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Housing and Accommodation

This page contains information about the types of housing available in Alice Springs. Housing and accommodation organisations in the Alice Springs Community Directory.

Houses in Alice Springs tend to be bigger than those in most big Australian cities. Double story houses are rare as blocks are often 1200m2, or half that in some areas where subdivision has been permitted. Many older houses were built as government housing in the 1940s and 50s, and it's not uncommon for most houses in a street to have identical original floorplans. When building in Alice Springs transporting materials is a major factor. As Alice Springs has very low rainfall and no sea breeze steel is often used a construction material as it provides a good size to weight ratio. It is also surprisingly good for excluding heat if used properly.

Flats with one to three bedrooms have recently started to appear, catering to the large numbers of singles and transient residents.

Air conditioning

Alice Springs has a hot summer - maximum temperatures are over 35 degrees for several months - so almost all houses have airconditioning. There are two types, evaporative 'swampies' and refrigerative reverse-cycle air conditioners. Swampies have a large fan (often a drum fan) which blows air over filters which are kept damp with water from a plumbed connection. Houses often have a single unit on the roof, with ducting leading to all the rooms. Swampies don't use much power - the fan is the only moving part - but don't work well when humidity is high.
Reverse cycle air conditioners use a similar mechanism to a fridge, they compress a gas into a liquid and then let it change back into gas, soaking up heat. Reverse cycle air conditioners work well in all conditions, and often include a heating option for winter, but they use a lot of power - a large one can use 4kw - so they can cost a lot to run.

Heating

When looking for a house it's good to bear in mind that for two or three months of the year the night temperature in Alice Springs can drop below freezing! Many residents use wood fires in winter, but gas heaters are also popular. The gas supply in Alice Springs is almost exclusively liquid petroleum gas which supplied in large tanks by two local companies. If you are moving to Alice from another Australian city it's probably not worth bringing a natural gas heater (or any natural gas appliances) as they need to be modified to work with LPG.

Pools

Pools are a mixed blessing: Many Alice Springs residents feel they can't live without them in summer, but they can sit unused for four or five months over winter. They can also cost a lot in chemicals and water - water evaporates very rapidly in our climate. If you are renting a house make sure it is clear from the outset who is paying for pool maintenance, and excess water usage. A pool cover can help with evaporation. Also be aware that the Northern Territory has strict pool fencing laws (to prevent accidental child drownings). All pools, even inflatable paddling pools must be fenced properly if they are to be left unsupervised.

Renting a House

Leases are usually six or twelve months, and a four week bond is usually required up front. Unlike some other states the bond is held by the agent. At certain times of the year - particularly around the end of January - the rental market can be fairly competitive.

The first step in getting a rental property is usually to fill out an application for tenancy form at the real estate agencies (most of the agencies in town are within a couple of blocks of each other, so this won't take that long). Most real estate agencies won't show potential tenants a property until this is done.

Rental properties are advertised on the agency websites, in their shopfront windows, in the Centralian Advocate - particularly in the Friday edition - and in the Alice Springs News. It's worth remembering too that Alice Springs is fairly small, and that word of mouth often works well - tell enough people you are looking for a house, and sooner or later someone will know of something.

If you find a house through a real estate agent the usual procedure is for the agent to get two or more applications from potential tenants, and to then let the owner decide on their preferred tenants.

The Northern Territory Department of Justice has more information on tenancy in the Territory.

The Northern Territory's public housing scheme is run by Territory Housing. Houses and flats are available to tenants who fulfil the eligibility criteria. The current waiting list status can be found here. Low income earners can also apply for an interest free loan to cover their rental bond.

Buying a House

Most house sales in Alice Springs are by private treaty. Properties for sale are advertised in the newspapers and on the real estate agent websites.

When an offer from a potential buyer is accepted, but contracts are still pending, the house my be labelled 'under offer' or 'under contract'. If a real estate agent gets another offer during this period they are obliged to present it to the seller, who may then decide to 'gazump' the original buyer, or to refuse the offer.

The Northern Territory Department of Justice has more information buying and selling houses in the Territory.