Vacancy rates in our already-tight rental markets fell in six of the capital cities and were unchanged in the other two in January, according to the monthly report from SQM Research.

The national average vacancy rate fell from 2.2% in December to 2% in January, but five capital cities – Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin and Hobart – all have vacancy rates below 1%, while Brisbane sits at 1.7%.

Throughout regional Australia, many centres have vacancy rates below 1% in what represents a national rental crisis for people seeking tenancies.

The industry benchmark is that vacancy rates below 3% represent a shortage of rental properties.

The two biggest cities, where vacancies are highest, showed marked improvements in January, with Sydney falling from 3.6% in December to 3.2%, and Melbourne falling from 4.7% to 4.4%.

SQM CEO Louis Christopher says the figures provide more evidence the worse is over for landlords in the Sydney and Melbourne rental markets.

He says: “The falls in vacancy rates for the month in those two cities, combined with the increased tightness in other cities and regions, has now brought rental vacancy rates down to below where they were prior to the outbreak of Covid19.”

Christopher says the data suggests that 2021 will remain largely a tenant’s market in the inner city areas “but will also very much remain a landlord’s market for regional Australia”.He also notes that rents for both houses and units have risen in the capital cities, on average, over the past month.

In annual terms, the national average is a 10% rise in house rents and a 4% increase in apartments rents.

The growth has been higher in regional markets than in the capital cities, with Sydney and Melbourne rents still lower on average than a year ago.

But there have been strong rises in Perth, Canberra and Darwin.

In Perth, rents have risen 11.5% for houses and 12.3% for apartments, while in Darwin house rents have increased 27% in 12 months. In Canberra rents have risen around 6% for both houses and units.

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