Once you are familiar with the different suburbs of Sydney and have given your budget some thought, do a few searches on Domain.com.au to see what’s available.

After a couple of searches you will start to recognise different rental agencies like LJ Hooker and Raine & Horne. Perhaps you have even seen the same real estate agent’s name a few times.

Here is the Tip

Write up a quick email stating your visa status and what kind of apartment you are looking for and your arrival date, or when you are looking to move in.

Now take that email and send it out to those specific agents that you keep seeing on Domain.com.au. Their email contacts are usually listed along with the apartment details.

Say something like “I’ve noticed that the rentals you have available always come up whenever I do a search on Domain.com.au. I am looking for… My arrival date is… I am with be working at…My visa status is…”

Then ask them if they have anything coming available when you will be looking.

This is exactly what we did and it totally paid off!

The competition for rentals in Sydney is very high.

If there is a place available that is clean and centrally located, it is very common for people to start trying to outbid each other for the apartment.

Yes, as in paying more each month or even offering to pay a full year’s rent up front.

After we witnessed people trying to outbid each other at a tiny but clean one bedroom apartment in Surry Hills right next to Taylor Square for $650 a week, we totally freaked out.

Every expat I’ve ever meet in Sydney has this same freak out moment when looking for their first rental in Sydney.

It’s ok, you’ll be fine.

What’s even better?

You’ll be prepared because you’re reading this now.

We were already pushing it financially at that price point and there was no way we were going to be able to go higher. And, absolutely no way, that paying a full year’s rent in advance was going to happen.

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“Holy crap! What the heck are we going to do?”

That’s when I started emailing.

The first email I sent to the real estate agent of the Surry Hills apartment saying how much we liked it but couldn’t pay more. Then I politely asked if she had any other rentals in Surry Hills that were similar.

To our surprise, she wrote us back.

She didn’t have anything at that moment but if something come up she would keep us in mind.

Well, that was a bummer, but at least she wrote us back.

That got me thinking.

What would happen if I sent emails out to more real estate agents?

There was only one way to find out and all it took was the time.

The real estate email campaign began.

It felt like I sent out hundreds but in truth, it was probably 20, if not less.

The next day we got a few replies. From there, we made it a point to go that agent’s apartment viewing that we were interested in.

Even before looking at the apartment, we would introduce ourselves to the agent, reminding them that we were the ones that emailed. This way they knew we were serious about doing business with them because, not only did we reach out, but we actually showed up.

The combination of the email inquiry then going to meet the agent at the viewing meant we were first in line for consideration.

It worked beautifully.

We had our first apartment in Sydney sorted within a week.

Other Tips for Renting Your First Apartment in Sydney

Conquering the Competition

Conquering the rental competition in Sydney is key, but there are a few other things you need to be prepared for.

First, is the 100 points ID list.

This is a list of documents you need to have with you that allow the rental agents to verify you are who you say you are.

100 Points ID List

(This is an example of points and probably NOT the exact list, or points given by rental agents or banks.)
Passport 70 pts*
Birth Certificate 70 pts *
Social Security Card 40 pts
Tertiary Education Student ID card 40 pts
Mortgage documents 35 pts
Letter from employer (current or, sometimes accepted, within last 2 years) 35 pts
ATM card, credit card, bank book, bank statement from Australian bank 25 pts
Medicare Card (For those moving from the UK) 25 pts
International driver’s licence 25 pts
Marriage certificate 25 pts
*Usually only one of these is accepted towards your 100 points

It good to have all of these organized and ready to fill out an application asap.

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Even better is to set up an account with 1form and fill out an application online.

You can fill out just one form, as the name suggests, scan your 100 points ID documents and save it to your account. Then when you see a place you want to apply for, go to the listing on Domain.com.au and click apply IF the option is available.

Big “if” there as not all property management agencies accept 1form. When you’re looking at listings on Domain.com.au, check to see if you can apply with 1form. If they do not accept 1form, then go directly to the real estate agency’s website. Locate the listing you are interested in and see if they have an alternative online application for their rental listings. Most do have a PDF application that you can download, fill out, scan and send back to them.

Doesn’t matter if you use 1form or the real estate management’s own tenant application, you will still need your 100 points ID documents.

Apartment viewings, be prepared!

Viewing times for apartments in Sydney are crazy short, usually only 15 mins long which doesn’t make things easy especially since they are at all times of the day.

For example, our current apartment in Woollahra was only open from 2:00pm to 2:15pm on a Tuesday.

Now do you see why it’s important to focus on one area of Sydney instead of searching all over the city?

It’s almost impossible to go from one end of the city to the other when viewing times are back to back.

What makes it worse is nicer apartments at a reasonable price are usually only shown once so if you miss it you out of luck. Done and dusted.

Be Early or At the Very Least ON TIME!

Sydney apartments are usually rented on a first come first served system. If you arrive first and get your application in first then you will usually be first in-line for the apartment.

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This is why emailing the agent before the viewing worked out so well for us and has every single time we have had to move since. The email correspondence counts as the first point of contact usually.

Your second apartment in Sydney will be much easier as you will now have a rental history in Australia started, Yay! Just make sure it is a good rental history or you might be screwed the next time around.

A Few More Things to Be Aware Of.

  1. Rental agents in Sydney don’t seem to take their jobs that seriously.Ok, that’s a bit harsh, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been waiting with a group of others to see an apartment and no one shows up.

    I’ve even called an agent beforehand to make sure they were going to be there and still they were a no-show.

    It is so frustrating especially if you are taking time from work, getting there by train just to view an apartment for 5 mins.

  2. Document the condition of the apartment when you move in.Once you have your apartment sorted, before you move in make sure you go through the apartment thoroughly (as in military white glove inspection), take photos or even video of anything that is not up to scratch. And make sure it’s time stamped.

    Be meticulous!

    The first two apartments we moved out of tried to ding us with previous damage from another tenant. One would have meant repainting the apartment for a few scratches on the wall that were already there.

    This is very common. Rental agents are extremely picking with the moving out inspection, but the moving-in inspection is your responsibility.

    That means making sure the oven is clean or you will have to clean it when you move out. (I’m now pretty quick when it comes to cleaning the oven.)

  3. Bomb your apartment.Another thing to do before you move in is bug bomb your new apartment.

    There is no way around it. Your apartment will have cockroaches and spiders. It’s so much easier to bug bomb it when it’s empty.

    It only takes one huge flying cockroach to make you wish you did. Or a huntsman spider. Those are fun! I have a post about our first huntsman spider experience here.