We’ve already talked about applying for your working holiday visa and getting set up in Oz, so now it’s time to find somewhere to live! Whether you’re staying put for your entire stay or travelling around the country, there are plenty of options for places to stay. Be warned though – housing standards can be low, prices are high and demand is fierce so you’ve got to be organised and ready to work to find your Aussie home.
We arrived without a clue of what to do and ended up staying in hostels, guesthouses, a friend’s spare room (thank you Aileen and Carlos!), a house share, then house sitting before finally getting our own place. So trust me when I say that we have learned a thing or two about house hunting in Oz! I’ll run you through each of your accommodation options and give you some price guides along with a few tips to find the right place quickly.
*My advice here is based off our experience hostelling in Adelaide and hostelling, house sitting, house sharing AND having our own place Melbourne. It might not relate exactly to every single place in Australia but I’m sure some of the stuff will be pretty similar all over the country – but prices will vary depending on where you are.
Unless you have accommodation organised before you leave you will probably have to stay in a hostel at first, especially if you’re not sure exactly where you want to settle and work! Some people on 417 visas even live in hostels for their entire stay in Australia, which seems crazy to me but then again I’m not 21 anymore.
Hotels and guest houses in Australian cities are prohibitively expensive for backpackers, plus it costs a LOT to eat out so even if you do find a cheap hotel its better to have a hostel with your own kitchen so that you can cook. Hostels in Australia are usually more expensive and of a lower standard than ones you would find in South East Asia. For twice the price of a private double room in Thailand we were staying in ten or twelve bed dorms in hostels across South Australia and Victoria. As I said, some people can handle this and are ok with living in a large dorm but if you’re not then I would make a plan to find a place as soon as you can.
Here are some of the places we stayed to give you an idea of price and quality:
In Adelaide we stayed in Backpack Oz and paid 50AUD / £28 / €32 per night for two beds in a 12 bed dorm. This hostel has a bar, a comfortable seating area with a tv and magazines, plus a really well equipped kitchen (albeit with annoying opening hours). They offer free bicycle rental so you can cycle to the beach or wineries and you can book tours at reception. The place is pretty loud at night and there were two fights there during the week we spent at the hostel – but we soon learned that this isn’t very unusual in Australian hostels!
In Melbourne we first stayed at Space Hotel; an upmarket backpacker hostel with a cinema room, rooftop hot tub and small gym. We stayed here after the week in Adelaide when we wanted some comfort. Double rooms start at $95 / £58 / €65 per night and dorm beds start at $40 / £22 /€25 – we paid $50 each for beds in a 4-bed dorm. There are some great last minute deals to be found on Agoda but it’s a really popular hostel so book early – especially at weekends.
After Space Hotel we moved to All Nations hostel nearby. We paid $31 / £17 / €19 for a bed in a 10 bed mixed dorm. It was a pretty run down hostel and the dorm smelled… exactly how you’d expect a room full of 10 sleeping teenagers to smell, but the location isn’t bad. The kitchen is filthy and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have no choice – it’s usually got beds free if you’re ever stuck.
If you do have to spend some time in hostels here are a few tips:
- Make sure the hostel has a nice, large kitchen (check reviews to find out kitchen details)
- Pick up a freezer bag to store your food in the communal fridge and carry it between hostels.
- Bring your own pillowcases (read my packing guide to see what I bring)
- Bring an eye mask and ear plugs – hostels here can get very noisy.
- Read reviews carefully to see if the hostel is right for you. Party hostels get awesome reviews but aren’t great if you’re apartment / job hunting and need sleep so don’t just trust the review score.
House shares are popular in Australian cities and there usually lots of rooms available at any time. They are are easier and quicker to move into than an independent rental, plus they’re a great way to meet new people. They usually work out as the same price, or cheaper, than a hostel but are a lot more comfortable, private and quiet! Lots of house shares take couples, so you don’t need to worry if you’re travelling with your partner.
To give you an idea of price, for our first 3 months in Melbourne rented a double room in a modern two bed apartment in Melbourne CBD for $1550 per month all bills included. For this we had a gym and pool in the apartment and our own en suite bathroom. We found this on Gumtree and stayed here for 4 months.
Gumtree and Flatmates are the top sites that have the most listings and other sites include Easyroomate and FlatmateFinders. For my fellow Irish travellers: there are also groups on Facebook called ‘Irish around Melbourne’ and ‘Irish around Sydney’ etc where people advertise for roommates, sell furniture, organise meet ups and nights out on Irish holidays. There are probably similar groups for other nationalities too! Definitely join these once you arrive.
Some tips if you’re looking for a house share:
- Set up a profile and email alerts on all of the above websites, and join the Facebook groups above.
- Rooms and apartments come unfurnished as standard in Australia so if you don’t want to spend money on kitting out your new place then specify that you’re looking for furnished.
- Check the listings first thing each day and reply immediately. Competition is fierce so you’ve gotta be on top of things!
- Be prepared to travel halfway across the city for a viewing and then get a call to tell you the room has been filled. It’s frustrating but it happens a lot!
- Make sure to check out neighbourhoods you want to live in first so that you can just focus on listings in the areas you want. Here is a list of good places to live in Melbourne and Sydney
After we moved out of our CBD apartment we spent 3 months house-sitting at a friend’s place while he was in Europe. If you do go to Australia over the winter then check out house sitting because a lot of people travel looking for sun in the winter and need someone to mind their house. We paid $1600 per month for a three bedroom house in South Melbourne.
House sitting can be a great short term option and can sometimes cost a fraction of independent rentals (they’re sometimes free!). Here are some popular sites to find a place: Aussie House Sitters, Mind A Home, and House Sitters.
Tips for house sitting:
- You might need to pay a sign up fee for these sites so that you can show you’re serious about house sitting.
- There’s no guarantee that you’ll get a house, but if you’re flexible about where you’re going to live then you stand more of a chance.
- Because you’re in someone else’s house with all of their things you might not ever feel *truly* relaxed at home. I was always worried I’d knock something over or scratch something!
- You’re taking care of someone else’s home so if you’re not confident that you or your travel buddy can keep the place clean and tidy, then find a house share instead.
I WISH we had rented our own flat from the beginning as it was cheaper than both house sharing and house sitting. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought and we felt immediately settled and happier having our own space. We weren’t sure if we were going to stay in Melbourne very long so we went with short term options instead.
To give you a guide price, we rented our own one bed flat with a communal pool in South Yarra, Melbourne for $1520 per month. Internet was $70 / £38 / €43 per month, electricity was $89 / £49 / €55 per month and gas was $14 / £8 / €9 per month.
Sign up to the following websites to search for properties: RealEstate, Domain, and Gumtree. Make sure to set up daily email alerts and book a viewing (they call them ‘inspections’ in Oz) as soon as you see something you like. Flats get snapped up so quickly it would make your head spin.
Rental agencies either do individual inspections or else have open inspection for an apartment where everyone can go see the place. You can schedule this directly though the RealEstate website.
If you’re interested after the inspection you’ll usually be told by the agent to apply through a website called 1Form which is a property application form used by most big agencies. You save all of your personal details, rental history, references etc on the site and use your profile to apply for any properties as you like. It takes a bit of time to set up but you only have to do it once and it makes it so easy to apply for properties. If you’re looking to move with someone then you both create a 1Form profile and link the two.
1Form asks for a lot of details which you might not have if you’re new to the country. I spoke to an estate agent about this and they said to just fill out what you can and that they’re very used to dealing with people on working holiday visas. Sometimes just proof you can pay the rent like a copy of a bank statement will be enough.
Here are some tips for finding a rental in Oz:
- Set up your 1Form profile before you start looking so that you’re prepared if you see a place you like
- Create a profile and set up alerts on rental websites and check / reply to these first thing each morning
- Go to any / all inspections in the areas you’re looking in. That way you can meet the agents and get a card to stay in contact.
- Haggle A LOT when it comes to rental prices.
- Make sure to specify that you want a start of tenancy professional clean. Our place was filthy when we moved in and the agents wouldn’t do anything about it because we hadn’t requested it specifically. The rental process isn’t the same as the UK and Ireland so make sure you ask for everything you want before you move in.
- Broadband is quite expensive in Australia and connections tend to be limited to a set amount of data unless you pay through the nose for an unlimited connection. Being from Europe, this came as a bit of a shock! Most providers also require you to buy a compatible wifi router from them for $100, but some allow you to provide your own – we managed to pick up a really good one for $20 on Gumtree.
All over the country there are people that are looking for help with their farms / houses / pets in exchange for free bed and board. Work Aways are super popular in Australia and New Zealand and are a great place to travel the country cheaply. They often take couples and friends, and it’s a great way to see bits of Oz you wouldn’t usually see on a holiday.
We didn’t get the chance to do a work away, but you can read some experiences here. The type of work people do varies; you can do computer work, gardening, house keeping or helping with animals. You work around 4-5 hours per day and you might be working with other Work Awayers so you can meet new people.
Check out Workaway.info to find homes all over Oz. Create a strong profile and check the site regularly to keep up with listings.
That’s pretty much everything we’ve learned during our house search in Oz! I hope it helps you to find the right place for you. In the next (and final) post in this series, I’ll tell you all about finding your perfect job in Australia!
And don’t forget to check out the other parts too:
- Part 1: Getting Your Visa. A step-by-step guide to applying for your 417 visa – and a few things to watch out for before you do.
- Part 2: Setting up your new life in Australia. From creating your bank account and choosing a phone plan to getting tax ready – and anything else you need to work in Australia.
Thanks for reading!