Australian Rental Market: A Tale of Unprecedented Increases and Selective Declines - Property Inc

Australian Rental Market: A Tale of Unprecedented Increases and Selective Declines

The Australian rental market is exhibiting a complex landscape, marked by significant rent increases in many areas, while some suburbs surprisingly record rents lower than they were five years ago. Michael Janda’s article, “Rents highlight Australia’s economic Achilles heel, but it’s not what you might think,” and Kate Burke’s “Cheaper than five years ago: The suburbs where rents are back to 2018,” provide an insightful overview of this dynamic situation.

Janda points out the stark reality for many Australian renters. According to CoreLogic data, asking rents have surged significantly, with an 8.3% increase last year, following 9.5% and 9.6% jumps in the preceding years. This rise in rents, although painful, barely surpasses the increase in home values over the past three years. Interestingly, 2023 marked the first year in a decade where rent rises exceeded capital gains on housing without a fall in home values. “There’s no doubt many renters are in a world of pain right now,” Janda states, highlighting the financial stress that nearly two-thirds of renters are experiencing.

The economic implications of these trends are profound. Janda notes that while a majority of Australians benefit from rising home values, the surge in rents indicates a massive misallocation of capital. With the average gross rental yield at a mere 3.7% nationally, and even lower in Sydney, the gap between investment costs and returns is widening. “In what financial universe is it a good investment to borrow a massive sum of money to receive a return that’s half what you’ll pay in interest?” Janda questions, illustrating the irrationality of the current property investment scenario in Australia.

Contrasting this scenario, Burke’s article sheds light on the other end of the spectrum. Despite the general uptrend, certain suburbs, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, have seen their median asking rents fall below 2018 levels. These areas, heavily impacted during the pandemic, have not yet recovered their losses. “Those locations where there were [typically] a lot of international students or visitors had some of the largest rent declines,” explains Dr. Nicola Powell, Domain’s chief of research and economics.

Suburbs like Bellevue Hill in Sydney and Macleod in Melbourne exemplify this trend, with rents still below the levels five years prior. This is attributed to changes in demand patterns during the pandemic and the conversion of short-term accommodations to long-term rentals. However, recovery is underway, as Matthew Serrao from Raine & Horne Double Bay observes, “We had a lot of expats [previously] getting allowances that were a lot higher than they are now … then we had the pandemic hit,” indicating a gradual return to pre-pandemic rent levels.

In summary, the Australian rental market is experiencing a dichotomy: soaring rents in most parts, making home ownership increasingly elusive for many, and selective suburbs witnessing a downturn in rental prices, still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic. These trends highlight the complex interplay of economic factors and social changes shaping the country’s property market.


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