How to tackle the home rental market without losing it

person choosing a house in a difficult rental market

Want to know how to look for a rental in a capital city without feeling like you’re living in an alternate universe? It’s do-able but not easy.

My first experience of rental-hunting alone, without the urgency of taking the first and cheapest place to pop up, has been a sobering experience to say the least. Though buying a home would be the dream, home loans feel largely inaccessible to many young Australians (especially single ones, like me).

Domain’s most recent reporting shows that unit rental prices have grown now for the seventh quarter on record, and houses for the eighth. Both houses and units are seeing record growth in rental prices, with the average weekly asking price across the capital cities in Australia now hovering at $565 for a house and $550 for a unit.

In Sydney, where the rental market is cursed, this jumps to $660 for a house and $620 for a unit. And my run-down shoebox is running me more than half of that.

This is largely attributed to, amongst other things, a year of seeing the cash rate rise. While we may not have home loan repayments to make, the passing on of these rates has resulted in rental price increases far and wide. 

All is not lost - there are some tactics you can adopt to get the best out of your rental quest.

Rental market survival kit tips

Since moving back in with my parents is not an option, I’ve devised my own survival kit for long days of rental hunting and the ticking clock of a lease that’s ending.

  • Start looking in advance: Well in advance - give yourself a couple of months. If you find the perfect place early, it may not make you the ideal candidate (it’s easy to lose out to someone who is ready to move in right away), but it’s far better than cutting things close to the wire and ending up panicked.
  • Take someone with you: It’s easy to get swept up in the moment, or to lose your objectivity when you’re looking at a place to live. Not only does having someone else there help to keep spirits higher, but it also helps to have a fresh set of eyes that might see things differently.
  • Make a wishlist – and a list of deal breakers: Nowhere is going to be perfect, so it helps to have some clear criteria that you are looking for in a property, and some things you absolutely can’t put up with. I am strangely scared of being trapped in the wall in a Murphy Bed, so no matter how perfect a property might seem otherwise, I’m not going to look at a place with a Murphy Bed.
  • Be willing to compromise: With that in mind, if you want that place with the air conditioning and the built-in storage and the balcony and the internal laundry, you’re going to have to be willing to compromise. Either you’ll have to be flexible on price, or there will have to be ideals you can swap out.
  • Team up: Housemates might feel like a relic from your school years, and while I personally can’t go back to living with strangers, teaming up with someone can majorly boost the level of property you are able to afford. Whether it’s a partner, a sibling, or a friend, living with someone can be very intense – so maybe leave out those sacred friendships you don’t want to damage.
  • Look further afield: It goes without saying that the closer to the heart of the city or to certain hubs you are, the more expensive rentals will be. Be realistic about what you are looking for, and consider if you can afford it in a suburb a little further afield than you might have initially thought. If you have a car or an alternative form of commute, it could end up working out just as well.
  • If you like something, go for it: Unfortunately, in a Landlord’s Market, there’s no room to think about something for a few days. If you see somewhere that gets you excited, apply. If you’re accepted, there are other points to pull out before signing the lease in case you change your mind. If you aren’t, it’s no loss!

If you are ready to get out of the madness of the rental market and think about home ownership, congratulations. I will look to you as my inspiration as I continue to find an apartment with no mould in the walls.

Aspiring first home buyers can compare home loan options below, and should check out Mozo’s Best Home Loans.

Start comparing home loans - last updated 28 May 2024

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