Moving out of home: A guide for first-time renters

TAMIKA SEETO
Finance Journalist · 28 October 2021
Moving out of home for the first time is exciting, but it can also be a bit daunting. There’s inspections, rental applications and things like electricity and internet to think about. To help you make your first move, we’ve put together a 8-step guide for first-time renters.

I’m currently in the process of moving homes myself and I’m now just days away from getting the keys to my new apartment. Although it’s not my first time moving, it is my first time renting by myself.

Having spent countless hours trawling through property sites, going to inspections and putting together my rental application, I’ve learnt a thing or two about the process. With that in mind, here’s my guide for rookie renters, as well as some tips I wish I’d known before I moved out for the first time.

1. Set your budget

First thing’s first – it is a good idea to create a budget. Moving out of home can get expensive. You’ll need to cover one-off expenses like the bond, rent paid in advance, connecting utilities and internet, as well as potentially the cost of actually moving your stuff (like packing boxes and removalists). There are also ongoing costs, such as rent, utility and internet bills and contents insurance (if you decide to take it out). Creating a budget can give you a better idea of how much rent you can afford and may help you decide whether to rent by yourself or with housemates.

2. Decide on your non-negotiables

Once you’ve worked out your budget, it’s helpful to make a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves” to help with your property search. Consider the location and property features. For example, when I was looking for a rental, my “must haves” were a secure apartment with at least one bedroom, a car space and natural light. My “nice to haves” were air-conditioning (I was also ok with fans), additional storage space and a gas stove top. I also had particular suburbs in mind that were close to work, public transport and my family and friends.

3. Prepare your application

Competition can be fierce, so it’s worth preparing your rental application early so you can apply as soon as you’ve found the right property.

As a first-time renter, you won’t have a rental history to support your reliability as a tenant, so it’s important to provide details about your employment and income. You’ll usually need to include identification (such as your driver licence, passport and Medicare card), proof of income (such as recent payslips) and references (personal and/or professional). In some instances, it could also pay to demonstrate if you have a healthy savings account balance. This could give further evidence that you can afford to pay the rent.

4. Find a property

After you’ve put together your rental wish list and have started prepping your application, it’s on to looking at property listings. Look at sites like realestate.com.au and Domain. You can filter the results by variables like location, number of bedrooms, price and features. You could also consider contacting a real estate agent or property managers, or monitoring websites such as flatmates.com.au, Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree for share houses.

5. Inspect the property

Once you’ve found properties you want to see for yourself, you’ll need to either contact the agent to arrange an inspection or attend an advertised inspection time. Photos can be deceiving, so it’s a very good idea for you (or a trusted friend or relative) to go and inspect the property before you apply.

At the inspection, double check the property has everything you need and check its condition. Look at the doors, walls, ceiling as well as any in-built appliances. I also like to use a compass app to check which direction the property faces (north and north-east facing properties typically get the most sunlight).

Introduce yourself to the agent and ask them any questions you have about the property or the application process. If you decide to apply, do this ASAP and make sure you fully complete your application. It’ll then usually take between one to three business days to hear if your application was successful.

6. Approval

Congratulations, you’ve been approved for your first rental! The agent will send you a tenancy agreement to read and sign. This is a legally binding contract that sets out the rights and responsibilities of the tenant (you) and the property manager/owner. Read it carefully.

It usually includes information such as:

  • The name and address of the tenant and the property manager/owner
  • The length of the agreement and the type of tenancy (fixed or periodic)
  • The amount of rent to be paid and when and how it must be paid
  • The amount of bond to be paid
  • Terms about what the tenant and property manager/owner can and can’t do (e.g. terms about breaking lease, rent increases, damage and repairs)
  • Any special terms

Here’s some examples of tenancy agreements in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.

You’ll also typically be asked to pay a rental bond, which is usually four weeks’ rent. You can get your bond back at the end of the lease, provided you haven’t breached the agreement. If you do breach the lease agreement (for example, if you cause damage to the property), the owner can claim some/all of the bond to remedy this.

You may also be asked to pay ‘rent in advance’. For example, two weeks’ rent in advance before or when you move in.

7. Preparing for the move

There are a fair few things you’ll need to organise before the big moving day. For a comprehensive list, read our moving house checklist.

Importantly, you’ll need to decide whether you want to hire a removalist service or move your belongings yourself (perhaps with the help of family and friends). You could also consider using platforms like Airtasker. If you decide to enlist a professional, make sure you check the reviews and book in advance.

It’s a good idea to start packing early. You can buy moving boxes from retailers like Bunnings and Officeworks, as well as storage and removals companies. You may even be able to find some secondhand on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. Try to declutter before moving. If you have unwanted belongings in good condition, consider selling them on platforms like Facebook Marketplace and eBay.

You should also arrange for your utilities (electricity, gas and water) and internet to be connected. It’s a good idea to organise this early as some providers will need to come out to your new place to connect. You can compare energy and internet providers at Canstar Blue.

It’s also important to update your address details. Don’t forget to update your driver licence, myGov account details and notify your bank, work and other providers of your new address. You could also consider organising contents insurance to help protect your belongings.

8. Moving day

When you receive your keys, the property manager/owner should give you a condition report to complete and sign. This is a document that states the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. It should cover each room in the property, including the doors, walls, ceilings, windows, fittings and fixtures, and should note any existing damage or issues.

Make sure you carefully check the report against the property itself and note any damage or issues, such as marks, stains or chipped paint. It’s important to take photos and videos of the property so you have a record of its condition when you moved in. This is crucial because the condition report can be used as evidence if there’s a dispute about any damage.

Before you do any heavy lifting, it’s a good idea to measure the size of each room and the door frames to ensure your belongings will fit. You could also ask the property manager/owner whether you can access the property early to measure the space. Depending on the property, you may also need to reserve use of the elevator during a certain timeframe.

After that, it’s time to move in and enjoy your new place.

Cover image source: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels


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