Supposedly, these investors have driven up the prices of real estate throughout Australia, and this measure was to “level the playing field” for domestic buyers.

Abbott’s changes went into effect in December, and Domain lays out the new fees that apply to foreigners investing in agricultural land and residential real estate:

  • For property valued at A$1 million or less, the fee is A$5,000.
  • For property valued at more than A$1 million, the fee is A$10,000.
  • For each additional A$1 million of the property’s value, add another A$10,000 to the fee.


Rules for Expat Retirees

According to SkillClear UK Visa Services, expats can’t just up and move to Australia if they don’t plan on working. To be eligible for a retirement visa, you have to meet certain criteria:

  • Have no intention to work more than 20 weekly hours
  • Must have Australian Department of Health and Ageing-approved health insurance
  • Children must be financially independent
  • Must be approved by an Australian territory government agency or Australian state agency
  • Must be 55 or older

Visa Rules in Australia

Even after you get approved for a retirement visa in Australia, your work isn’t done. You’ll have to get your retirement visa renewed at certain intervals, according to Concept Australia. The criteria for renewing a visa are:

  • Must have active health insurance
  • Minimum income must be A$50,000
  • Australian territory government agency or state government agency must still provide visa approval

There Are Other Visas That Will Let You Stay in the Country

Mark King at The Guardian writes that other visas are applicable for expats moving to Australia. These include:

  • Business migration visa, “for entrepreneurial businesspeople and investors.”
  • Employer nomination scheme, “for people sponsored by an overseas employer.”
  • Skilled independent migration visa, “for those who are not sponsored, under 50, and with qualifications relevant to occupations on Australia’s ‘skilled occupation list’. This currently includes engineers, accountants, actuaries, vets, special needs teachers, dentists and electricians.”

Consider Renting Before Buying

Times Currency Services suggests that before making a permanent move, rent an apartment or condo in Australia first. That way, you can choose your dream city and give living there a trial run. Get to know the area and become comfortable with it. If you still love living there after a few months, upgrade to a house.


Britons Are Granted 3 Months of Visa-Free Travel to Australia

Citizens of the UK can get an eVisitor visa from the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). According to GoodMove, these ETA visas can be used anytime for 12 months after approval and allow you to stay in the country for three months to scope out potential properties. The visitor visa is free.

Currency Rates Can Determine When It’s Right to Buy

When planning your purchase, watch fluctuations in the Australian dollar closely. In 2015, we saw the currency steadily fall in value against the Pound, bottom out at around 2.20 GBP in September, then rise back to around the 1.90 GBP mark. You can also track currency pairs on our site by clicking “Trends” at the top of this page.

Bringing Pets Could Add a Layer of Complication

John Kettle at Stacks Law Firm warns pet owners about buying off-plan properties from local developers. Many of those properties will have bylaws that restrict pet access or outright forbid them.

And if you do plan to bring a pet to Australia, you’ll have to submit a form to the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which notes that “cats and dogs can be imported to Australia under strict conditions designed to manage biosecurity risks.”

Water Is Expensive, Electricity Is Not

You may be surprised by your utility bill during your first month in Australia. Kwintessential says that the water bill may be higher because Australia often experiences droughts. However, gas is quite affordable, and electricity is also inexpensive.

Just make sure to check appliances before unpacking. “British and most European appliances are adaptable to Australian voltage, but those migrating from the States or Canada must get appliances checked by a qualified electrician and adapted accordingly,” they say.


Know What You Can’t Ship

You’ll have to decide whether you want to buy furniture and items in Australia or ship your possessions before you move. If going with the latter, Australia Buying Guide mentions there are some items that are prohibited from being shipped into the country, such as:

  • Unlabeled boxes
  • Unclean shoes (“If you are putting shoes in the container, they need to be thoroughly disinfected, especially the soles,” the site says. “The stronger cleaning product you use, the better, as the smell will show you have cleaned them properly.”
  • Any wicker or bamboo furniture

Bring Your Car With You If Possible

It might be cheaper to import your own car than to buy one upon arrival. Emigrating to Oz writes that anyone buying a car in Australia could be subject to a tax of as much as 33 percent extra, which is known as the Luxury Car Tax. If the car you buy locally costs more than A$57,180, prepare to pay this extra tax.

images by: Seb Zurcher, Linda Xu, Frances Gunn, ©andreypopov/123RF Stock Photo

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