I got into Uni – Where the F@#k am I going to live?

Recently, LDS has been getting a lot of messages asking for an overview of the Melbourne rental market for students. In a previous article, LDS revealed the absolute shit storm that is student housing in Australia. If you haven’t done so already done, have a read. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

If you want to know what far and reasonable prices are, where to go to find legitimate rentals, and the ‘gotchas’ of the Melbourne market, read on and get the run down. A couple of notes before we start:

We chose the Melbourne market in the south-east as that was the majority of what incoming students requested. The map below indicates this area and caters for several universities and other high education institutions. Each price is listed as per week (pw). Remember, if you are sharing it’s less. We have included this price in the description as well.

Most rentals are through real estate agents don’t come furnished. These are rental properties not share houses. Furniture isn’t that expensive to get, especially second hand.

Inner South East Melbourne

Rental properties through real estate agents

1 brm apartment: $280 – $350 pw

Now these are rare as hen’s teeth for the inner south east. Particularly after the inner ring. For $280 pw you can get a very small apartment which may be a bit older or not so well kept. But there are some great flats about if you happen to get lucky.

Per week low: $280 pw
Recommended occupancy: 1
Rarity: Super rare

If you must live by yourself (understandable) then you’ll may have to go up in price towards the $320 pw mark.

Per week low: $320 pw
Recommended occupancy: 1
Rarity: Rare-ish

2 brm units: $330 – $400 pw

This would be a good choice if you can’t get or don’t want a single apartment. These are also called units. For as low as $330 pw you can get an older two bedroom flat or a renovated unit. The photos below show two separate 2 bedrooms $330 pw units.

Per week low: $330 pw
Per week low per person: $165pw

Per week high: $400 pw
Per week high per person: $200pw

Recommended occupancy: 2
Rarity: Common

If you are happy to pay a bit more, you can get a comfortable 2 bedroom place like the one below priced at $400 pw.

3 to 4 brm townhouse or house $600 to $800 pw

If you find yourself with a good group of friends and want to move in together, a share house is the way to go. It is by far the cheapest option after set up costs. The picture below shows a $500 4 bedroom unit. As you can see from the yellow stickers, this place has just been renovated.

It’s rare to see Australians with more than 5 people in houses. Most students find it quite stressful, particularly if they like a clean house! Real estate agents also are reticent to rent to this many people on a lease as it gets really difficult for them when people are more likely to move on and off the lease.

Per week low: $600 pw (units/townhouses)
Per week low per person: $200 pw for 3 people, $150 pw for 4 people

Recommended occupancy: 3-4
Rarity: Common

Per week high: $800 pw (townhouses/houses)
Per week high per person: $267 pw for 3 people, $200pw for 4 people

Recommended occupancy: 3-4
Rarity: Common

The best time to get in on the rental market is about a 6-4 weeks before orientation week. Students finish degrees in November and June. They start again in March and July. This means you can get in on the glut of houses that become available when students graduate and return home. This is easier in summer than in winter as more students finish in summer.

What if I don’t have a rental history?

Most of the time, students don’t have a rental history, and this makes it hard to rent a house from a real estate. They often then opt for two options. A share house with tenants that are already in there and on a lease with a real estate agent, or a rooming or boarding house. LDS wants to make this very clear that in our opinion WE DO NOT RECOMMEND GOING INTO A ROOMING OR A BOARDING HOUSE. If you want to know what the difference is between living arrangements head to our friends at flatmates.com for an overview of what the different legal definitions of shared housing are.

There are four reasons we don’t recommend doing this:

  • You are likely to be shoved into a house that is too small for the number of people in it, that is not well kept and is potentially dangerous.
  • You will not be able to choose who you share a room with.
  • You will likely be sharing a house with more than ten people. There is a complete lack of privacy.
  • They suck! (Ok not a good reason, but still a reason).
  • Rooming houses are favoured by students who can’t get rentals due to no rental history but also poor rental history. There are many reasons for this but some common ones are alcohol or drug abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and time in jail. As much as LDS believes inequality and ending certain stigmas, we also believe in safety.
  • The house can get dirty when you have hygienic housemates. There’s always one. Some people tell us that with ten people in these places, you don’t even get the opportunity to cook.

Here is the list of minimum standards proprietors must abide by. If they don’ they can be fined under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.

If you must stay in one of these properties, please choose a licensed house. Here is a list of registered boarding houses in Victoria. Just google the addresses as the names aren’t on the list.

Although the proprietor does not need to give you a Standard Residential tenancy form for a rooming house, we strongly recommend you get one.

They may offer you an alternative agreement, but the reality is that it is difficult to take complaints to consumer affairs without one. If they refuse, this is a bad sign. You should look for a room elsewhere. The standards for rooming houses are found here. In saying that, there are some good rooming houses that are for students and treat their tenants well. Always have a look at the comments on Google review to get a feel for the quality of the place.

What about share houses?

Another option is to share a house with people who already have a lease with a landlord. This would be our recommendation over a boarding house. But beware of dodgy renters trying to treat a place like a boarding house.

A share house is a term Aussies use to describe a home where the tenants are renting from a real estate agent and either all have their names on the lease (meaning they have all signed a standard residential tenancy agreement) or are sub-letting from the head-tenant (with a standard tenancy agreement). The furniture is usually shared, and different people own different things. In this scenario, you and your housemates would share bills for utilities but not necessarily food or extras like Netflix, for example.

These are great if you are looking for a social environment and a homey feel. Most of the times, you will be ‘interviewed’ by the current housemates. They will want to get to know you and whether you fit the vibe of the house. For example, a group of young professionals in their early 30s might not be interested in an 18-year-old uni student. If you don’t hear back from them in a couple of day’s it’s generally an indication they have gone with someone else. Don’t take it personally. It’s better to be in a house where you all understand each other and get along than one where the dynamics aren’t quite right.

Housemates with common interests have a better experience.

In a lot of share house situations, some people don’t go on the lease straight away. We don’t recommend this, but it’s sometimes because they want to make sure they aren’t living with a sociopath. This protects the other housemates as it’s easier to kick out a tenant who isn’t on the lease. Given this, we always recommend some form of a rental agreement, such as this one. This will protect you in case it all goes south, and you need to get the authorities involved.

Preferably though you should ask for a standard tenancy agreement to be written up to sub-let from the head-tenant, the person holding the lease with the real estate. This protects you as well. A landlord must permit the renter to sub-let, and that’s what the standard tenancy agreement form proves. Otherwise, they are likely trying to make money off of you and could kick you out at any time.

International students really should use share houses a lot more and rely less on rooming houses, which are more expensive on average. Take a look at the prices here. Often share houses are with students near your university, and you can even use that search function in some sites like flatmates.com.au .

More importantly, share houses will give you an opportunity to absorb different cultures and Australians are often keen to share with internationals for the same reason.

Where to find places

Now that you have an overview heres a list of place to look for somewhere to live:
flatmates.com.au
gumtree.com.au
flatmatefinders.com.au
realestate.com.au – share houses
realestate.com.au – rental houses
domain.com.au – rental houses
sharehouses.com.au
Fairy Floss Real Estate – A much loved Facebook Group

Our most recommended website though is this one, dontrentme.com.au
If a property is on there, do not rent it.

We hope this helps you get an overview of rentals in Melbourne. Though some of this is very applicable to other Australian states. In our next post, we are going to cover some very important points about paying, agreements, condition reports and bond. Stay tuned.