Relocating or Moving Home to Australia and Needing a Property Pronto?
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Researching a home from abroad is daunting. I know because we've done it twice.
Without someone on the ground you can trust to vet the properties and negotiate on your behalf, it can be very difficult for house hunting expats.
Many simply wait to return home to begin their search in person.
With the speed of property price increases since the start of the year, waiting weeks and months can erode your purchasing power. This means you get less house for your budget or you'll need to find more money to get what you want.
If you're planning to buy a property in a rising market and the money you'll spend isn't invested somewhere that's returning the same (or a better) rate of growth, then you're losing buying power with every week that passes.
Buying from overseas certainly adds complexity, but it isn't impossible by any means.
Pssst: If you're not an Australian or New Zealand citizen and you don't have permanent residency status, you'll likely need approval to purchase residential real estate in Australia (see FIRB guidance note if you're unsure).
For those pushing ahead on their house purchase plans from abroad, read on.
Here's the areas you'll want to focus on:
Set your budget and arrange finance
Get your finance pre-approval in order. Making offers 'subject to finance' is never advisable as vendors will always treat your conditional offer as inferior to an unconditional one.
Many lenders get toey around employment security as it goes to the heart of serviceability. Some lenders don't like probation periods so if you're moving home to take a new job make sure you talk to a few as soon as you can to understand how they'll view your particular situation. Better yet: engage a mortgage broker who will find the best match for you.
Finally, getting approval for the maximum amount you're prepared to borrow will save you the hassle and wasted time of going back to the bank if you want to buy at a higher price.
Choose your location
If you've lived in your hometown before, but not for a while, make sure you make plenty of enquiries as to what's changed (negative and positive). Demographic shifts can happen quickly and what you remember from 5 or 10 years ago might be completely different today.
If you've got children's schooling to consider, then the My School website publishes nationally consistent school-level data about every school in Australia.
Whilst COVID has certainly cemented working-from-home and hybrid arrangements for many Australians, a commute may still be on the cards on your return. Traffic can be horrendous in our capital cities so it's well worth plugging in your office location to get travel times for when you're most likely to be commuting. We all vary in what time we can stomach in peak-hour traffic and your dream home might translate to a nightmare daily commute if you haven't done your research.
Proximity to public transport is another factor to consider carefully. Train stations within a kilometre or two is always a great box to tick when buying a house. Remember not all train stations are created equally so look into service frequency, connecting services and parking.
Research comparable sales
Get deep into the most recent comparable sales data for the suburb and house type (land and accommodation size) you're seeking. You can find this by filtering for SOLD properties on realestate.com.au. This will give you the best idea about what your budget will buy you.
Build relationships on the ground
Introduce yourself to real estate agents operating in your target suburb and outline your brief so they can pass on the any pre-listing or off-market listings. They're busy people, so you'll need to pester them at least weekly to keep front of mind.
You'll also need a building inspector to check the structural soundness of any property you want to purchase and the services of a conveyancer to administer the title transfer once you've signed a contract of sale.
Seek referrals from friends and family and online review forums but do make sure anyone you choose is licensed.
Inspections by proxy
When time zones allow, live video calls to walkthrough a property with an appointed proxy are the best way for you to experience a property and direct the proxy to parts you'd like to view in more detail. Record the call so you can watch back a few times, slowing and pausing in parts. A real estate agent should be flexible to do this for you if you don't have contacts on the ground.
Bidding / Negotiating by proxy
You'll need to provide written authority to anyone you appoint to bid or negotiate on you behalf and execute a power of attorney if they are also to sign a Contract of Sale. Always use include "and/or Nominee" next to the Purchaser name so that your appointed agent can sign the physical contract for the purchase of land, reserving the ability to register you as the actual owner of the property recorded on the title deed at the time of transfer.
Make no mistake: such a big investment warrants expert representation.
HUNTER Advocacy offers a licensed buyer's agent to manage all of the above and more for expat buyers. We know Melbourne inside-out and provide data-driven insights to help you define your buying criteria. We manage all aspects of the search, negotiations and settlement from the ground and keep you in the loop every step of the way. Unlike family and friends, we give an unbiased and objective evaluation of properties so you can be confident you're securing an investment-grade asset that meets your defined criteria.