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I'll be arriving in Australia (Melbourne) on 18 March 2015. I'll need to rent a house very soon after I arrive. Assuming I have enough cash for rent up front, and a bond of e.g. 1 month's rent, what else do typically I need to rent a house?

I should add that I probably won't yet be employed at the time that I'm looking for a house. Housing my family is a higher priority than searching for a job.

Is it possible to rent a house without having seen it first? I was told that it'll illegal to rent a house without viewing it first, but this makes it very difficult for me and my family. Ideally we'd have something we could go straight into.

  • Have you looked at things like AirBnB and holiday rentals? That could tide you over for a month or two, until you get a proper rental sorted once there – Gagravarr Feb 17 '15 at 9:57
  • Yes, we've just booked a holiday rental for 2 weeks. Hopefully within that period we can find something more permanent. – DaveDev Feb 17 '15 at 16:03
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The standard way of renting a house is through a real estate agent, which require that you inspect the property and fill an application form.

One thing that was surprising for me when I migrated to Australia is that there can be quite a lot of competition for renting a place, especially in certain suburbs and around the beginning of the year. Therefore, it's unlikely your application will be approved if you don't have a job, rental references, or have not viewed the property. Even if you have those things, if there are more people applying for the property, you might not get it. Overall, the process can be quite frustrating.

Another reason not to do this from overseas is the amount of scams there are in sites such as Gumtree and Craigslist, which list accommodation under market value and ask for bank transfer as deposit.

A good way to start is looking for temporary accommodation, such as Airbnb apartments, youth hostels, or shared houses. Some might not be suitable for a family, a reason why some people travel alone and bring their families later.

A final option is asking a friend or relative to inspect houses and apply on your behalf, but not many people are willing to do that, especially if involves paying any money.

Once here, you would search on sites such as RE and Domain, attend the open for inspections and apply by filling on-line or paper application forms. If you find that there is competition for the rental properties that you've inspected (you will realise that if/when an application is rejected), there are a few things that help make agent/landlords like you:

  • Bring a filled application form on the open for inspection day itself and hand it over to the agent if you liked the property; otherwise just bin it;
  • Add a cover letter to the application;
  • Add rental references, even if from overseas (better than nothing);
  • Add some financial information, such as payslip or bank account balance.

Things that, from personal experience, do not help:

  • Offer to pay a lot of rent in advance (the law limits the amount of rent that can be charged in advance)
  • Offer to pay more rent that what's asked (I have been told by multiple agents that landlords are looking for a tenant that will pay rent on time long term and take care of the property).

These measures might not be necessary at certain periods, or in localities where vacancy rate is high. At the moment (early 2015), there's an over supply of high-rise apartments in inner Melbourne (e.g. Docklands, CBD, Southbank), while inner city low rise (houses and townhouses) fetch high rents with some tenant competition. At the same time, detached houses in new land estates in the city's fringe (e.g. Point Cook) are plentiful and can be rented for cheap.

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