Forget the American dream – the majority of Brits fantasising of foreign shores today cite Australia as their number one destination. A new life down under appeals to many, young and old, as the lure of better weather, affordable housing and plenty of business opportunities seems to get British pulses racing.
Despite being on the opposite side of the world, Australia promises an easy move due very few cultural differences. Add a good quality of life and a lower cost of living into the mix and you have a very enticing destination indeed. In fact, it is this quality of life that is the main attraction of Australia, with year-round outdoor living easily achieved, and a good range of facilities and amenities in which to enjoy the sunshine. Around 18,000 Brits make the move every year – and few seem to be disappointed. Do bear in mind the weather factor when choosing a location though, as some areas are stiflingly hot during the summer months and some places rain more than you’d expect!
A government report issued in February 2011 showed that house prices rose in the three months to December 2010. This rise, which was attributed to an increase in mortgage approvals, might just have been the good news that investors were hoping for if it wasn’t for the terrible floods that have recently plagued the country, as there is now no telling what the future holds for the Australian economy.
The major cities such as Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne have seen the biggest rises in property prices – and indeed in British expats. Since the majority of British buyers tend only to purchase as a result of a permanent move, these cosmopolitan centres provide the best potential for work – especially for those on a ‘Skilled Migrant’ visa.
Having said that, the booming tourist industry provides a great way to earn an income in a coastal area, with many Brits opting to set up their own business in popular destinations such as the Gold Coast and Cairns in Queensland. If you are looking to make your pound stretch further, then you could look in a more rural area – just remember that rural in Australia could literally mean remote, so do your research thoroughly first.
If you aren’t an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, it is highly likely that you will need to gain permission from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) before you can purchase a property. Once you have applied, the FIRB will give you an answer within 40 days, however it does reserve the right to extend this to 130 in unusual circumstances. You are able to exchange contracts before you have received approval – however it is important to ensure that the contract is conditional on receipt of approval, otherwise you will be in breach of contract and liable for financial penalties. This removes you from the possibility of buying at auction (a common practice in Australia), as auction bids are made without conditional clauses.
If you buy a new-build property, or even a rural home, then you are less likely to have to seek permission from the FIRB – your solicitor will be able to advise you on whether the property that you are interested in is exempt or not.
Once you have had an offer on an Australian property accepted, you will exchange contracts pretty much straight away. You are entitled to a cooling off period (usually five to ten days), and the contract will be conditional on certain clauses (such as a survey and mortgage approval), but basically you are now tied into the purchase and will be required to pay a ten per cent holding deposit. It is important to note that the cooling off period does not apply if you purchase at an auction.
Your solicitor will run local searches, similar to those in the UK, and will check the title deed before you are able to complete. Completion occurs six weeks after the day of exchange.
Be aware that if you decide to sell in order to move to another existing residential property, you will need to apply for FIRB approval again – so it is worth making sure that the first property you buy will suit your needs for the foreseeable future.
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