Finding Housing in Australia

Finding an apartment in another country can be a daunting task. While it will be easier if you wait until you get to Australia, still the process can take some time. Or you may find exactly what you’re looking for in the first place you visit.

However, it helps to be prepared by knowing where to look, what to look for, and what you’re getting into. I will also go into some details about my own personal experiences in Sydney and Perth (which were extremely different experiences).

Sydney at night

Where to Find an Apartment

If you are eager to start searching ahead of time, Gumtree is good for finding apartments. Just beware of scam ads on Gumtree or Craigslist. If a place seems too good to be true, it is. And if a friendly “reverend” wants to let a nice person like you rent out his apartment but needs to send the keys from the UK, block sender! That’s one of the most common scams and they post new listings all the time. (I’d say we emailed about 5+ listings that came back as that same scam story.)

Other sites that are good (but will often be more expensive once you account for the fact that they are often unfurnished and usually don’t include internet or other bills in the price like many on Gumtree do) are realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. They will also usually require you to sign a lease contract, which can be difficult to do if you don’t have a job yet, and sometimes require a rental history in Australia or references from people you’ve rented from before. (It’s also very competitive for housing in the city. Every single showing we went to was full of people.)

Once you’re in Australia finding a place to live will be much easier. I still highly recommend Gumtree, but of here are plenty of other resources out there. Just walking around the city you will see tons of flyers posted from people looking for roommates. Hostel bulletin boards and staff can often be of help as well. Networking and meeting people (both other backpackers and locals) can lead to information on available rooms or apartments. Personally, I think sub-leasing or sharing a place with a regular person, rather than going through real estate companies, is the easier way to go. I suppose there is some less security in signing your own little contract with someone and hoping they return your bond (security deposit), but they’re also hoping you’ll pay them every week so it’s a two-way street.

Personally, I think sub-leasing or sharing a place with a regular person, rather than going through real estate companies, is the easier way to go. I suppose there is some less security in signing your own little contract with someone and hoping they return your bond (security deposit), but they’re also hoping you’ll pay them every week so it’s a two-way street.

Rent and Bond

For a quick breakdown of what you need to know about renting an apartment: generally, you’ll have to pay a bond right off (which is usually anywhere from one to four weeks rent) plus anywhere from one or two weeks to a month’s rent ahead.

Assuming you’re renting a decently-cheap place near the city, let’s say it’s a $300 p.w. apartment (any price you see will be per week), you should expect to pay at least $1200 down before you move in (half of that being bond, basically a security deposit which should be returned when you move out*). You may be able to find something that requires less money down, but you should be prepared for this.

[NOTE: Specific information about typical costs may be outdated.]

Also be sure to check what is included in the rent. Additional costs such as electricity, water, Foxtel (subscription cable, although I’ve found Free-To-Air to be plenty sufficient for our viewing pleasure), and Internet (Note that Australia has caps on data usage so if you watch a lot of movies, play games, etc. then you will have to spend big bucks for a higher limit) can add a great deal onto your weekly or monthly spending if you’re not careful.

*On a personal note of warning about bond: after leaving our Sydney apartment, the guy we rented for refused to return our $600 bond, claiming we had left damages. Since we were already on the other side of the country traveling around (in places with little to no phone reception), we couldn’t sufficiently rebuff his claims and had to accept ourselves as $600 poorer. Either be prepared for this or stick around after you move out to be able to deal with it.

Housing Options

Your options for housing are seemingly endless, and what you’re looking for will depend on if you’re moving here alone or with a friend or partner. The hostel route is fine for a while to get started.  There are also plenty of

The hostel route is fine for a while to get started.  There are also plenty of backpacker- and student-geared boarding houses and even whole communities (with shared houses and pretty nice facilities, though they tend to be a little bit further out of the city). You can find ads for that kind of housing in the backpacker magazines in most hostels. There are also plenty of shared houses and apartments. In

There are also plenty of shared houses and apartments. In some you might get your own room (though it will either be very small or a bit pricey) or you will typically find yourself sharing a room with 1-3 other people of your gender. Shared student and backpacker housing can be a lot of fun, but there are also plenty of ads for more mature working adults looking for roommates to share a less raucous lifestyle. And of

Shared student and backpacker housing can be a lot of fun, but there are also plenty of ads for more mature working adults looking for roommates to share a less raucous lifestyle. And of course, you can always get your own apartment.

It’s worth noting that different cities will have different combinations of the above-mentioned living situations available. Pretty much all of the above will be found in Sydney and probably Melbourne as well. Smaller cities like Perth, Brisbane, or Darwin may not have as many options. Additionally, finding furnished accommodation may also be slightly more difficult (though certainly not impossible).

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Sydney (My Experience)

In my own situation (upon first arriving in Sydney), we lived in a hostel for a little less than a week, then moved into a building that was geared toward traveling couples (see, something for everyone!). It was a temporary place until we could find something better suiting.

The pros of it were: there was no contract, we just had to give a week’s notice of when we wanted to move out and we only had to pay a week in advance, there was a very low bond (I think just $300), and it was close to the city (in the heart of Kings Cross, which some may see as a positive while others a negative!) for an OK price ($300 p.w.) that included water and electricity.

The negatives were it was a bit dirty and uncared-for (i.e. infested with cockroaches and not in the best condition, especially the kitchen and bathroom), didn’t have wireless or any kind of internet, and lacked some other conveniences we wanted, nor did we want to live in Kings Cross.

It took a lot longer than we thought to find an acceptable place to move to. We really didn’t want to budge above $300 p.w. unless it was a truly awesome place with absolutely everything we wanted. And that budget limit also included taking into account all other costs: furnishings, Internet, water and electricity, etc. Many places that appeared to be in our price range would then zoom up in price once we learned we had to pay extra for all those other things (it really adds up!)

So we spent many weeks searching Gumtree, ripping off numbers from papers posted in the city, and scouring the Internet, newspapers, and magazines. We called a lot of people and visited a lot of apartments, always finding a reason not to go for it. Finally, we found the perfect place on Gumtree.

The place was in Redfern (well, technically Waterloo), and I did in fact almost shoot it down because I wanted to be more in the city. And when we visited at night the area seemed a bit sketchy. However, the week we moved in I ended up getting a job really close by and the location actually ended up being way better than if we’d been in the city. The area wasn’t so bad, and the uppity nice-ness of Danks Street and the beautiful relaxation of Centennial Park were only minutes away.

Otherwise, we lucked out big time on the apartment. It met our budget of $300 p.w. with all bills and Internet (with a high limit!) included. It was a two bedroom, but our roommate was a friendly Italian guy who pretty much stayed in his room. We had our own bathroom and balcony off our room, which was nicely furnished, plus a lovely kitchen, our own washer and dryer, and a huge living room with really nice furnishings.

It was way more than what we ever expected in our price range, but just taking a small hop out of the city (and sharing) you really can see a huge decrease in price. And we were still in the first section by train and bus into the city, so it was just as cheap to get downtown from Redfern as from Kings Cross.

Of course, as I mentioned previously, we got kind of shafted out of our $600 bond because our sub-letter claimed we had left damages. While I can understand perhaps he did find something wrong somewhere that we might have missed, I can’t imagine it was $600 worth. Again, though, we were driving around Australia at the time and could pretty much never get ahold of him to figure things out. Eventually, we had to accept defeat, despite how much it hurt our pockets and our egos.

Perth (My Experience)

Perth was an entirely different experience. I had imagined we would have a much harder time finding a place that met all our expectations. In reality, we got just about everything we could have wanted and on our first day in the city, no less! We arrived having a place to crash at a friend’s house. The week before we got to Perth we had looked at apartments on

Gumtree and found one that seemed almost too good to be true. It was in a great location, within walking distance of the city (and also on the free bus line and across from a train station). It was furnished, even with a flat screen TV (in the main room) and washing machine. It included all electricity, water and Internet (with an even higher cap than our last place). There was a pretty park across the street. And it was only $270 p.w. ($30 cheaper than our Sydney apartment).

Perth Apartment

The only thing that made it less-than-perfect was that it wasn’t ours alone. (Oh, and our bedroom didn’t have its own balcony…) It was a three bedroom, with two other girls living there. But they were both very friendly and were hardly around anyways.

We looked at it our first afternoon in Perth. We said we’d think about it. I was hesitating because it just felt weird to go with the very first, and only, place we looked at. Especially after so many months searching in Sydney. But we couldn’t think of a good reason not to go for it, so the next day we called and said we’d take it, and a couple days later we were already all moved in.

The internet took a while to get sorted (we had all just newly moved into the apartment) and the bathroom door handle was broken for a few days. And we had a couple kind of… interesting issues with our roommates, but compared to some of the other crap we’d dealt with in Sydney, those were problems we didn’t mind too much.

Read more about working abroad in Australia