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Renting for the First Time: Tips and Tricks for First Time Renters

Moving out of the family home can be an exciting time, but it’s also one of the most stressful (and expensive) times of any young persons’ life. By ensuring you’re prepared with everything you need to rent your first home, the process will be that much easier and stress-free. Discover everything you need to know, before signing the lease on your first home, by reading more below.


Prepare your first-time rental application

As a first-time renter, ensuring you have a flawless rental application can make the dream of renting your first home that much easier. Many property managers and landlords look for rental history when leasing their property, but you obviously don’t have a rental history as a first-time renter. So, what can you do?

The goal of any rental application is to show your prospective landlord or property manager that you’re a reliable, respectful, and responsible tenant who will pay their rent on time, not disturb the neighbours, and will leave the property in good condition. Even before you start looking for your first rental home, gather as many of these documents as possible so you can prove to your potential future landlord that you are a star tenant:

 Consider a rental resume and bring it to your viewings: Include your personal and contact details, education, current employment and salary, and references. Even before you submit a rental application, this can help you stick out in the mind of your potential future landlord.

 Employment and income verification: This shows you have a steady job and income and can cover your rent. If you’re a student, this can also include Youth Allowance or Rent Assistance payments.

 Job reference: Either from your employer or colleague, this not only proves you’re employed and can make rent but can also act as a character reference to show you’re reliable, and responsible - all things landlords and property managers look for.

 Neighbour reference: If possible, prove you’re a quiet and respectful neighbour with a neighbour reference. This will act as a character reference for you and tell future landlords that you won't disturb others.

 Personal reference: A personal reference should not be from a relative (sorry mom), so instead choose a colleague, professor, or someone else in a high position who can attest to your character and tell your potential landlord why they should lease to you.

 A recent utility or phone bill

 Photo identification

Make up little packets with all this information and bring it with you when you view apartments, so you can hand it directly to the property manager or landlord when you see a rental property you like.

Consider your budget before renting your first home

If this is your first time moving out of the family home, you might not have ever needed to consider a budget before. When renting a new home, there are both upfront and ongoing costs to consider, that you’ll need to be able to cover.

Upfront costs of renting a home

 Rental bond: Also known as a security deposit, rental bond is paid at the start of a tenancy agreement. This is meant to cover any damage done to the property when you move out, any missed rent, or other debt however, so long as there isn’t any damage or money owed you should get this back at the end of your tenancy agreement. The amount of rental bond needed to cover a tenancy depends on which state you live in, and how much your weekly rent is, but usually no more than a maximum of 4 weeks’ rent.

 Rent in advance: A rental amount paid in advance to cover the start of your tenancy. Like rental bond, this depends on how much and how often you pay rent, and which state you live in.

 Pet bond fees: Pet bond fees are only legal in Western Australia, but if you live in WA and want to bring along your furry friend, you will usually need to pay a one-off payment of $260. If you live in any other state or territory, pet bond is not legal but you will need your landlord’s written permission for any pets you want living with you.

 The cost of moving: Outside of the upfront costs you’ll need to cover with your actual rental, depending on your situation you might need to cover all the costs associated with actually moving. This can include a rental truck or removalists, packing materials, and any upfront costs with connecting your new home to energy and broadband.

 Things for your new home: Particularly if your first rental isn’t furnished, you will need to buy things for your actual home. Furniture, food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies….it can be overwhelming to think of everything you need.

Ongoing costs of renting a home

 Rent: Obviously, rent is going to be the biggest expense in your budget. When considering your budget, your rent shouldn’t account for more than 30% of your monthly income.

 Utilities: Electricity, gas, water, broadband, phone....depending on your agreement with your landlord you’ll probably be responsible for setting up and paying for your utilities on your own. Before signing up for any home broadband or energy connection, consider shopping around and comparing deals to find the cheapest offers.

Compare home internet plans and cheapest electricity deals.

 Food: Eating out all the time is expensive, so choosing to instead prepare and cook fresh meals regularly can drastically reduce your food costs. However, you still need to maintain your fridge and pantry with groceries so make sure to budget in your weekly or monthly food expenses.

 Transportation: If you have a car it’ll need gas, parking, and insurance, as well as money set aside for any unexpected vehicle breakdowns. If you’re relying on public transportation you’ll need to pay for whatever method of transportation you use whether it’s the train, bus, or taxi.

 Laundry: You might get lucky and rent a home with an in-house washing machine, but if you live in an apartment building with a shared washer and dryer, or somewhere you will need to use a laundromat, consider budgeting this into your ongoing costs.

 Renters insurance: Don’t sleep on renters insurance! If you’re on a budget, consider insuring only the most important (and expensive) things such as your phone and computer, furniture, and TV.

Average rent in Australia

The average cost of renting in Australia varies, depending on whether it’s a unit or house, in the city or in the suburbs, and what state you’re renting in. Below is a table of the average weekly rent by state, for a unit or a house. This isn’t to say you won’t find cheaper accommodations elsewhere, and moving in with a partner or roommates can help by splitting rent up amongst everyone.

Average weekly rent in Australia by capital city
  Unit: Average weekly rent House: Average weekly rent
Sydney, NSW $495 $540
Canberra, ACT $480 $580
Melbourne, VIC $400 $440
Brisbane, QLD $395 $415
Adelaide, SA $340 $405
Perth, WA $340 $395
Hobart, TAS $400 $450
Darwin, NT $390 $490
National average $447 $460

Source: Domain Rent Report, September quarter 2020

How to choose your first rental home

There’s so many things to consider when looking for your first rental. It can be overwhelming to try and sort through all the different available properties without first knowing what you want, what you need, and what you can live without. Write out a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves, and consider the following:

 Budget: As stated above, it’s important to consider not only your rent but other ongoing costs you’ll need to cover each month when renting a home.

 Roommates: Can you afford to rent a home by yourself, or do you want or need roommates to help cover it?

 Type of home: House, apartment, or unit...Can you deal with potentially hearing your neighbours through the walls? Do you want a back garden? What sort of rental property will work best for you?

 Transportation: Do you need parking for your car or easy access to public transportation? Consider your commute and how far you’re willing to travel for work or school.

 City or suburbs: Do you want to be in the hustle and bustle of the city, or do you prefer to live in the quieter suburbs? Consider your transportation needs, and the amenities around you as well, such as driving or walking to the supermarket.

 The actual rental home: How many bedrooms and bathrooms, lighting and windows, size of the kitchen, or a home office. What will you need to live comfortably in your new home, and what can you deal without?

Once you’ve considered your must-haves, nice-to-haves, and absolutely-cannot-haves for your first apartment, it’s time to start looking around for available rentals in your chosen areas. Rentals turn over quickly, so once you find a place you like it’s best to get the rental application in as soon as possible to increase your chances of renting your dream home.

Once you’ve found the right first rental home

There are a few more things to consider once you’ve found the perfect first rental. Everything from the type of tenancy agreement you will sign, to making sure your new home is in good condition. Remember, don’t pay anything until you’ve inspected the property, and signed the lease agreement.

Residential tenancy agreements

When choosing your rental home, consider the type of lease agreement that works best for you. Leases generally fall into two main categories; fixed-term (either short or long term) or periodic.

 Fixed-term lease: Either short or long term, but with a set period of time agreed upon in the lease. If either the tenant or landlord terminates a fixed-term lease early, there might be a financial (or even legal) penalty.

 Periodic lease: A month-to-month lease with the tenant staying in the property on a rolling basis. Periodic leases don’t have a fixed amount of time, but rather either the tenant or landlord can terminate the agreement at any time with 30 days notice.

Depending on the type of lease agreement and state you live in, residential tenancy agreements will differ. However, they will all contain the same basic information which includes:

  • Landlord, management, and tenant details
  • The length and type of tenancy
  • Conditions for breaking the contract early
  • How much rent is due and how it will be paid
  • The amount of bond to be paid
  • Obligations of both parties for things such as maintenance, cleanliness, or use of premises
  • Special terms such as pets, smoking, or guests

Property condition report

Before you move into your new apartment, you will need to organise a property condition report. This is a detailed report on the condition of your property, and the things included such as furniture, white goods, or other included furnishings. Make sure to thoroughly inspect your home, with photos, and any discrepancies between your own observation and the report should be noted as this could mean the difference between your rental bond being returned or not. Nothing is too small to note, so make sure to check things like:

  • Cracks or blemishes on the walls or ceilings
  • Stains on furniture, carpets, or other fabrics
  • All outlets are in working order
  • The state of showerheads and faucets
  • Whether all included appliances function well

Moving into your first home

You’ve signed the lease, paid your rental bond and rent in advance, and it’s time to move in. Since you’re moving into your first home, you might be missing some home essentials such as:

  • Furniture
  • Dishes and cutlery
  • Cookware and cooking utensils
  • TV
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Toilet paper

Find Selectra’s comprehensive guide to everything you need for your first home, so you make sure your new home is perfectly ready for you to live in.

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