We asked a seasoned expat, Russell Ward, for his advice on whether to rent or buy a property when moving to Australia.
I can’t imagine not owning a house when we’ve moved abroad.While we might start off with a short-term rental when we arrive someplace new, thoughts soon turn to buying once the dust has settled.Upon arrival in Sydney, we rented for the first year. We switched from shabby house to basement apartment and mourned the loss of our former home. At the first opportunity, we purchased property – a small house not far from the beach.But I’ve always wondered what the best thing is to do in your new country. Rent or buy?When you first arrive, it’s often hard to convince the banks of your permanence but, once a credit history is established, should you jump into ownership at the very first chance?Many expats choose to rent longer-term.We can be a nomadic bunch and perhaps it’s this frequent state of flux that creates less need for stability and a lack of desire to own a house abroad.Or perhaps it goes deeper than that? Perhaps it’s the thought that once you put down roots, that’s it. You’re fixed. Stuck. It’s much more difficult to return. Perhaps it’s a fear of remaining abroad longer-term?We always saw ourselves as new immigrants rather than expats.We moved abroad in search of a new life in a new country, not a temporary one. We weren’t sent overseas on business and we didn’t expect to return any time soon. We followed wave after wave of permanent residents before us and jumped straight in to home ownership feet first, with no cause to stop and ask “what if?” and “why?”For us, it wasn’t about “renting” versus “home buying” but a long-term commitment to our new home instead of seeing it as a short-term pit stop.Perhaps those of us who envisage a long stint in a country seek out that sense of permanency? We crave it. We buy in to the dream of community and belonging and sense of place. We search for acceptance and structure.We yearn for our own piece of the land.Purchasing property eased my transition from temporary visitor to established local so I now realise I buy houses wherever I live, and whenever I can, to feel like I belong and to entrench myself in the area I now call “home”.I’m fairly certain others choose to rent because their future might be uncertain, the length of stay not always guaranteed or known.Russell is a British expat living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where he writes about his search for a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs. He can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.