Having decided on a school and a suburb the next logical step was to find ourselves a place to rent.

Our plan was to organise it while we were still in the UK so we can move straight into our new home rather than wander around from one place to another viewing different properties for the first few weeks.  We also wanted to start ‘living’ as soon as possible. Therefore we planned to have everything lined up from schools to transport to accommodation as we literally ‘walked off the plane’.

So how did our property hunt unfold?

We started with realestateaustralia.com Made a list of local Real Estate Agents and used the web and the map feature to locate houses/flats of interest to us.  Similar to websites focussing on the UK, the website has a feature that enables you to find where the local schools are and how far from the house they are which is very useful.

Our criteria were as follows:

  • We wanted a furnished place
  • 6 month break clause in a 12 month contract
  • Walking distance to school
  • Short walk to the beach (or foreshore of Port Philip bay)

We were flexible with the numbers of bedrooms and were prepared to go down to a minimum of 2 bedrooms. Also we were prepared to rent a placed just based on photos and the floor plan.  We rang a number of Real Estate Agents introducing them to our plans of going to Australia and intention to rent a place and have it organised and waiting ready for us before our arrival.

Our first disappointment came with the realisation that we can’t rent a place in Australia while being in the UK unless we have somebody to view a place on our behalf.

The second came with the realisation that in Australia (at least our experience) there is virtually no property for rent that comes furnished.  Having planned to stay in Australia for only 12 months we didn’t want to spend money on furnishings.  As it turned out we not only had to factor purchasing/acquiring furnishings but also white goods! Yes, in Australia, ‘unfurnished’ means completely unfurnished meaning the landlord does not equip the property with either a fridge or a washing machine.  Sometimes they throw in a dishwasher.

Our third disappointment came with the realisation that in Australia they don’t do six month break clauses.  It’s like you’re talking a different language when you ask about this and the real estate agents couldn’t wrap their tiny brains around this concept.

So all up it didn’t look good for us.

One of the mums from Facebook Melbourne Mums Group happened to live in the suburb that we wanted to move to.  She was very kind and agreed to do the viewings on our behalf.  That was an enormous help for which we are totally grateful.

First viewing we asked her to go didn’t even happen.  That brought another issue that we were not aware of.  Now if we complain about real Real Estate Agents in the UK it is usually justified.  However, in Australia things are much worse!  In the UK if you like a property you ring the agent and they arrange a suitable viewing time for you.  If you have more than one property to view from the same agent, it is not unheard that they simply give you a lift from one place to another.  That at least was our experience from a few years ago when we looked for properties in the UK.

In Australia it is a different type of game and the rules are strict for most of the time.  The way it works is that the Real Estate Agents organise ‘open days’ which are a 15 min slot at a certain time chosen by the Real Estate Agent.  The potential tenants have to register for the open day and then everyone turns up for the slot at the same time.  The REA ticks off their names from the list and they are all free to run around to view the property while the  Agent waits and answers questions if you have them.  If you are interested in the property you fill in (usually online) an application form through portals such as 1form.  Here is an example of a form.

Sometimes properties are so popular that tenants submit an application before even viewing the property (so they have pending applications in the hope to speed the process up and beat the competition).

What usually happens is that all application are handed to the landlord and then they choose the most suitable tenant.

The open day sometimes is just cancelled without notice.  And that was happened to us when we organised for our friend to view the house on our behalf.  The evening before the viewing we spoke with the agent and they confirmed that everything was ok and the viewing would be taking place.  However, when our friend arrived she was greeted with this sign [photo]

Also, in Australia the agents split amongst themselves property they manage.  So for example, if you ring up to enquire about a house you like and the call will be answered by an agent that doesn’t manage the house you are interested in, they will not give you any info or answer any questions as they only know ‘their’ properties.  They ask you to leave your phone number saying they will get the right person to call you. Often they don’t ring back and so you have to chase them repeatedly!

Our experience was exactly that.  Particularly bad was Point2 & McEwing & Partners.  We had emailed them and called multiple times trying to arrange a viewing of a property we were interested in.  Every time somebody else answered the phone not knowing anything about the house we were interested in. Every time we heard the same story that they are very busy and the right person will get back to us shortly.  All that lasted the whole 2 weeks of us trying to get to speak to the right person and arrange a viewing.  After two week Lisa finally emailed me back saying “sorry but the house has just been rented out”

It felt to us that the real estate market is working towards the landlords advantage and is set up in a way that is as easy as possible for real estate agents.  It also felt like there was an undersupply of houses on the market hence the tenants were not somebody worth giving decent customer service. 

If you have any further questions about our property hunt please comment below and get in touch.  We will do our best to answer any questions as best we can.