Rental crisis conditions expose a drastic undersupply of housing in a growing number of regional hotspots.

Whilst this may be great news for landlords and eager investors, it’s fast becoming a heartbreaking situation for thousands of families finding themselves unable to secure a rental property. 

My regular conversations with property managers in many of the key regional markets has highlighted that concerns around housing the shortage is quickly becoming desperation, as families face the shocking possibility of homelessness.  

Here’s an recent article from the Daily Telegraph that features this growing issue on the mid-north coast of NSW:

 

Mid-North Coast records second lowest rental vacancies in the state

Rental properties on the Mid-North Coast are harder to come by then hens teeth, according to new data that shows our coastal paradise is all but full.

Rental properties from Taree to Coffs Harbour are just about non-existent as the region grapples with one of the lowest vacancy rates real estate agents have ever seen.

New figures from the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) reveals just how incredibly tight the Mid-North Coast market really is, with only 0.4 per cent of all rental properties in the region available for rent.

The December 2020 stats are the lowest they’ve been in 12 months, with some real estate agents saying it‘s the lowest number they’ve ever seen. A surge in city dwellers flocking to the coast for a sea change to escape the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ability to do so while working from home, are the biggest reasons behind the squeeze.

The situation is getting so dire, friends of agents, and friends of friends of agents, are privately pleading with them for advice, a foot in the door, or a way forward to break into the market.

Social media sites are also swimming with last-minute or desperate requests for help from people seeking a new place to live.

“I’ve literally had so many messages from people saying ‘Paul can you help me’,” CEO of Nationwide Property Brokers Paul Loughland said.

“It‘s the same story on online chat rooms, there’s hundreds of people asking – how can they get a property, where can they look, who do people know.”

“It’s [not getting a rental] got nothing to do with these people personally, there’s just nothing about.”

The REINSW data shows that vacancies have declined by almost a full two percent on this time last year.

The Mid-North Coast now has the second lowest vacancy rate in the state, beaten only by the south coast market at .03 per cent.

Conversely, inner city and middle city Sydney are sitting at 4.4 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively.

In January 2020, during a pre-COVID era, vacancies along the Mid-North Coast were at an optimum level of about 2.4 per cent.

Naturally, the start of winter’s low season in May saw a further increase in vacancies at 3.2 per cent.

But as the months and the pandemic rolled on, vacancies rapidly started to decline from their May high, before bottoming out in December at 0.4 per cent.

 

One Agency Wauchope, L.J Hooker Forster and Patterson Real Estate Port Macquarie all only have one available listing for rent.

Ashlee O’Neill of One Agency said their property – a four bedroom home in Sovereign Hills – was listed on Thursday last week and she’d already received a “multitude” of applications.

“More than 20 – that’s within two days,” she said.

“The price for that home alone in the last 12 months we’ve seen increase $100 [in weekly rent], whereas we would have leased it this time last year within the $480-$500, now we’re leasing it for between $580 and $610 – it’s a big jump.”

 

Port Macquarie’s Patterson Real Estate is currently showing just one three-bedroom Port Macquarie unit.

Property Manager Bec Lewis said the little stock that does come available is going so quickly, and at increased prices, its making it hard for tenants in a landlord-dominated market.

“Tenants are offering more per week than the asking price, or offering 6-12 months upfront to help them try secure a home,” she said.

“Currently, there are only 60 properties in Port Macquarie for lease, so yes, there is a shortage quite possibly from the flow on from COVID and being the time of year as well.

“I’m finding that when COVID hit, many people were relocating to Port, the majority from the city areas or COVID hot spots as they can now work remotely and there’s no need for them to stay in the city where they don’t like plus cheaper to live.

“Now we have people still relocating, but it’s because of new job opportunities and before school goes back for the new year.

“There are also a lot of locals moving around too with owners needing their properties back as travel plans or COVID restrictions have them readjusting their plans and/or finances so they need to move back into their home or sell there investment.”

 

Further north in the holidaying heartland of Yamba, Ray White Principal Daniel Kelly said there were only four vacant rentals earlier this month.

“Vacancy rates have fallen drastically in regional areas and increased in the city. It goes to the idea that people are fleeing the cities with working from home situations and so on.

“I can’t recall vacancies being this low.”

 

REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said there’s clearly an exodus from the Middle ring of Sydney continuing, which may see tenants either returning to more popular City areas or abandoning the city altogether for a sea change to regional NSW or elsewhere in Australia.

Ms O’Neill said the best chance of securing a property when it comes on to the market is to apply for it straight away.

“Even if you haven’t had a chance of viewing it yet, just put your application in – if we’ve got it, we can process it.

“Even if we don’t have any properties, just get your name on our desk and we will start sorting your application out and it’s there for when something does come up.”

“What’s going to a tenant ahead is having all their documents ready to go and handed in to us so they’re ready. Be over prepared, you can never give us too many documents or supporting documents.”