It is that time of year again when Canberra welcomes an influx of students, public servant graduates, diplomats and others starting life in the nation’s capital. A common complaint is that there are no rental properties available.
I have a friend who is looking for a property for his young family to rent; he is becoming quite panicky. I thought he was just being melodramatic until Dennis Vlandis from LJ Hooker Belconnen told me that he was seeing strong signs that the market was trending upwards. “In some places rents have jumped as much as $50 a week for comparable properties since December,” he said.
I decided to investigate further, so asked Lindsey Burne, franchise owner at LJ Hooker Dickson about the rental situation. He admitted that there is currently a shortage of rental stock in the ACT; there are around 1,700 properties for rent listed on Allhomes.com.au, compared with up to 3,000 available at times. And vacancies are low at less than 1%. This is seasonal; Lindsey said he expected the situation to stabilise in late March/April. That said, Canberra is still recovering from a substantial rental dip three years ago so rents are far from being lifted to unrealistic levels.
I remember arriving in Canberra seventeen (!) years ago, and having to compete against hordes of others for inspections. This is still the case; Lindsey said that at the moment it is not unusual to have between 20 and up to 50 groups of people inspect a place, with just over seven applications received per property.
How then, do you make your rental application stand out from the crowd?
Lindsey said that a key is to actually complete the application form in full. “It is amazing how many people don’t fully complete the application form,” says Lindsey. “If the applicant is a group, they should all complete the form. If it is a couple applying, they should both complete the form. Each adult should provide all their details and their own referees. Referees should not be friends or family. Again, it is interesting how often people use a work colleague/friend rather than their supervisor/manager.”
But what then about people who have arrived from interstate or even from overseas? A common complaint from international students is that it is next to impossible to find properties as they don’t have local referees.
Lindsey admitted it is probably more difficult for people arriving from outside of Canberra, mainly because most landlords would like the applicant to personally inspect the property prior to an offer of a tenancy being made. It is ultimately best for both parties to physically inspect a property.
The situation with international students can be more difficult, as it is hard for property managers to verify their backgrounds. “There is an added element of risk to the landlord as IF the tenant mistreated the property or didn’t pay rent they can leave the country and the debt behind,” Lindsey said. To counter this, Lindsey recommends students build a strong relationship with the support staff at their educational institution, and work closely with them in the lead up to their move to Canberra. Ideally, those staff members may then be able to act as a referee.
In my experience, usually people new to Canberra settle down and find a property within a month or so. But those first few weeks with the uncertainty of knowing where you will find a home can be challenging.