Buying a home as an expat in Australia

Published:  20 Apr at 6 PM
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Australia has been a favourite destination for expats for many decades, with a good number enjoying the lifestyle so much they decide to put down roots by buying a home.

For expats considering the commitment of a property purchase, the first thing to remember is that foreign nationals do not have the automatic right to buy a home unless they are married to an Australian national, already have permanent residence or are New Zealanders on a special category visa. Expatriates to whom these exceptions don’t apply will need to apply for the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board, a process wihich can take up to 140 days.

Generally, foreign nationals looking to buy a home are restricted to new build sites, off plan developments or homes converted from existing properties. Approval is based on the actual address of your chosen property and the purchase must be approved before it can take place. New rules already in the governmental pipeline will mean a hefty charge per application and fines will be applied to those who do not confirm. However, expats on temporary visas are allowed to buy existing properties, although they must sell them when they leave the country.

The legal process of property purchase varies slightly between states with, for example, New South Wales operating a five-day cool-off period and Western Australia requiring simply an ‘offer and acceptance’ letter. Dependent on the state, offers can be made in verbally or in writing, including emails, with a deposit of 0.25 per cent of the purchase price required as an ‘expression of interest’. Even so, nothing is guaranteed, and you can still be gazumped by another prospective buyer.

The sales contract itself will have been written before the property is put on the market, and the five-day cooling off period runs from the day contracts are signed. Once the five days are up, the balance of a 10 per cent deposit must be paid and your lawyer will begin doing searches and property checks as per the law. These checks ensure there is no encumbrance, that the vendor has the right to make a sale and everything is legal. Six weeks or so later, the rest of the sale price is paid, plus fees due and taxes, and the deed is done.

Source: Expat Network
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