What’s worse than job hunting? Obviously, apartment hunting!!! Whether you like or not, finding the right accommodation is imperative to the life of an International Student. Accommodation is the highest contributor of living cost for studying abroad. Many International Students end up compromising quality of living over cost of living. This is a valid reason at times, but if there is an alternate way to balance the two factors of quality and cost, it is definitely worth your consideration. I have made my fair share of mistakes when it came to accommodation. Without regretting over it, I like to think of it as I made the mistake, so you don’t have to.
Hear me out.
First time arrivals, here’s what you need to know…
When you are coming to Australia for the time, you always want to make comfortable choice but this might not necessarily be the right choice. For starters, here’s what you need to know and may have to consider.
1. Rent is paid weekly
I am not sure if this is the case for other countries, but in my native country, rent is paid on a monthly basis. In Australia, rent is paid in advance on a weekly basis. The average rent could vary from $160.00 per week to all the way up to $750.00 per week. The rent you pay really depends other external factors that I will address through out the article. Some rent includes all bills, meaning you don’t have to worry about electricity, internet and water, everything is included in the weekly rent. You have to get this clarified before signing the contract.
2. Security payment
Your landlord will request a security payment, we call a bond, at the start of your tenancy. This is usually equal to the value of four week’s agreed rent. Be sure to bring the bond payment when you come for the first time. While you are able to recover this at the end of tenancy, we have heard appalling stories where the students are scammed to a point that they have to forego their bond simply because the landlord refused to pay it back for unjustified reasons. I would recommend that you try to make an electronic fund transfer as oppose to cash payment, so you have a trail of evidence. In addition, be sure to accept a receipt confirming the bond payment with a note that it is refundable.
If you are being scammed or treated unfairly, contact Fair Trading division of your state for advise. Matters such as this are taken very serious under the Australian trading law. They will either act as a mediator to resolve the matter or direct you to organisations such as tenants unions and consumer advocates for further assistance.
3. Pack lightly
While we are working on a dedicated article on what you should and should not bring on your first visit. Just remember, you can basically find anything and everything here in Australia. As it is a culturally diverse country, you will find local stores importing products from your home country. Being light on your travel will make your relocation from place to place convenient, less stressful and inexpensive.
4. Short-term contracts
It is so important not commit to long-term contracts at the beginning, especially before entering the country. Ideal situation would be a month-to-month contract or three months. This way, once you come to Australia, you will get a better chance to understand how you like the area, living situation, access to transport and other options. Even later, you should opt for short-term contracts, not allowing you to be tied to one that you may or may not like for too long. If you are bounded by a yearly contract, remember you will have to pay the rent even though you may not occupy it over the vacation periods. Waste a of $$$!
One might think, “Will I not find a good place to stay after the short contract?”. Remember, now you have all available search options like friends, websites, and many more, so there is nothing to worry.
5. Types of accommodation
There are many options for accommodation. The most expensive would be having your own studio apartment, but definitely has its advantages. Another option, also the popular option amongst International Students, is shared accommodation. Higher the number of occupants, cheaper it is for you. You can either share apartment / house with an independant bedroom (with / without ensuite bathroom) or share the bedroom if the room is of considerable size. I am sure it is self-understandable which type is more expensive than the other.
Factors to consider before settling
6. Proximity to University
Accommodation around any University is expensive than what you will find in the outer suburbs. At the same time, if you look beyond dollar value, the convenience may out weigh the cost. Living closer to the University means you are able to maximise your University life and benefits on campus such as the library, study spaces, labs, etc. You also cut down on wasteful travel time back and forth and schedule group assignment meetings conveniently. In certain states such as New South Wales and Victoria, International Students do not receive concession on travel, hence adding to living costs. If none of these are of concern to you, as much as you are worried about the cost, definitely look at outer suburbs with easy access to public transport route to University.
One time during my house hunting days, I went to inspect a prospective shared accommodation space and I was horrified at the state it was maintained. Within few seconds of entering the house, I knew I wasn’t going to take it. Student life can be messy and untidy, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t affect your well-being.
We are very much affected by the environment and its energy. Pick an environment that suits you. I always wanted to ensure the space I chose is filled with natural light as that’s what makes me productive, dark and gloominess dampens my mood.
8. On-campus or off-campus
While on-campus accommodation is considered to be expensive, you are able to find different colleges in the lower range of $250 to $550 per week. The most expensive accommodation are single spaces with catering facilities, where residents are offered meals and they do not have to hassle with food preparation. While that is premier, you can opt for shared spaces in the lower range. Reliability and term of contract are the main differences between on and off campus. On-campus accommodation are generally for a minimum of one year. Off-campus accommodation are relatively inexpensive, but you will have to take time off your day to actually visit these locations. You can ask your mates if there are spare rooms where they reside.
While some off-campus accommodation lacks basic facilities, there plenty around Universities that are pretty good for the cost. Just make sure basic facilities are provided.
9. How to apply for student accommodation?
There many ways to do this. Firstly, if you are coming to Australia for the first time, the best option would be checking online. There are so many sites such as University website for on-campus options and off-campus on GumTree, Flat Mates, Student, Uni Lodge, etc,
Once you are in the country, a common way to do it is through networking with fellow students. There are also plenty of websites and social media groups dedicated for student accommodation, primarily for International Students.
10. Final thoughts
The premier on-campus accommodations are a great option for comfort, convenience and reliability if you are under a sponsorship or is able to afford the rent. However, if you are light on your budget, first look at on-campus lower range options, then off-campus within close proximity to University and lastly accommodation in outer suburbs.
What are your thoughts on accommodation for International Students? Do you have any experiences good or bad that you could share?
Until next time…