Finding a rental property in Canberra at this time of year is almost always a battle, as hordes of people flock to the national capital to start university and take up new jobs.
But as the country remains in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, there was hope among prospective tenants that this year would be less brutal.
It’s not. In fact, it’s worse.
“The market is crazy,” real estate agent Mel Brill said.
“It just has a mind of its own at the moment.”
While COVID-19 has halted the usual influx of international arrivals, more Australians are relocating to Canberra from interstate than agents expected.
And the mass exodus from the territory that usually happens at this time of year is not occurring, with most Canberrans seemingly happy to stay put.
From northside to southside, inspections have been drawing record crowds and more applications than agents can handle.
And, because demand for rental properties is so high, house hunters have even been offering well above the asking price to increase their chances of success.
“I had 30 groups through a house in Ainslie that was advertised for $620 and I was getting offers at $750 — it was ridiculous,” Ms Brill said.
Low supply + high demand = $$$
According to data from CoreLogic, Canberra is currently the most expensive city for renters in the country.
The median weekly rent for a house in the capital is $657 — up 3.6 per cent since 2019.
Apartment rents are also increasing but not as quickly, with the average now $473 per week.
Hannah Gill, president of the Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT), said the housing and rental markets live by a simple equation of supply and demand.
When supply is low, demand becomes high, causing prices to skyrocket.
“Data released this week showed a 1.1 per cent vacancy rate, which is just not a sustainable vacancy rate,” Ms Gill, said.
House hunters at breaking point
Single mother Kellee Roberts had not rented in more than a decade and was not prepared for the angst that finding a new home in Canberra would bring.
“I’ve been to inspections where there are 40 and 50 people at them,” Ms Roberts said.
Ms Roberts has been looking for a rental property since selling her home in Gowrie last November.
She applied for more than 10 properties in two weeks and was rejected from every one.
“I’d like to think being a single parent doesn’t work against me, but it probably does,” Ms Roberts said.
“Only having one income in a family, people have that concern that you’re not as financially secure and I do feel like it does go against me.”
It shouldn’t, RIEACT’s Ms Gill said.
“When we’re looking for a tenant, all we should be looking for is their capacity to care for the property and pay the rent,” Ms Gill said.
“So, how many kids they have, how many pets they have, what they do for a living, none of that should actually come into play.”
It got to the point where Ms Roberts had less than a week to find somewhere to live.
She wasn’t sleeping and was overwhelmed with stress.
Then she finally got the news she had been waiting for — she was approved for a home in Rivett and is scheduled to move in this week.
“I’m very, very relieved,” she said.
Battle of the uni students
For two months, ANU student Hannah Young has spent every spare moment looking for a house to move into with three friends.
“We have all come from living on campus and it’s just been so hard because there are so many students doing the same thing,” Ms Young said.
“We’ve just been staring at the apps and real estate websites, waiting for houses to come on the market.”
The group has been to more than 30 inspections and submitted at least 15 applications.
“Because, if you’re offering what they’re asking for, you’ve got no shot, especially if you’re a student group, because that’s the only way you’re going to seem more attractive than families and professionals.”
In the past week, Hannah and her friends finally had some luck — they were approved for a four-bedroom house in Ainslie.
“I still feel such disbelief — I can’t believe we have a house, and it’s such a relief to delete the real estate apps,” Ms Young said.
The good news didn’t come cheaply, though.
The house was advertised for $800 per week but the group had to offer $200 more to secure it.
And the only reason they are able to afford that is because their parents are chipping in.
“This whole time I’ve been thinking, ‘Oh, woe is me’ but most student groups wouldn’t be getting parental support,” she said.
“And they’re having to compete with groups who have parents throwing money at the situation.”
Everything, everywhere being snapped up quickly
It is not only houses that are hot property in Canberra, with demand for units also soaring.
“Honestly, nothing is hard to move at the moment,” Grace Hooper, Independent Property Group’s general manager of property management, said.
“We’ve had a few large developments in Canberra — one in Braddon and one in Kingston — and they have rented extremely quickly.
“Usually with developments we do see, because there’s a large volume, they do take a little longer. But at the moment, that’s just not the case.”
But while competition is fierce, agents want would-be tenants to know that it is not always the highest bid that wins.
“Sometimes there’s a better fit or something else an owner is looking for, and most landlords will forgo $10 or $20 dollars for a tenant they feel really happy with in their property.”
While interest in Canberra as a place to live may be high, investors are starting to look elsewhere, according to experts.
Ms Gill said there were for a number of reasons for that.
“If you’re looking at rents alone, Canberra’s a great place to invest and it always has been,” Ms Gill said.
“But if you’re looking at running costs and some of the other elements that tie into holding property in Canberra — land taxes and the balance of tenant and landlord rights, for example — that’s where it becomes a little bit murky.”
Ms Gill said those concerns meant investors were increasingly looking at areas beyond the the ACT border.
She said that was a huge concern because supply was already so strained and rental stress had become increasingly common.
“Housing needs to be a right, not a privilege,” she said.
“That creates a significant flow-on effect for rental stress and the way people can live in Canberra.”
Thank you for stopping by and checking out this news release about Australian Capital Territory news titled “Canberra’s rental crisis is forcing many to spend weeks searching for a home as prices go beyond ‘affordable'”. This news article is presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our Australian news services.
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