HOBART’S extremely tight rental market has shown some signs of loosening up, even if it is just a little.
New figures from SQM Research reveal a vacancy rate of 0.9 per cent in February, up from 0.4 per cent the previous year. This equates to 267 rental listings compared with 133, year-on-year.
The results from February this year also improved on the previous month by 85 vacancies.
In one of Hobart’s leading property markets, Sandy Bay, there are currently more than 50 rental property listings on realestate.com.au.
PRDnationwide director Tony Collidge said his senior property manager Abby Cooper had brought this surprising news to his attention.
“This number is almost double what was recently available, and the feeling is that with many of the international students not wanting to move here or unable to come here because of the coronavirus upheaval, this is — at long last — slowly starting to free up the rental market,” he said.
“I suspect that Airbnb bookings will be significantly affected, too.
“Property owners may choose to move to the medium- or long-term rental market, or possibly sell.
“This would add to long-term rental stocks and much-needed sales stocks.”
Tony said this type of change in the local market could start to put the brakes on climbing rents.
“That is something the market has needed for a while,” he said.
Tony said that over the past three months the number of properties available for rent across Greater Hobart had increased by 13 per cent.
However, he said few fit the bill for “affordability”, with 78 per cent of these vacancies having weekly rents of more than $400.
Figures from realestate.com.au show Sandy Bay’s median asking rent in the past 12 months was $650 per week for houses and $460 a week for units.
Tony said on the sales side of the market, PRD had seen prospective sellers who feel unsure and have plenty of questions and concerns, such as “Will the market slow down?”, “Is it safe?”, “I don’t want open homes,” or “I think we’ll wait this out and leave it until after winter or until things calm down.”
He said information about the virus was changing at a fast rate and as a business owner he had never experienced such an influx of information.
“I believe most real estate agents understand the dangers of coronavirus and will do their utmost to protect their clients from risk,” Tony said.
“At PRD we spoke about changing ‘opens’ [open homes] to inspection by appointment, asking those inspecting the properties to minimise personal contact with surfaces, and using sanitiser and protective gloves, if you can get hold of them.”
Tony said he had been amazed by how much things can change in just 48 hours.
Tony also said he had become more conscious of the impact coronavirus could have on the workplace and how that could affect property sales.
“We’re hearing that banks are reviewing lending practices and criteria, they are restricting lending in some areas and to some employment classes,” Tony said.
“What will happen to people whose employment is affected by COVID-19 and those who struggle to pay rent or pay their mortgages? There will be increasing pressure on the Government to provide support as the epidemic unfolds.”