Rental vacancies in Ballarat are at a record low.
The rental vacancy rate in Ballarat has fallen to 0.8 per cent in October, a drop of 0.1 per cent since September, and is now the lowest regional rate in the state.
This means almost all rental properties in Ballarat are currently being rented.
In October last year, the vacancy rate was 2.0 per cent, and the rate has dropped steadily to its equal-lowest level.
Many local real estate agents have said they were fully or close to fully occupied.
Some residents, like Shannon Thomas and her family, have searched for months to find a property.
A mother of three with another on the way, Ms Thomas said she had begun looking at older three-bedroom houses instead of four after their previous property was sold.
It has gotten to the point where she has put her name down for social housing, and had lost count of the houses she’d applied for.
She said it was not unusual to see 20 or 30 other people at inspections, and she is worried her family will be homeless by December.
Ray White Ballarat director Phillip Lee said the situation favoured landlords, adding more than 400 people had inspected properties last month.
“The only way to keep up (with demand) is we need people to build or buy more investment properties,” he said.
“It’s great news for landlords, not so great news for tenants – it’s bad news because it’s hard to find (houses).”
Mr Lee said large infrastructure projects requiring employees and contractors to live close by like the hospital and GovHub, and potential changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, were factors leading to the market changing.
“Particularly at the moment, with the windfarms being built around Ballarat, companies want accommodation for workers,” he said.
“It creates an opportunity for an investors ... because Ballarat has huge returns, and there’s the lowest rate in Victoria.
“You can’t build a house overnight, but what’ll happen is it’ll put more pressure on rental prices.
“We’ve had cases recently where we’ve increased rent by 10 per cent and it’s been snapped up.
“Beyond that, until there’s more supply, we’ll continue to have a low vacancy rate.”
Hockingstuart Ballarat’s Lachlain Ramsay said the situation had changed in the last year, with “ridiculously low” stocks.
“There’s only about 200 properties for lease at the moment,” he said.
“Ballarat’s becoming a much more liveable place, there’s more employment opportunities, more infrastructure, and the commute’s not too bad.
“People are realising they can have the same lifestyle they have in Melbourne without the traffic and hustle and bustle.”
He added his business was at 0.23 vacancy rate.
Ballarat is below the regional average, and places like Bendigo have also fallen in the last month, with a similar trend downwards after going up towards the middle of the year.
Geelong is at two per cent, rising steadily since March.
According to Tenants Victoria chief executive Mark O’Brien, a rate of 0.8 per cent was “very low”.
“The general view is anything under two (per cent) is a tight market,” he said.
Other measures to be considered when considering rental demand include price, he added.
“Rents seem to be increasing, but not at a rate that’s consistent with at tight vacancy rate,” he said.
“The other way to tell is that you turn up for an inspection and there’s 20 people in the queue.”
Mr O’Brien said population growth and inward migration had increased demand for housing in Victoria.
He said it could lead to unwelcome behaviour like rental bidding and sharper rent increases, and would place more pressure on social housing.
CentaCare Ballarat’s chief executive Tony Fitzgerald said rent would begin to creep up over the coming months.
“Rental expectations of landlords gets higher,” he said.
“It prices many of the tenants in our cohort out of the market completely.”
For people with a disability or mental illness, housing concerns can exacerbate problems, he added.
“One of the key success factors for them is having a roof over the head,” he said.
“In addition to the challenges you face as a person with a disabilty, it’s the housing stress – can you afford the rent or do you need to find a new place?
“Having a tenancy rate of less than one per cent, it just makes it incredibly hard.”
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