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Setting Up Home Down-Under: Buying, Building or Renovating Property

Setting Up Home Down-Under: Buying, Building or Renovating Property

Buying property is still possible here in Queensland, like the other states in Australia. The good news is that for the first time in 9 years, in 2005 Australia has recorded it’s lowest annual increase in property prices. Land prices have even decrease in some places to be 50% of the price they were two years ago.

Buying property is still possible here in Queensland, like the other states in Australia. The good news is that for the first time in 9 years, in 2005 Australia has recorded it’s lowest annual increase in property prices. Land prices have even decrease in some places to be 50% of the price they were two years ago.

Yes, real estate agents are finally taking their holidays for the first time in months. There’s sufficient calm to take a stock check of what is available and at what cost. Given that Australia is a relatively sparsely populated country there is a great possibility to self build, buy a brand new home &land package or buy an existing home and renovate or do minor alternations. See www.realestate.com.au

Renting When You First Arrive

It is of course often worth renting in a new country when you first arrive. Renting in a suburb where you hope to buy your home is ideal, you get settled, children start at the local school and you get to know the route to work, shops and activities. The hard part is getting to know the right suburb to choose a rental. Suburb Maps and details for Brisbane: www.ourbrisbane.com  

Starting the Property Purchasing Process 

Several months researching suburbs, home ownership options and market prices can leave you wandering what to offer to a real estate agent when finding your dream home and frustrated to the point when you just want to get on with it and buy. Currently the market is flat so it’s a good buyers market and you can afford to take your time. However, if you’re a newbie you’re still vulnerable to get frustrated and could still end up paying more than necessary. 

The two main typical problems new immigrants face are lack of credit history here in Australia or being swamped by very slick sales people who are operating very much on behalf of the seller.

For the first problem you’ll need to talk to a mortgage broker or buyers agent (www.aussiemigrant.com). Many Australian mortgage brokers or banks still get confused about what to do with new immigrants who are working on short contracts, arrive with a lump sum of capital and still can’t necessarily put all the right ticks in all the right boxes. Immigration specialists, such as the one aimed, can help here by doing the leg work and since specializing in helping migrants will give individual advice.

For the second problem the general rule is, if you feel pressured and are getting confused then take on help. Don’t rush in to buying because you’re being hounded by a real estate agent. As Aussie Migrant Director of Financial Planning says “Listen to advice from local experts who know how the property market and economy work here. Sit down with a Buyers agents, such as ourselves, and draw up a short list of suitable properties and then have help with the purchase negotiation. You only want to pay the value price of the property not what the estate agents want you to pay.”

My husband and I were surprised by how much we could propose below the given market price of an advertised house. The actual price we finally ended up paying was well below the asking price. Like us, new immigrants do tend to stand out as those not in the know. House market prices can seem to be random and the competition between real estate agents is fierce. 

Location City or Outer Suburbs

As anywhere it takes a while to familiarize oneself with the feel of a city and the character of potential suburbs in which to live. In deciding whether we ideally wanted to be by the water, city or have a home with acreage lead to a few months contemplating and weighing up the pros and cons. 

If work takes you to the city center then look at the infrastructure of the train lines, bus routes and highways into the CBD, as well as possible future schools for children and then the edited list of “˜must haves’ nearby.

Visiting one or two friends with acreage put a halt to our countryside ranch idea. Lovely and quiet, an amazing amount of land and personal space or privacy but too much lawn mowing for us! That plus being timid of snakes and spiders we decided it wasn’t going to be our lifestyle dream but still a great option none the less.

{mosbanner right}City living is still very possible in Brisbane. Many city-side suburbs are within walking and cycling distance of the CBD. There is also a full range of house and unit sizes and it is possible for a family who want a home with a yard and pool but less travel time to work to find a property surrounded by park lands to suit their needs. Brisbane is a very “˜green’ city, meaning plenty of park lands and bush lands dividing up the suburbs.

A 40 minute journey out of the CBD to the coast offers several established or up and coming suburbs. One or two coastal suburbs, Manly (south) and Shorncliff (north) have a name for being fashionable and well maintained with house prices starting at around 600 000$AU with anything overlooking the water starting from 1$ Million AU.

With a large number of retired residents in the north eastern suburbs we elected for a property in an area which is on the change and yet to peak. New families are slowly moving in and the area is still affordable and likely to increase in value as time goes on. Close to shops, train line, bus route, schools, medical centers and with a good established community spirit.

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Building a new home 

It is very popular here to self build. Large blocks of land, subdivided into plots starting at 400m2 are being released by the government and private sellers on a regular basis. Dotted in amongst existing suburbs and in well placed locations prices generally start at around 250 000$AU.  

Alternatively there are new suburbs and housing estates being planned and built in mass. These houses range in style, generally are brick and can be viewed prior to buying at display homes and village sites. In suburbs such as Springfield lakes, North Lakes and Forest Lakes, a little way out of the city but still within the 25-30km radius. House and land packages for a four bedroom brick house, modern kitchen, two bathrooms, open plan living area and with a double garage, sitting on 400m2 of land start from 160 000$AU and go up to 500 000$AU. Generally each village has a price range for the houses of that suburb which dictates the buyers.

Choosing to build independently on a bought block of land gives more freedom in house style. A Queenslander, wooden in construction is very typical for this state (hence the name). It is also possible of course to self build a brick home. Both house types require like any building work a great deal of liaison with architects, draftsmen, engineers, local council and builders. It’s typical at the moment for builders to be quoting for jobs 12 months in advance. Plus it’s good to get more than one quote, costing and reference (3 is recommended).

{mosgoogle left}Having one or two friends who have taken the plunge and bought land in an established suburb, it does seem very possible to manage and co-ordinate. Designing a home which fits in with building regulations and then having all plans passed by the local council does at present take 6 months in the planning stage.

Renovating

Similarly to building, renovating is a long process with any extensions and structural change needing to be approved in advance by local council. There is a lot of red tape surrounding house alternations. Trades men do seem to be in short supply and they must have their tradesmen qualifications. Asking neighbors and for several quotes for each job is a must, as is the flexibility with starting dates for jobs. Not all workmen show up or complete a job within the time frame promised! 

To appreciate the outside living lifestyle its worth having a large deck or shaded entertainment area. As to the advantages of brick verses wooden houses it does come down to a matter of taste and ability/desire to maintain.

A useful site for renovation tips and contacts is: www.ourbrisbane.com/living/renovations

Methods of Purchasing

If a first time buyer in Australia you are eligible for a first time buyers deal, which is worth roughly 7000$AU and covers a bit more than your buying costs. 

Auctions are a popular way to buy/sell, allowing the buyers to bid until the minimum asking price is achieved.

There are some draw backs such as no cooling off period or possibility to allow for pest or building inspection prior to purchase.

Putting in an offer at the real estates office if fairly simple and only involves filling in one or two forms. Don’t feel pressured to fill them in then and there. Consult your buyers agents or at least sleep on it. You can make several offers if your first is rejected.

What’s standard

Here in Brisbane, it is possible to have 600m2 or more of land but the standard in suburbia is 400m2. Housing and pest inspectors prior to purchase advise on termites (this problem does exist here), age of the property, condition and foreseeable work. Very few Brisbane houses have insulation, more common are the air conditioners which are convertible in winter to heating. Asbestos is being removed from property and schools at the moment with a big awareness campaign, but does still exist. All in all though it’s a great place to live and have a home or investment property.

For more information about the writer, Sarah Muxlow: www.writeup.com.au
For more information about The buyers Agent Aussie Migrant: www.aussiemigrant.com or email [email protected]
For current property prices to buy or rent given by suburb: www.realestate.com For details/reviews of suburbs in Australia: www.ourbrisbane.com
©Sarah Muxlow