Desperate Wellington rental applicants offer to renovate and landscape

People looking for rentals in Wellington are offering to renovate and landscape in the hopes of securing a home in what is now New Zealand’s most expensive city to rent in.

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Hundreds are struggling to find places to live in Wellington, the country's most expensive city for renters. Source: 1 NEWS

Tommy’s Property Management director Harrison Vaughan said the property management business has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people at flat viewings in the capital. 

“People may come in and say, 'Hey, I’m an electrician, this looks like it could do with a job.' But at the end of the day we never pick tenants based on those aspects,” he said.

Mr Vaughan said the company is getting between 20 and 30 enquiries for a rental on the first day it’s advertised, compared to five enquiries for the first week of an advertisement in winter.

“Because of the number of people that are applying for the properties, we’re having to reduce the number [that can attend viewings] just to make it a bit easier for us to get everyone through on time.”

He said people are arriving around 15 minutes early for viewings and are bringing curriculum vitaes with them.

“Until some changes are made in the law we’re not going to see this situation improve,” Mr Vaughan said.

I’m just so over it. It’s ridiculous, it’s just stressful - Isabella Grace, flat-hunting for five weeks

Isabella Grace has been searching for a flat in the capital for five weeks and attends flat viewings with up to 50 other people also enquiring.

“I’m just so over it. It’s ridiculous, it’s just stressful, and people are offering more money as well for places,” she said.

But offering more money to secure one flat didn’t work for the full-time worker, who is still waiting to hear back from 13 landlords.

Ms Grace said she recently viewed a three-bedroom rental advertised for $780 per week, where one “squished” room would only be able to fit a bed.

“I feel like I’m pretty prompt and on to it but I guess there’s just so many people,” she said, adding if prospective tenants are not at the first viewing for a property they won’t be considered.

Ms Grace said she would describe herself as a respectable, friendly tenant who enjoys living in a neighbourhood where there’s a community focus.

Trade Me’s rental price index revealed in December 2018 the median weekly rent increased 5.8 per cent, compared to December 2017 for Wellington, with the record average price now $562.

In Auckland, the median weekly rent remained unchanged last month from the same period in 2017, at $550.

Trade Me’s Aaron Clancy said with demand continuing to grow and tight supply in Wellington, rents prices will continue to break records.

"In December, the number of rental properties in Wellington fell seven per cent on the year prior and we've seen a 15 per cent increase in the average number of enquiries," he said in a statement.

"This supply vs demand equation is pushing rents up really quickly and there isn't any relief in sight for now."

Mr Clancy said several regions also reached new record median weekly rents in December, with the Bay of Plenty up 9.1 per cent to $480, Manawatu/Whanganui up 16.7 per cent to $350, Marlborough up 6.5 per cent to $450 and Southland up 10.3 per cent to $295.

Government urged to impose rent price caps

Auckland Action Against Poverty’s Ricardo Menéndez said the Government needs to put interim price caps in place for the rental market.

“It would be a missed opportunity to not legislate something that would allow the Government to freeze rent increases while incomes keep up,” he said.

“Ultimately, this is about profit - landlords are trying to maximise profit of their properties and the people missing out are low income families as well as middle income families now.”

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said rental price control is not effective.

“It risks driving investment out of the rental market and can discourage landlords upgrading and improving the quality of rental properties,” he said.

Victoria University of Wellington’s chief operating officer Mark Loveard told 1 NEWS the university is working to increase its accommodation for students, with an extra 240 beds on offer this year, bringing the 2019 total to 3,257 beds.

By the end of 2021, the university is planning to have added 400 to 600 rooms by extending existing accommodation buildings.

"The new rooms will be primarily apartment-style living suitable for returning students," he said in a statement.

Mr Loveard said students unable to find accommodation should get in touch with some spaces still available in both halls of residences and apartments for short and long-term stays.

Tommy’s Property Management’s Harrison Vaughan said the rental race has started earlier than previously, but the peak is still expected to be mid-February.

“Good luck to every tenant out there. Try your hardest when it comes to your applications, put your best foot forward and apply for as many properties as you can,” he said.