Cost of Living in Australia

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Housing

At the time of writing, the median house prices in Australian capitals1 are as follows:
  • Sydney: $555,000
  • Canberra: $495,000
  • Melbourne: $490,000
  • Darwin: $472,000
  • Perth: $460,000
  • Brisbane: $415,000
  • Adelaide: $370,000
  • Hobart: $350,000

The average house price in Australia is $470,000 ( averaged over the 8 capital cities).

What's an Average House?

Generally speaking, an average Australian house would be a 3 or 4 bedroom, single-storey house on its own plot of land. Of course, there are many much bigger houses and many smaller dwellings, such as home units and apartments. As for any other country in the world, location is a key factor in property prices. As an illustration; $460,000, the median price in Perth, could buy you any of the following dwellings, depending on which suburb it's in:
  • A single-storey 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in Padbury (suburb median $470,000).
  • A double-storey house with a pool on a large block in Gosnells (suburb median $315,000).
  • A 2 bedroom apartment close to the river in Applecross (suburb median $1.25 million).

How Australia Compares

The average UK house price is around £160,4005, equivalent to about $250,000 AUD at the current exchange rate. At $470,000, the average Australian house is 88% more expensive than the UK average!

In New Zealand the average is $365,000 NZD6, equivalent to about $285,000 AUD, so Australia is 65% more expensive than New Zealand.

Of course, we are only looking at the numbers here - it does not take into account the size or quality of the "average" house in each country.

Also, this is not a direct comparison of "Housing Affordability" between countries - that needs to take into account earnings, income tax and mortgage rates.

Mortgage Payments

According to the ABS2, the average home loan in Australia in April 2012 was $288,900.

The current Cash Rate Target (Base Rate) set by the Reserve Bank of Australia3 is 3.50%, resulting in a typical mortgage rate of around 5.9%.

So, an average home loan will cost you around $1830 per month - that's $21,960 per year or around $422 each week.4

Renting

According to REIWA7, the median rent in Perth in March 2012 for all types of property was $425 per week. For 4 bedroom houses, the average is more like $470 per week.

A good way to assess rents is to look at the yield ie. the annual rent as a percentage of the house value. The average yield in Perth is around 4-5%. So, as a rough guide, if you're looking to rent in a certain suburb, where the median house price is say, $700,000, you can expect to pay $700,000 * 4.5% = $31,500 per year in rent. This comes to $605 per week.

A 100% mortgage on the same house would cost over $1000 per week. Add in rates, water rates and a few repairs and you would be paying around $1200 per week as a home-owner.

Clearly, renting is usually a lot cheaper than owning; in our example $605 versus $1200 per week.

An Example...Our House

Our house in Duncraig, 18km north of Perth CBD and 2km from the beach. The suburb is popular with migrants because of the reputation of local schools, attractive parks and good quality housing (which can be a bit dated).

Our house is fairly typical of this area - on a 710sqm block, single storey, 4 bed, 2 bath with lounge, dining, family & games rooms, plus concrete swimming pool - the house was built around 1980 and has had some minor renovations since then.

As most will be aware, Perth house prices went through a boom period between 2004 and 2007, roughly doubling in that perod. Since then prices have fluctuated, but in mid 2012 they're basically back where they were 5 years ago. Our house is probably in the $725,000 - $750,000 range (see the house).

Sources

1 www.rpdata.com
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics
3 Reserve Bank of Australia
4 www.infochoice.com.au
5 UK Land Rgistry
6 Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
7 Real Estate Institute of WA.
8 OFX. At the time of writing, 1 AUD=0.645 GBP, 1.01 USD or 1.28 NZD.