How do expats go about getting a mortgage Down Under?

Don't know if this is any use to most of us, unless the term "expat" is used loosely here. Coming from Singapore, the term gives me the first impression of a lucky man or woman who clinched a lucrative package to work in Singapore. That, of course, include a rental apartment at District 10 with expenses fully covered. A good buddy of mine used to work as a property manager who source properties for his clients to house their expats. These properties easily amount up to a rental of SGD$10,000 a month. Lucky bastards.

After I hopped out from the well, I realised that an expat simply means someone who is working in a country outside his or her counter of birth, either temporarily or permanent. That makes me an expat. A pissed poor expat, to be exact. That's far from the type of expat we used to know back there. In the real world, real expats have real problems - not struggling to decide which fine dining restaurant to along Boat Quay to dine that night. This is where Fiona's article comes in place. "How do pissed poor newly migrated peasants go about getting a mortgage Down Under?" That would be relevant to most of us.

Fiona Mayers
25 January 2014

How do expats go about getting a mortgage Down Under? 

Getting a mortgage can be a complex process at the best of times, but the situation can become even more difficult for expats, especially those who are still waiting for a permanent visa. 

This handy guide published by migration agency True Blue explains what non-Australian nationals need to do in order to secure a home loan, and it also helps to dispel one or two myths. A lot of people mistakenly believe that foreigners who are residing in Australia on a temporary visa are not eligible to apply for a mortgage. However, as long as the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) vouches for you, there’s nothing stopping you from buying property Down Under, even if you don’t currently live in the country. 

It’s no secret that major cities like Sydney and Melbourne are incredibly popular places to live, and as such house prices in these parts are sky-high. This explains why so many expats are looking towards the suburbs or rural areas for more affordable properties. 

Do your research!

We get that you want to live where all of the action is. But guess what? So does everybody else. It’s not just house prices that are high in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - the cost of living is also higher than in other parts of Australia. 

The most obvious solution is to find somewhere in the suburbs of these big, thriving metropolises. As a general rule, the further you move out of the centre of town, the cheaper things get, but this isn’t an exact science. Mosman is a good example of a suburb that is at the very highest end of the cost spectrum. Based in Sydney, this area recorded an eye-watering $1.1 billion of property sales in 2014 alone, which goes to show that it’s not always a good idea to live in the suburbs. 

This is where strong research comes into play. If you’re planning to apply for a mortgage, it’s worth putting together a checklist first. In doing so, you know that you’re fully prepared and that you’ll be getting the best possible deal on a property in a good but affordable area. 

What should be on this checklist? 

1) Chances are you’ll need to find a house that is close to a job that you’ve already got. This obviously limits you a little bit, but it also helps to narrow down your search for a new home. Scour the internet for details on different areas, taking numerous factors into account, such as the quality of schools, local amenities and transport links. 

2) Calculate how much you earn on a monthly basis, and work out how much you can afford to contribute to mortgage repayments. Remember to factor in the cost of living, as you don’t want to leave yourself with no disposable income each month. Missy Jo did a fantastic example of one in her blog [link]

3) If you’re an expat on a temporary visa, make sure you’ve applied to the FIRB before even considering who you will apply for a mortgage with. 

4) Once you’ve been approved, compare the mortgage market for the best deals. As the True Blue guide states, there are some companies that won’t entertain the idea of lending to a non-permanent resident, but on the flipside there are plenty that specialise in this area and you might actually find better rates than somebody who was born and raised in Australia. 

5) When you’ve got an idea of where you want to live and how much money you will have to commit each month, you can start putting in bids. Whether you’re living in the city, suburbs or out in a rural area, you need to make sure you undertake a survey on any property you plan to buy. This will identify any flaws which may cause you problems further down the line and can also give you more bargaining power on the final price.

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