Sydney has one of the most competitive rental markets in the world. Before moving here we heard people compare it to New York and London. We read stories of people queuing for a 15 minute open house with 30-40 other people and not even getting a chance to view a home. We heard that your application had to be ready to submit immediately upon viewing the home or someone else would snatch it up within an hour. Needless to say, we were prepared for the worst and anticipating a very challenging process.
And while yes, housing is incredibly expensive (for an idea of typical rents in Sydney check out Sydney Moving Guide’s post here) our experience wasn’t nearly as stressful as we anticipated. We quickly learned that there are two seasons for the housing market in Sydney. During the summer season (October – April) every open house is met with long lines and multiple applications. During the winter season (May – September) it is a much less competitive market. Although it has been a bit of a shock leaving the beautiful summer weather of San Diego to arrive in a cold and rainy Sydney, we were definitely at an advantage in the rental process.
Rentals in Sydney are different from the United States in that the majority are managed by a property manger/real estate agent who oversees the entire rental process. The owner is not involved in the process at all (except to give the final OK to the agent to accept an applicant). During the winter season it was possible to get appointments to view some places individually. Other homes are only available to view during an open house (called an “inspection”), which is usually 15-30 minutes and held sometime during the day on Wednesday or Saturday. Anyone who has submitted an inquiry on the home in the days leading up to the inspection are informed by e-mail or text of the inspection time the day before.
About 3 days after we arrived we began combing through the rental listings and contacting agents. A handful of the homes we inquired about had already been rented (places are rarely on the market for longer than a week). We signed up to attend open inspections for three places the first Wednesday we were here and scheduled an individual inspection for a fourth house that same day. Another place that looked appealing was listed the Wednesday we were attending inspections and we made another individual appointment for Thursday.
In total we viewed four places (we skipped one of the open houses) and applied for two places. Both of our applications were accepted within hours of applying and we informed the agents of our choice a few hours later. Not counting the hours we spent looking through listings online our first few days here, we spent less than 48 hours viewing homes, applying and settling on our rental property.
Follow these steps for a hassle-free and successful rental search in Sydney:
1. Research the various regions of Sydney (Northern Beaches, Lower North Shore, Central Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, Inner West, etc.) and narrow down your preferred area to one or two regions before arriving (major factors such as commute time, price range, and whether you want an urban/suburban location will usually result in only one or two suitable areas).
2. Prepare your documents for your application to meet Australia’s 100 Point System. The 100 Point System is essentially Australia’s version of a credit check and how they determine your capacity to pay rent and be a good tenant. Various forms of identification are valued at different points and you must provide enough to add up to 100 points. Your passport will be worth 70 points. Other forms of ID will range from 10-40 points. Bring 5-10 photocopies of the following documents and keep a digital copy on your computer for online applications…
- Driver’s License (we copied our US license and international’s drivers license together)
- Marriage or Birth Certificate
- Copy of your credit card
- Bank statement
- Last 3 paystubs (if direct deposits aren’t shown on your bank statement)
- 457 visa or letter from employer confirming your employment offer and terms
- Rental ledger or mortgage statement for previous property
- Letter of reference from previous landlord
If you have a pet, also prepare a “pet resume” which outlines the age, breed, weight, etc. of your pet along with some information regarding their temperament, grooming and health, and any other pertinent details (i.e. that they are crated when left home alone, or whether they are indoor or outdoor). Include a picture. Also, consider attaching a reference letter from a previous neighbor that confirms that your pet does not cause excessive noise or has never been a nuisance.
3. Prepare a list of must-haves for your prospective rental home and decide on your budget (Sydney rent is posted at the weekly price and is collected either weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on what you arrange with the agent).
4. Apply for and set up an Australian bank account online. Various Australian banks have accounts that can be applied for by foreign nationals up to 12 months before arriving in the country. This allows you time to transfer money to the account and get everything ready by the time you arrive.
When you Arrive
5. Tour the regions you identified during step 1 and narrow down your preferred area to 2-3 neighborhoods (each of the regions on the map above have at least 5-10 neighborhoods). Stop by local parks, grocery stores, schools, beaches, etc. to get a feel for the character of each community.
6. Look through local listings to find homes that match your criteria, price range, and selected suburbs. Check listings on Tuesday for homes that will have an inspection on Wednesday and check again on Friday for homes that will have an inspection on Saturday. Submit an online inquiry to the agent requesting more information or details of the inspection (in many cases you need to register to attend an inspection). If a home is particularly intriguing, call the agent immediately and try to schedule an individual inspection prior to the group inspection.
The main rental listing websites are:
7. View homes. Make sure to map out your routes to get to the homes and, if convenient, do a drive by the day before so that you make it on time. The agents are great sources of information and are responsible for protecting the rights of the renter equally as much as the landlord, so ask lots of questions.
8. Submit your application. At the inspection the agent will give you directions for submitting your application. Many agents use an online form called 1form that provides a universal online application. If you are searching for a home during the competitive summer season, create and account and fill out this form prior to attending any inspections so that you are ready to submit an application immediately if you really like a place. If you are not in a competitive situation, then I’d recommend waiting since neither of the two places we submitted applications to used the 1form application.
9. Pay your Holding Deposit, Security Deposit and First Month’s Rent. Once your application is accepted, you need to pay a holding deposit (usually equivalent to one week’s rent) which will take the property off the market and hold it for you for one week, during which time you must sing the lease, pay your security deposit (rental bond) and pay the remainder of the first month’s rent (less the holding deposit) to secure the home. Our holding deposit was payable by credit card (a transaction fee applied). The rental bond was payable to a third party account either by credit card or bank transfer. Our agent e-mailed us a link with the information and we created an online account to manage the process. Our rent is paid via a direct deposit to the agent’s bank account (for us this involved withdrawing money from our U.S. account, depositing it into our Australian bank account, and then setting up the transfer). Make sure to have money available in an Australian bank account as soon as you begin viewing properties.
10. Get your keys and move in to your new place!