Property wrap-up: Rental vacancies climb as market faces biggest blow in decades

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout have dealt a serious blow to the rental market, with the total number of vacant residential properties in Australia now at 88,688, according to data from SQM Research.

The nation’s business districts have been particularly hard-hit. Vacancy rates in the Sydney CBD jumped up from 5.7% in March to 13.8% in April, an increase of more than double. The Brisbane CBD registered a similar increase, with vacancies rising from 5.7% to 11.3% over the same period.

In Melbourne, the percentage of empty properties in the CBD went up from 2.6% to 7.6%. But it was the Southbank area which was impacted the most, with rental vacancies in the cultural hotspot reaching 13%.

“The blow out in rental vacancy rates for the major CBDs suggests a mass exodus of tenants occurred over the course of March and April,” said SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher. 

“This might be attributed to the significant loss in employment in our CBDs plus the drop off in international students.”

With unemployment set to spike over the June quarter, many Australians have been forced to rethink their living arrangements. In NSW alone, tenants of 26,500 residential rental properties requested a bond refund in the last month. 

The growing number of rental vacancies has also put downward pressure on rents. According to SQM data, asking rents for houses in capital cities has dropped 1.3% over the month, and 3.1% over the year.  

“If it is sustained throughout the course of the year, then we can expect far deeper falls in rents which will be good news for tenants but a disaster for landlords,” Christopher said.

“There will also be economic consequences with further sharp falls in building approvals likely; thereby risking a major depression in our residential construction sector as well as the rather obvious risks for housing prices.”

What about property prices?

All told, the outlook for property owners at the moment is quite dismal, with economists from all four major banks warning that sharp drops in home prices are on the horizon. 

CommBank was the latest to sound alarm bells. In a presentation to investors this week, it charted two possible outcomes of the current downturn. 

Its baseline forecast - in which the economy suffers a 6% drop in GDP in 2020, before bouncing up by 6% next year and a further 3% in 2022 - assumes an 11% decrease in property prices over three years.

But the bank also considered the possibility of a more ‘prolonged downturn.’ In this scenario, the economy shrinks by 7.1 % this year and another 0.8% in 2021, before recovering only 2.3% in 2022. If realised, models showed property prices plummeting by 32% over three years.

Opportunities arise for first home buyers

Of course, the flipside to all this is that it’s given a confidence boost to many Australians hoping to take their first steps up the property ladder. 

According to Mozo's property expert Steve Jovcevski, now is a prime time to get into real estate – assuming you’re on sound financial footing and your job is insulated against the current crisis.

"Prices may come down more and with less competition at open inspections, first home buyers might have a chance to buy into a suburb that a few months ago they may have thought was out of reach," he said.

Another happy outcome of lockdown is that it’s forced many to rein in their spending, something which could help first homebuyers get into lenders’ good books down the track.

“As lenders look at recent spending patterns to determine the size of the mortgage you might secure, lower spending levels mean you should be able to borrow more,” said Jovcevski.

So if current circumstances haven’t deterred you, browse our guide to making your property move during lockdown for more tips. And if you’d like to compare home loans, visit our home loan comparison page for an overview.

Home loan comparisons on Mozo

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Last updated 23 July 2024 Important disclosures and comparison rate warning*
  • Unloan Variable

    • Owner Occupier
    • LVR <80%
    Interest rate
    5.99 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    5.90 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $2,995
    Go to site

    Built by CommBank, the Unloan is the first home loan with an increasing discount (conditions apply) for borrowers. No application or banking fees. No monthly account keeping or early exit fees. Apply online in minutes.

  • Basic Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • LVR<60%
    • Principal & Interest
    Interest rate
    6.14 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.16 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,043
    Go to site

    Enjoy a low rate home loan with $0 application fee and $0 ongoing fees. Flexibility to split your loan and set different repayment types. Fee free redraw from your loan using online banking. Flexible ways to repay. 40% Deposit required.

  • Neat Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <60%
    Interest rate
    6.09 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.11 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,027
    Go to site

    Competitively-priced variable rate loan. Ideal for owner occupiers and investors. No service fees to pay. Make free extra repayments and redraws. Flexible repayment schedule available.

  • Special Real Deal Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <80%
    Interest rate
    6.09 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.13 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,027
    Go to site

    Refinancers or first home buyers pay no monthly or annual fees. Up to $3,000 cashback when you complete your home loan application online. $2,000 cashback on loans ≥$250K; or $3,000 cashback on loans ≥$500K. LVR ≤80%. T&Cs and credit criteria apply.

  • Optimum Fixed Rate Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    Interest rate
    5.69 % p.a.
    Fixed 3 years
    Comparison rate
    6.34 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $2,899
    Go to site

    Lock in a competitive interest rate and enjoy peace of mind for the fixed period. Available for owner occupied new and refinanced home loans with at least 20% deposit. Split option available as well as offset and redraw. Noapplication, ongoing or banking fees. Third Party fees may be applicable - payable within loan repayments. Extra repayments up to $20K per annum permitted. Apply online, 100% member owned credit union.

  • Unloan Variable

    • Owner Occupier
    • LVR <80%
    Interest rate
    5.99 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    5.90 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $2,995
    Go to site

    Built by CommBank, the Unloan is the first home loan with an increasing discount (conditions apply) for borrowers. No application or banking fees. No monthly account keeping or early exit fees. Apply online in minutes.

  • OMG Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • <60% LVR
    Interest rate
    5.99 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.02 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $2,995
    Go to site

    BCU Bank’s OMG owner occupied home loan offers a variety of great low rates depending on your deposit. Save with no ongoing annual fees. Access your extra payments when you need to through the redraw facility. Pre-approval valid for 3 months.

  • Flex Home Loan

    • Fixed
    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <60%
    Interest rate
    5.99 % p.a.
    Fixed 3 years
    Comparison rate
    6.34 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $2,995
    Go to site

    Competitive Fixed rate. Multiple offset accounts available. Borrowers can also make extra repayments. Redraw facility available. Simple online application process. 40% deposit required.

  • Express Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <90%
    Interest rate
    6.01 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.14 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,001
    Go to site

    Get online approval from the award-winning Bendigo Bank Express Home Loan. Multiple offset accounts and redraw available. 100% offset on variable rate loans and partial offset on fixed rate. Flexible repayment options. New home loans only.

  • Neat Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <60%
    Interest rate
    6.09 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.11 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,027
    Go to site

    Competitively-priced variable rate loan. Ideal for owner occupiers and investors. No service fees to pay. Make free extra repayments and redraws. Flexible repayment schedule available.

  • Special Real Deal Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <80%
    Interest rate
    6.09 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.13 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,027
    Go to site

    Refinancers or first home buyers pay no monthly or annual fees. Up to $3,000 cashback when you complete your home loan application online. $2,000 cashback on loans ≥$250K; or $3,000 cashback on loans ≥$500K. LVR ≤80%. T&Cs and credit criteria apply.

  • Basic Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • LVR<60%
    • Principal & Interest
    Interest rate
    6.14 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.16 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,043
    Go to site

    Enjoy a low rate home loan with $0 application fee and $0 ongoing fees. Flexibility to split your loan and set different repayment types. Fee free redraw from your loan using online banking. Flexible ways to repay. 40% Deposit required.

  • Flex Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <60%
    Interest rate
    6.14 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.38 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,043
    Go to site

    Competitive variable rate. Multiple offset accounts available. Borrowers can also make extra repayments. Redraw facility available. Simple online application process. 40% deposit required.

  • Offset Home Loan

    • Owner Occupier
    • LVR<60%
    • Principal & Interest
    Interest rate
    6.14 % p.a.
    Variable
    Comparison rate
    6.39 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,043
    Go to site

    Ability to open up to 10 offset accounts per loan account. Fast online application. Linked Debit Mastercard® with fee-free access at ATMs across Australia. Package a credit card with your home loan and the annual card fee will be waived (T&Cs apply). 40% deposit required.

  • Basic Home Loan

    • Fixed
    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR<70%
    Interest rate
    6.25 % p.a.
    Fixed 3 years
    Comparison rate
    6.20 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,079
    Go to site

    No upfront or ongoing fees. Free extra repayments and redraw facility. Option to earn Qantas points. Min 30% deposit required. Borrow up to $10,000,000.

  • Offset Home Loan

    • Fixed
    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • LVR <70%
    Interest rate
    6.25 % p.a.
    Fixed 3 years
    Comparison rate
    6.42 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,079
    Go to site

  • Fixed Rate

    • Owner Occupier
    • Principal & Interest
    • <80% LVR
    Interest rate
    6.54 % p.a.
    Fixed 2 years
    Comparison rate
    7.10 % p.a.
    Initial monthly repayment
    $3,174

    Enjoy up to $3000 cashback for eligible first home buyers and $2000 cashback for refinancers on eligible home loans with the ANZ Fixed Rate Home Loan. Get the security of repayment certainty with a competitive locked in rate. No ongoing fees to pay. Offset account on 1-year fixed loans ($10/month fee applies). Interest-only payments allowed.

image of houses

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* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

** Initial monthly repayment figures are estimates only, based on the advertised rate. You can change the loan amount and term in the input boxes at the top of this table. Rates, fees and charges and therefore the total cost of the loan may vary depending on your loan amount, loan term, and credit history. Actual repayments will depend on your individual circumstances and interest rate changes.

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