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Vacancy rates drop, pushing rents up

The number of vacant properties in Australia dropped in August, pushing up rental prices in most cities, new research has shown.

Figures released by investment research house SQM Research revealed that the number of national residential vacancies dropped from 79,300 in July to 73,451 in August, bringing the country’s vacancy rate to 2.3 per cent.

Vacancies dropped in all capital cities in August, pushing up rents in most locations in September, especially in Sydney and Melbourne where the vacancy rates were below 2 per cent (1.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively) last month.

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The average weekly rent for a three-bedroom house in Sydney for the week ending 20 September was $712.9, up 0.5 per cent on the previous month and 4.8 per cent more than same time last year.

Rental prices for houses in Melbourne rose by 3.4 per cent to $485.50 a week over the year to 20 September, and rent for units rose by 4.5 per cent to $380.20.

In contrast, Perth recorded the highest vacancy rate of 5.0 per cent in August (though it fell by 0.2 percentage points from a record high of 5.2 per cent in July), with rent for houses falling by 9.6 per cent on last year to $434.6 per week and dropping by 11.4 per cent for units to $346.1.

Hobart continued to record the most affordable rental accommodation, with rents for houses at just $343 a week and units averaging $279 a week. Vacancy rates in the Tasmanian capital only dropped marginally, from 3.1 per cent in July to 3.0 per cent in August.

There were some exceptions to the rule, however, with Canberra’s vacancy rate dropping from 1.3 per cent in July to 1.1 per cent in August, but rents increasing by 12.1 per cent for houses and 9.6 per cent for units (based on information for the 12-month change to the week ending 20 September).

Nationally, rents rose by 2.2 per cent on last year for houses and 1.5 per cent for units.

“Vacancy rates have edged down in all capital cities. Reflecting that, asking rents have jumped in some cities, including Sydney,” SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher said.

“Perth continues to be the ongoing exception with asking rents still falling as the mining downturn weighs on prices, despite a slightly lower vacancy rate.”

Touching on fears of an apartment oversupply in Melbourne, Mr Christopher said, “If true, [it] cannot come soon enough as at present having a vacancy rate trending down below 2 per cent is highly suggestive that landlords are in control of the market.”

“Sydney is likely to remain a landlord's market as the city’s growing population creates demand for new stock. The only area right now where we are recording sustained increases in vacancies is the Hills district."

[Related: Apartment glut ‘theme park scary’]

Vacancy rates drop, pushing rents up
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