Slightly more options for renters looking to move, but nothing to write home about

Australian renters looking to move house had slightly more choice in April but with competition for vacant homes still fierce, prices will probably continue to rise.

May 17, 2024, updated May 17, 2024
Desperate renters queue up outside a rental house. (Photo:

Desperate renters queue up outside a rental house. (Photo:

Vacancy rates have been holding at very low levels in most parts of the country, leaving more renters scrambling to secure the few available properties and pushing market rents higher.

And while a minor rise in the national vacancy rate was recorded in April, according to real estate data firm PropTrack, conditions for renters remain tough, with just 1.21 per cent of properties sitting vacant during the month.

Even with the 0.09 percentage point lift in April, PropTrack economist Anne Flaherty said vacancy rates were still less than half the level that was considered healthy.

“With vacant properties scarce, homes that do come up for rent are continuing to see high levels of competition, which is driving rent prices higher,” Ms Flaherty said.

Canberra and Perth had the most substantial increases to vacancy rates, with the latter recording its first increase in vacant rentals since July 2022.

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Tenants looking for a new place have endured a 9.1 per cent rise in advertised rents in the 12 months to March, based on the property data firm’s figures, and Reserve Bank of Australia analysis suggests there’s more pain to come.

The dynamics in the housing market keeping rents and property prices high are taking time to unwind, the central bank’s chief economist Sarah Hunter said in a speech on Thursday.

New home building has been sluggish, fewer people are living together, and the population has been growing fast since borders reopened after the pandemic, keeping prices elevated.

And although there were signs developers were responding to strong demand for housing by building more homes, she said this was taking time and many projects were still not viable.

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