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If you are looking to move across the Tasman but don’t want to live in the big cities of Australia, then Cairns, in the far north of Queensland, may well be the ideal option.

Cairns has about 160,000 residents who love the city’s tropical weather, quick escapes to the rainforests and the many beautiful beaches. Not only that, but Cairns was recently voted as one of the top 10 best regional cities to live in Australia in a survey conducted by Ipsos. The laidback lifestyle, access to nature and the community vibe is what makes this tropical city stand out among others. Also given that it is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest, it is a melting pot of residents and tourists from world over.

Now that we have got you interested in this city where life is best lived outdoors, let’s get down to specifics. Living in Cairns will be amazing, but there are some things you need to know.

Living in the city: a quick snapshot

Cairns is one of the only places on Earth where two world heritage sites overlap each other. Locals and tourists alike love the city for all the outdoorsy things it has to offer. From the tablelands to the tropical jungles, from the beach fronts to the indigenous villages, the city has more things for you to explore than you can imagine.

It isn’t just melting pot of world cultures, it is also home to the rich culture of the indigenous people of Australia whose traditions are on display at Tjapukai Cultural Centre and Rainforestation Nature Park.

Cairns has moved from the ancient to the modern though, and has created a bustling metropolis amidst the lush landscape. The city has plenty of trendy cafes, beachfront restaurants and a cool art scene. From well-equipped malls, great schools and excellent healthcare, the city has all the infrastructure needed to raise a happy family.

The opinion on the weather is divided, as it depends on whether you enjoy the tropics or not. The winter lasts only from June to August when the weather is pleasant from 17 to 26 degrees celsius, the rest of the year can be sweaty and air conditioning will be your constant friend.

Another Cairns positive compared to bigger Australian cities is the short peak hour traffic time. Traffic here can seem like a breeze compared to cities like Sydney and Melbourne (and the house prices in Cairns are cheaper than the main centres in Australia too!).

The promise of a great outdoor lifestyle, a laid back vibe and cheaper property rates make Cairns a great contender for the city you’d like to call home for the rest of your lives.

Things to consider while buying a property in Cairns

Kiwis have pretty much the same rights when it comes to buying property in Australia. If you’re looking for an urban property on this side of the Tasman, then you don’t even need to undergo a FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) review. First Home Owner’s Scheme and Kiwisaver are schemes which can make this process super easy if you qualify.

Here are some quick tips if you are planning to plant your roots in the beautiful city of Cairns.

Should you buy a property or an apartment?

That depends on you and your family’s needs and aspirations. The city of Cairns offers a variety of housing across neighbourhoods. These residences range from independent houses to apartments, some old and others quite new. There is quite a bit of development going on in the city making it an interesting place to look around for your future house.

As with any city, it is recommended that you do your due diligence on the space you are planning to buy. The value of your apartment or property depends a lot on the age of the property, the neighbourhood and to what is going on around there. In Cairns, the median value for houses stood at AU$397,500 while it was $240,000 for units in September of 2019. This is less than half of the value of residences in a city like Melbourne, making it an affordable place to buy your new home.

What are the schemes available to you?

First-time homeowners need to check and see if they can use their NZ Kiwisaver as a deposit. Under certain criteria, you may be eligible for Australia’s First Home Owners Scheme. This can help get you into your new home too. Your Special Condition Visa (SCV) can mean you’re exempt from certain taxes too. Find an accountant in Australia you can trust who understands both NZ and Australian home buying laws and the taxes that go with it.

What about taxes?

There are a few different taxes that you may find yourself liable for. In NZ, there’s the Brightline Test and non-resident withholding tax. In Australia, there’s Stamp Duty, a percentage of the price you pay and potentially Capital Gains Tax. Queensland also has land tax if you buy freehold land. Some of these can be avoided by retaining your NZ home instead of selling it, so it’s worth chatting to an accountant to understand the situation and what will work best for you.

paying taxes in australia

Is there an easy way to buy a home in Australia?

Yes. You can employ a buyer advocate. These are locals who know and understand the market, and they only buy properties, so there’s no conflict of interests. They are professionals who want you to buy your home for the best possible price.

You’ll pay them a fee, which is usually about 1.5% of the price, but they save more money than they cost. They’ll be able to advise you about local things to be aware of (termite testing!) and can do all those negotiations for you.

Also hire a lawyer and accountant. If this is the first time you’re buying in Australia, while the process is similar to NZ, it’s not identical. Before you sign any agreement or hand over any money, consult the professionals.

Things to consider while renting a property in Cairns

If you decide that you don’t way to buy in Cairns, you can rent. The rental market is highly competitive and you need to have all your documents prepped and ready to go and your bond and any rent in advance ready to go. That way, when you find a place you like you don’t have any delays and you can make sure you’re at the head of the queue.

What documents do you need?

Once you’ve got a few places shortlisted, you’ll have to submit a tenancy application. This includes a range of paperwork which may take a while to assemble. Start this process now. You need:

  • The last three months of bank statements
  • Reference from previous landlord, complete with their contact details
  • Proof your previous bond was repaid in full. If it wasn’t, provide reasons why.
  • 100 points’ worth of identification documents. This varies depending on what you have, but will be a collection of things such as passport or birth certificate, driver’s licence and national proof of ID card or another government card.

What about bonds and rent in advance?

There are state laws dictating what landlords can legally charge you. In general, bond is equal to two to four weeks of rent. This amount is paid to an agency, not the landlord. When the tenancy is complete, the bond will be returned to you after any damages or costs have been removed as discussed with the landlord.

Some landlords require advance rent too, up to four weeks of it, and a pet bond as well.

What about your rights and laws related to renting?

Like NZ, there are laws to protects renters and landlords. To protect renters, the landlord is expected to maintain the property at an agreed standard and provide repairs when required in a timely manner. There are also rent caps, and increases must be under a certain level.

Australia has a National Tenancy Database that landlords can list problematic tenants on. This could be for breaches of tenancy laws or agreements, if rent is unpaid, or if the damages to the property outstrips the bond amount. It will be difficult to find a rental in future if you are on this database.

Can you sublet your rental?

You can sublet a rental property but you have to discuss it with the landlord first. You’ll need to ask permission and then supply the landlord with potential flatmate details so they can check the National Tenancy Database.

The landlord must be reasonable, and can’t withhold consent unless you’re proposing to exceed the local planning laws in terms of tenant numbers. The landlord can ask for a payment for the letter of consent, but this needs to be reasonable. They can’t increase rent to reflect increased tenants either. However you will be responsible for the new tenants, so choose wisely.

The most important question - which neighbourhood to choose?

While many cities look attractive from afar, what truly matters is your neighbourhood. Every city has its share of great and rough neighbourhoods. Here, we have some insights on what Cairns locals consider to be great neighbourhoods.

Generally, people say that you should avoid neighbourhoods that start with ‘M’ which are Manoora, Manunda and Mooroobool. However, in all likelihood, you will find people who have lived there for years and have never encountered a problem.

Some of the best suburbs include:

Edgehill: This suburb is great if you are looking for inner-city lifestyle. It has great access to the CBD, airport and nature. The neighbourhood sits at the edge of the Cairns’ Botanic Gardens. However, there is a premium to pay for this neighbourhood since it is one of the most sought after.

Redlynch: Two of the city’s best schools are located in this neighbourhood. Apart from that it is surrounded by creeks, waterfalls, walkways, and parks. But at the same time, it has great access to the city’s CBD and other areas. In fact, it is considered one of the best neighbourhood for outsiders with families settling in Cairns.

Palm Cove: This is arguably the most beautiful suburb in Cairns and has a tropical feel, white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. It is also the tourist centre of the city boasting of many restaurants and resorts.

Trinity Beach: This suburb is known as the ‘New Palm Cove’ due to the similarities with the beach and the palms. The upside with Trinity beach is that it is closer to the city and property prices are cheaper than Palm Cove.

Stratford: Some claim that this small suburb will be the next Edgehill. Just 5kms from the airport and 10kms to the city, it is known for its quiet streets and great views of Mt. Whitfield. Great place to raise a family.

Looking to move to Cairns from NZ? Get in touch!

If you are looking to move to Cairns or anywhere else in Australia from New Zealand, then we are at your service. With all the major decisions to take, you can leave the shipping of all your belongings, car and pets to us. Give us a call and we can do all the work—all you have to do is find your home, and we’ll get you there.

Our Fixed Price Guarantee:

Our Fixed Price Guarantee:

Unlike many other movers, we will provide you with a fixed quote based on your specific list of items.

Should you wish to add or remove any items, we will adjust our fixed quote accordingly. Hence, no nasty surprises at the end of the move process.

Our Service Promise:

Our Service Promise:

  • We will listen to your individual needs and requirements.
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Free In-Home Consultation:

Free In-Home Consultation:

If you are moving the majority of your household items from New Zealand to Australia, one of Ausmoves experienced relocation consultants will visit your home to establish your specific packing requirements and any unique moving needs. Learn more about moving to Australia from NZ.

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