When Smitty Dornan’s lease expired on her family’s rental property in the suburb of Nightcliff, located next to Darwin Beach, she was horrified to learn that the landlord wanted to raise the rent by $ 120 per week.
House prices and rentals increased 26% in Darwin
Darwin remains the most affordable capital to buy a house
Removing first-time homebuyers is cooling the market
“We were pretty shocked… we thought it might go up by $ 50, but $ 120 seemed pretty scary,” she said.
Ms Dornan, a nurse, called the real estate agent to ask for a compromise, but the best deal was a raise of $ 100 per week.
Darwin’s rents have risen by more than 20% in the past year, according to CoreLogic, a company that tracks real estate data.
Ms Dornan and her husband, who is also a nurse, felt pressured to re-sign the lease, even though it put them in a difficult financial situation.
The couple have a 10-week-old baby and two other children aged 7 and 11.
“Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options and we know there aren’t a lot of rentals available on the market,” Ms. Dornan said.
Tim Lawless, research director for CoreLogic, said a severe shortage of rental housing in Darwin was the main reason rents had gone up.
Earlier this year, data showed Darwin saw a net gain from interstate migration for the first time in nearly six years, as rental vacancy rates fell to less than 1%.
Gross rental yields across Darwin are among the best in the country, averaging 6% at the end of July.
Mr Lawless said that at the end of August advertised rents were 51% below the five-year average and rents could rise.
Darwin experienced a prolonged downward trend in rents between early 2014 and late 2019.
“Although Darwin’s rents have increased by over 20% in the past year, the median rental rate remains 8.5% below the peak in early 2014,” Lawless said.
The city’s rent increases have coincided with soaring house prices and sales.
Mr Lawless said house prices in Darwin fell by about a third between mid-2014 and early 2020, but have risen 26% since then.
Sales increased 46% year-on-year.
Mr Lawless said that while demand for housing had increased, supply had fallen, which helped explain the tense market conditions.
“At the end of August, active listings were about 27% below the five-year average,” he said.
Over the past 12 months, almost all of Darwin’s suburbs have seen a significant increase in home and unit values.
For example, in August of last year, the median selling price at Nightcliff was $ 620,238.
A year later, it jumped over 30 percent to $ 811,916.
But Mr Lawless said Darwin remains the most affordable capital to buy a home, based on a ratio of home values to household income.
A typical household in Darwin spends about 4.6 times their gross income to buy an average-priced house.
In Sydney the ratio is 9.4 and Melbourne 8.4.
Mr Lawless said the affordability of buying homes in the territory can be seen in the high proportion of first-time buyers, who accounted for 50% of homeowner demand for mortgages at the start of this season. year, according to housing finance data.
Although data shows the territory continues to have the highest rate of first-time homebuyers in Australia, the rate recently fell to 43 percent, indicating that many are priced out of the market.
Quentin Kilian, managing director of the Real Estate Institute NT, said the NT government’s withdrawal of first-time buyers incentives had “cooled the market quite dramatically.”
“In July alone, there was a 19% drop in engagement from first-time homebuyers,” he said.
Stamp duty is also a major barrier for potential first-time homebuyers, fueling rent increases if they can’t buy.
Ms Dornan said she did not see how her family could buy in the housing market.
“There is very little room to save and rental prices are going up,” she said.
“There’s no way we can afford it.”
Ms Dornan said she loved living in Darwin and the area needed nurses, but struggled to understand how landlords can impose such high rent increases.
“It’s not fair at all,” she said.
“A significant increase in rents, especially during a pandemic, really feels like you are enjoying it… it’s a bit sad.”
Ms Dornan said she was exploring options with her husband for the end of their last housing lease.
“We can barely afford to live in Darwin now, so that would leave us with no choice but to move,” she said.