Unit rents down -8% in Melbourne but soar 10% in Perth and Darwin

The disparity in rental markets across Australia has been extreme

Unit rents down -8% in Melbourne but soar 10% in Perth and Darwin
Unit rents down -8% in Melbourne but soar 10% in Perth and Darwin

The disparity in rental markets across Australia has been extreme. At one end of the spectrum we have extremely tight rental conditions in cities such as Perth and Darwin where both house and unit annual rental growth is above 10%. At the other end are the unit rental markets of Sydney and Melbourne where rents have plunged over the last year, down -5.3% in Sydney, and -8.0% lower in Melbourne. In a similar vein to housing values, rental markets are stronger within the detached housing sector relative to the unit sector.

“The strength in Perth and Darwin’s rental sector can be attributed to a mix of low supply, due to a recent history of low investor participation, and rising demand as interstate migration trends move into positive territory. The opposite trends in Sydney and Melbourne have seen rental markets weaken; higher rental supply due to a recent history of investor exuberance, weaker demand from negative interstate migration and, more recently, a demand shock from closed international borders where Melbourne and Sydney were the primary recipients of migrant arrivals,” Mr Lawless said.

However, the weak conditions across Sydney and Melbourne unit markets look to be turning. Sydney’s rental index for units has recorded two successive months of mild rises, while Melbourne unit rents edged higher in February after falling for nine of the previous ten months. The improvement in unit rents across Australia’s two largest cities is likely to be at least partially seasonal as demand from domestic students generally rises early in the year, but could also be attributable to more people returning to work in the inner cities as well as workers in some of the hardest hit industries such as hospitality, food and accommodation services returning to employment.

Until international borders re-open and migration rates return to their pre-COVID levels, a more substantial improvement in inner city apartment rents is unlikely.

Unit rents down -8% in Melbourne but soar 10% in Perth and Darwin

Weaker rental conditions in Sydney and Melbourne relative to rising home values is evident in the gross rental yields, with yields across both cities falling to fresh record lows in February. Gross rental yields in Sydney were recorded at 2.9% at the end of February, while in Melbourne yields averaged 3.0%. Every other capital city is recording gross rental yields around the mid-4% mark or higher, implying positive cash flow opportunities are more likely in these markets.

Australian home values surged 2.1% higher in February; the largest month-on-month change in CoreLogic’s national home value index since August 2003. Spurred on by a combination of record low mortgage rates, improving economic conditions, government incentives and low advertised supply levels, Australia’s housing market is in the midst of a broad-based boom.

Housing values are rising across each of the capital city and rest of state regions, demonstrating the diverse nature of this housing upswing.

According to CoreLogic’s research director, Tim Lawless, a synchronised growth phase like this hasn’t been seen in Australia for more than a decade. “The last time we saw a sustained period where every capital city and rest of state region was rising in value was mid-2009 through to early 2010, as post-GFC stimulus fueled buyer demand.”

Sydney and Melbourne were among the strongest performing markets, recording a 2.5% and 2.1% lift in home values over the month respectively, as Australia’s two largest cities caught up from weaker performance through 2020. The quarterly trend however, is still favouring the smaller cities; Darwin housing values rose 5.5% over the past three months, Hobart values rose 4.8% and Perth was up 4.2%.

“Whether this new found growth in Sydney and Melbourne can be sustained is unclear. Both cities are still recording values below their earlier peaks, however at this current rate of appreciation it won’t be long before Australia’s two most expensive capital city markets are moving through new record highs. With household incomes expected to remain subdued and stimulus winding down, it is likely affordability will once again become a challenge in these cities,” Mr Lawless said.

A housing market trend that has persisted through the COVID period to-date is the weaker performance of unit markets relative to detached housing. Across CoreLogic’s combined capitals index, house values (+4.4% over the past three months) have recorded a growth rate more than three times higher than that of its unit counterparts (+1.4%). There are some tentative signs this trend could become less obvious, with Sydney unit values recording their first month of growth since April last year and Melbourne unit values recording their largest gain since late 2019.

Jordan Fidler

Jordan Fidler

Jordan is a journalist at Urban.com.au. His focus is shining a spotlight on some of Australia's best apartment developments and their features

Rental Markets Melbourne Rental Market Rental Yields

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