Housing and Accommodation
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 floor plans.
When building in Alice Springs transporting materials is a major factor.
As Alice Springs has very low rainfall, 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.
In recent years, flats with one to three bedrooms have become more commonplace, catering to an increasing number of singles and transient residents.
Alice Springs has a hot summer - maximum temperatures are over 35 degrees for several months - so almost all houses have air conditioning.
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.
New reverse-cycle air conditioners can be extremely efficient and cost-friendly when used in smaller spaces.
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 is 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 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. It is recommended you have a pool cover to help prevent 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 12 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 shop-front windows, in the Centralian Advocate - particularly in the Friday edition - and in the Alice Springs News online.
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's public housing scheme is run by Territory Housing.
Houses and flats are available to tenants who fulfill the eligibility criteria.
Low income earners can also apply for an interest-free loan to cover their rental bond.
Buying a House
Properties for sale are advertised in the news paper and real estate agent websites.
For more information, visit Real Estate Institute of Northern Territory's website, here.