Australia is facing a severe shortage of rental properties, resulting in a rental crisis that has delivered some of the lowest rental vacancy rates on record and the fastest rises in weekly rents.
This crippling shortage is hampering labour mobility, making finding your next rental very stressful, and contributing to cost-of-living pressures the like of which have not been seen in a generation.
First National Real Estate’s property managers are witnessing highly competitive situations where applicants feel compelled to offer to pay more rent than a rental provider (landlord) is asking, while others seek longer leases or even offer to pay a year in advance.
While our policy is that we do not encourage prospective tenants to pay more than the asking price for a property, all agents and property managers are duty-bound to communicate any such offer to a landlord, even in states or territories where legislation prevents agents from inviting or soliciting a higher rent.
Tenants are legally allowed to offer higher rents for a property if they do so voluntarily and freely, however the prohibition on agent’s conduct to not solicit or invite a higher offer of rent may also affect how real estate agents respond to questions from prospective tenants.
What’s the state of play?
In September 2022, the national rental vacancy rate hit a record low of 0.9%, the lowest since April 2006, when it was only 0.8% for one month. This low vacancy rate has persisted throughout most of 2022, marking an unprecedented situation over the last two decades.
The rental housing shortage has created significant pressure on the market, driving up rent prices. Consequently, national combined rents for houses and apartments reached an all-time high of $542 per week as of November 2022.
Why do we have a rental crisis?
There is a complex set of reasons why Australia finds itself in such a difficult situation. From First National Real Estate’s perspective, the reasons are best summarised as follows:
- We’re not building enough houses to keep up with population and household growth
- There has been a 17.1% rise in single person households between 2016 and 2021, partially caused by relationship breakdowns and the dissolving of shared houses during COVID
- The number of houses we are building is slowing, not increasing, thanks to supply chain issues, town planning restrictions and worker shortages
- Internal migration – Between 2016 and 2021, regional Australia gained 184,000 people as people moved out of capital cities, placing further pressure on availability
- Surges in Australian home values led to many investors selling their rental properties, which were largely bought by first homebuyers, or homeowners exiting our cities
- International migration – With borders re-opening, over 1 million international students and workers have entered the country since late 2022
- Short-term rentals such as AirBnB have reduced the pool of available long-term rentals, however this is mainly restricted to high-demand city areas with significant tourism appeal
How can you win the rental application race?
With the market so tight and so many different people competing for rental properties, you need to be well prepared and ready to lodge your application quickly.
However, the challenges each applicant faces can be very different. For example, first time renters with no renting history are competing with well-established tenants with good track records. Tenants with pets suffer discrimination at the hands of some landlords, especially if they haven’t taken the time to get references arranged. And, long-term homeowners who are downsizing may not have rented a property in 40 years and, similarly, have no tenancy history to strengthen their application.
So how can you craft the strongest possible application to put yourself to the head of the queue, whether you’re a first-timer, a family with pets, or you’re downsizing?
Here are our top tips for each situation:
First time applicants:
- Before you start looking for a rental, make sure you have all the necessary documents such as proof of income, credit report, and references, then register with several agents in the area you are interested in. This will speed up the application process. Also, make sure your Facebook or other social media profiles do not create an unfavourable impression for a landlord (yes, they check).
- Be organised – Create a file or folder to keep all your rental documents in one place or consider using a do-it-once application system like realestate.com.au’s Ignite. This will help you keep track of everything, move quickly, and ensure you don’t leave out any important details.
- Act fast: If you find a rental property you like, act quickly. Good rental properties go fast, so it’s important to be prepared and ready to submit your application as soon as possible.
- Be honest: Be honest about your financial situation and employment status. Landlords appreciate honesty and are more likely to choose first time tenants who are transparent and truthful.
- Highlight your strengths: Emphasise your positive qualities such as your ability to pay rent on time, and your stable employment (or income source). You have no rental history so you need to bolster your application with recommendations or any references that attest to your reliability and good reputation.
- Include a personal touch: If you’re serious about a rental property, consider including a personal letter introducing yourself and explaining why you would be the perfect tenant. This can help you stand out from other applicants.
- Provide references: Provide strong references from teachers, employers, community leaders or other credible sources. This can help landlords feel confident in your ability to be a responsible tenant.
- Respond quickly: Be responsive to the property manager’s requests for information or additional documentation. A quick response can help show your level of interest and commitment.
- Be prepared to pay upfront: Be prepared to pay a deposit, first month’s rent, and any other fees required by the landlord. Having these funds readily available can show your financial responsibility and make your application more appealing.
Families with pets:
- Be upfront about your pet and children: When applying for a rental property, it’s important to be honest about the fact that you have both a pet and children – their ages and interests etc. This will help you find a landlord who is open to renting to families with pets.
- Emphasise your responsibility: Highlight your responsibility as a pet owner by providing evidence of up-to-date vaccinations, training certificates, and good behaviour references. This will show that you are a responsible pet owner and can be trusted with a rental property.
- Offer to pay a pet deposit: Consider offering to pay a pet deposit to the landlord to assure them that any damages or additional wear caused by your pet will be covered. This can show that you are willing to take responsibility for your pet’s actions.
- Highlight your family’s positive qualities: Emphasise your family’s positive qualities such as your clean rental history, stable employment, and financial responsibility. This will show that you are reliable and trustworthy tenants.
- Be prepared to sign a pet agreement: Be prepared to sign a pet agreement that outlines your responsibilities as a pet owner. This can help put the landlord’s mind at ease and show that you are serious about renting the property.
- Provide references: Provide strong references from previous landlords, employers, or other credible sources that can attest to your responsibility as a pet owner and a parent.
- Show proof of income: Show proof of income such as pay notifications or bank statements to demonstrate your ability to pay rent and provide for your family and pet.
- Include a personal touch: Consider including a personal letter introducing your family and your pet (with a photo) explaining why you would be the perfect tenants for the property. This can help you stand out from other applicants and show your enthusiasm for the property.
- Respond quickly: Be responsive to the landlord’s requests for information or additional documentation. A quick response can help show your level of interest and commitment.
- Offer to sign a longer lease: Consider offering to sign a longer lease to provide the landlord with more security and reassurance. This can show your willingness to commit to the property and can make your application more appealing.
- Provide a letter of recommendation: Ask for a professional reference from a current or previous employer, former neighbour or community leader, attesting to your good character, responsibility, and reliability.
- Show proof of financial stability: Provide bank statements, pension or social security income information, and other documentation that shows you have the financial means to pay rent and other expenses.
- Offer to pay a higher security deposit: Even if you have no rental history, offering to pay a higher security deposit can show landlords that you are committed to being a responsible tenant.
- Be upfront about your situation: Explain your situation to the landlord and be upfront about why you are downsizing and looking to rent. This can help build trust and establish a positive relationship.
- Offer to sign a longer lease: A longer lease can provide landlords with the stability and assurance they need to rent to someone without rental history.
- Demonstrate good credit: Provide proof of a good credit score and history of paying bills on time. This can show landlords that you are a responsible and reliable tenant.
- Be flexible with move-in dates: Being flexible with move-in dates can demonstrate your eagerness to find a suitable rental property and increase your chances of being accepted.
- Offer to provide additional references: If you have volunteered or participated in community activities, offer to provide references from those organisations to further demonstrate your reliability and character.
- Highlight your life experience: Emphasise your life experience and skills, such as home maintenance or gardening, that can make you a valuable tenant and asset to the property.