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- Moving out of home? Experts suggest setting a budget of all your expenses first.
- When applying for a property without rental history, offer supporting documentation and take care with the application form.
- If joining a share house, find out what the housemates’ routines are like.
- Do a thorough condition report as you move into your new home.
Moving out of home for the first time can be an exciting prospect, but in a cost-of-living and rental crisis, it’s more important than ever to do plenty of research.
Whether you’re looking to move in with friends, join an existing share house, or head out solo, these are the key steps to keep in mind.
It can be hard to find a rental property while rents are high and vacancies are low.Credit: Chris Hopkins
Preparation is key
Whether moving out of home is a choice or a must, the first step is tracking your income and expenses to set a budget, says Finder’s Money expert Sarah Megginson.
“It’s really empowering,” Megginson says. “It lets you see how much you earn and how much your life costs.”
While living costs can vary, Finder modelling shows the average cost of bills, household maintenance items and groceries for young Australians adds up to about $190 a week. That’s on top of rent, which could cost $290 a week if you were sharing an apartment costing $580 – the median unit rent across Australia’s capital cities in June.
“It’s not just rent but also utilities, energy and gas, there’s your phone bill, internet, contents insurance if you want it … parking or transport costs. That all gets done in one spreadsheet and that’s a helpful way of knowing what you’ll need to spend.”
Ideally, you would have a small buffer of emergency savings, Megginson added.
“When you first move in you may realise you need to buy some things you did not expect … it can be a shock to the system because there is so much to pay for suddenly.”
Also factor in the cost of moving if you’ll need to hire help, and any household items you may have to purchase – but remember you only need the basics to start, and can upgrade later.
There is strong competition for rentals amid record low vacancies. Credit: Flavio Brancaleone
Finding a rental
Once you’ve got your budget, figure out what and where you can afford to rent and what your priorities are – whether that’s location, size or value. Be warned you may have to compromise.
When inspecting properties, look beyond the aesthetics, as it can be easy to overlook important factors like natural lighting, noise and phone reception. Taking photos and videos can help, as they tend to blur after a big day of inspections.
Given the competitive market, and your lack of rental history, it’s best to be well presented and prepared at inspections, says Ray White NSW’s Nancy Navarrete, a property management business development executive.
She encourages first time renters to ask questions, and supply work or personal references – making sure to give the person a heads-up —and a short cover letter in their application.
“At most inspections now you’ve got 30 to 40 people coming through. You want to make an impression on the agent on the day and converse with them … but it’s also good to have a cover note and give them background on you.”
Megginson also recommends a cover letter, saying; “It can just be a little bit about you, if you’re moving in with a partner or friend, a paragraph with a bit about you, explaining your work history or hobbies, anything that makes you sound reliable.”
Taking care in the application process is also key, Navarrete said, as many people fail to correctly complete forms and provide supporting documentation.
Be prepared for rental inspections.Credit: Chris Hopkins
Those who have paid board at home should be sure to note this, Navarrete said, as it showed reliability. Those studying full time sometimes note their parents could provide a guarantee to cover rent if needed, which could be later removed, or else provided proof of savings.
It is good to note if you can move into a property straight away, which could give you an edge over other tenants who may have notice periods to serve out.
Finding a share house
If you’re looking to join a share house, much of the above still applies. If putting a profile on a flatmates website or responding to a rental ad, write a brief description introducing yourself, says Flatmate Finders business manager Guy Mitchell, and add one or two photos.
“Your listing isn’t the place to be wildly individual or imposing, it’s the place to present yourself as normal, easy-going and responsible, so you appeal to the largest number of households,” he said.
Mitchell says tenants should inspect properties and meet potential housemates in person, where possible, as it is important to find a home where you fit in well.
“Find out what their routines are. [They might say we] do this or that, we have friends over, have a party once a month, don’t have friends over during the week, we all do normal work hours, or shift work, etc,” he said.
“You need to be honest [about your lifestyle]…or you will have to deal with conflict down the track.”
Inspect properties and meet potential housemates in person, where possible.Credit: Chris Hopkins
With online scams on the rise, never put down a deposit, or send any funds, to a person you had not met, he said.
When you think you’ve found the one
Read the lease agreement, and make sure you are across the fine print.
When joining a share house, clarify if you will go on the lease agreement, or be a sub-tenant.
Make a list of all the basics you need before moving day.Credit: Shutterstock
If it’s the latter Mitchell suggests drawing up a flatmate agreement, regarding when the rent is paid, how bills are split, what happens if any property is damaged. If you have neither, you may be considered a lodger, which means you have fewer rental protections.
Before moving day
Make a list of all the basics you need from kitchenware, to white goods, furniture, linens, and cleaning supplies.
Check what hand-me-downs you could get from family. You can turn to community, upcycling and street bounty Facebook pages, and to op shops, to see what secondhand furniture you can get for free or a low price.
For existing share houses, make sure you’re across what furniture and household items they already have for shared use in common areas, and what you might need to bring along or chip in for.
Once you have your move date it’s helpful to arrange utilities in advance, so they’re up and running when you move in. Shop around, Megginson says, to get the best deal possible. Book a moving van as soon as possible if needed.
Once you have the keys
Make sure to do a thorough inspection of the property before you move in, and take the condition report seriously – as you’ll be reliant on it at the end of your lease. Flag any discrepancies or other issues with your property manager or landlord from the outset.
It can be a good idea for those in a share house to take notes and photos of existing damage in their bedroom.
Now that you’re in, you’ll need to keep on top of rent and living expenses.
Megginson recommends setting up a separate bank account to set aside money each pay packet for monthly and quarterly bills.
She suggests setting a reminder to review utilities once a year.
“The biggest way to rip yourself off is to start a utility or supplier and then never revisit it…you won’t be getting the best deal and that can make a difference of hundreds of dollars a year,” she said.
For those in share houses, Mitchell suggests keeping a paper trail of any rent or bills paid that you can fall back on if anything goes wrong.
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