Rental crisis: British TikToker shows ‘70-100’ people queuing to view flats in Sydney

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A British TikToker who moved to Sydney last year with “no idea” there was a rental crisis has warned others not to follow suit if they “think it’s going to be easy” finding a place to live.

London local Ellie went viral in December with a video documenting her struggles finding an apartment, comparing securing a lease in Sydney to The Hunger Games.

In a video last week, the travel vlogger shared her tips and experiences finding a rental, while showing what it was like in a “jam-packed” day of viewings.

“Competition is crazy for a place in Sydney right now,” she said.

One apartment in Bondi had “about 70 to 100 people” show up.

“It’s a queue to get in and then you literally couldn’t even see it there were so many people in there,” she said.

Another property with the “biggest turnout of them all” had a queue that went “down two flights of stairs and down the street”.

“The estate agent was calling people’s names like a register at school and it took so long for us to get in and see it,” she said.

The video has been viewed more than 2.3 million times on TikTok since last week and attracted thousands of comments.

“Imagine how the locals feel,” one man wrote.

“New title — do not move to a new country without doing some research,” another said.

A third wrote, “It’s not just Sydney. It’s Melbourne, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and here in Brisbane too. A lot of people are moving here on a whim and it’s making the rental crisis worse.”

One pointed out “this is exactly what it’s like as an Aussie moving to London” while many noted it was the same story in much of America and Europe.

“Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium … no available housing. Nothing whatsoever,” one wrote.

Ellie was eventually able to find an apartment and has given advice to other renters, listing the things she wished she had known when starting out.

In addition to proactively providing landlords with a tenant ledger showing previous rental history, she said one of the most important things was to “stop looking” for places “at your max budget”.

“You can’t afford it,” she said.

“It’s actually over budget because there’s always going to be someone who has more money than you who is in a stronger financial situation who is offering over asking and more months upfront, and the most important thing for a landlord is money.”

She recommended instead “that you look under budget so that you’re then in a position to offer more, and if you’re able to offer a couple months upfront that’s also going to help you”.

Ellie conceded this tip was “going to rub people up the wrong way” but “people are always going to offer more”.

“That’s the advice I was given and up until that point I’d had absolutely no luck, but as soon as I did that we found a place,” she said.

“So thank you to everyone that gave me that advice back when I was looking last year because I do truly believe I just wouldn’t have found anywhere in those desirable locations if I hadn’t done that.”

In most states, tenants are allowed to offer more than the advertised rental price in an attempt to secure the rental.

But the practice of rental bidding — where an owner or real estate agent “solicits or invites an offer of rent that is higher than the advertised” — has been banned in most states and territories, except the Northern Territory, in recent years as state governments attempt to beef-up the rights of tenants.

On Sunday, Queensland Premier Steven Miles announced “all types” of the practice would soon be banned.

“We’re banning all types of rental bidding in Queensland,” Mr Miles said on social media.

“Renters shouldn’t be played off against each other when trying to secure a home. It should be a level playing field. That’s why we are banning rent bidding.”

The new policy is part of a $160 million renter relief package announced by the government in Queensland today as the state tackles a housing crisis.

In a raft of proposed changes, the government said it would tackle the “unfair” practice of rental bidding and provide bridging loans for rental bonds.

“A new rental sector Code of Conduct will be explored with all parties to crack down on dodgy and unprofessional practices and ensure better protections for renters,” a government spokesman told the Sunday Mail.

“Rent bidding (where prospective tenants are encouraged to outbid each other for properties) will be banned and penalties will be enforced against agents who engage or encourage these practices.”

Australia’s rental supply fell to a record low in December as strong population growth continued to drive demand, according to the PropTrack Rental Report published last week.

The national rental vacancy rate also remained at a near-record low of 1.1 per cent, compared with 1.3 per cent in December 2022.

“The rental market was characterised by low supply and strong demand in 2023,” said PropTrack director of economic research Cameron Kusher.

“These conditions made it difficult for renters to find accommodation and saw landlords increase rents, a trend likely to continue in 2024. While we expect rents to continue to rise this year, it’s likely that the rate of growth will slow. The already higher cost of renting and overall increase in the cost of living will limit rent price increases moving forward.”

But with “total rental listing volumes at historic lows and well below their decade average, rental conditions are likely to remain challenged”.

“There is a critical need for additional housing, particularly in the major capital cities,” Mr Kusher said. “Serious consideration needs to be given to the financing of these projects and the capacity to build the volume of housing we need.”

New rental listings on in December were 4.6 per cent lower than the previous year and 20.7 per cent below the 10-year December average.

Total rental listings were at a record low, down 4.7 per cent annually to sit 30.2 per cent below the December decade average, PropTrack found.

“Limited supply and high demand saw rental prices skyrocket in 2023, with the median advertised rent on rising 11.5 per cent over the year to sit at $580 per week,” PropTrack said.

“However, 2023 saw a slower rate of rental price growth than the 15.6 per cent increase in 2022.”

— with Elise Kaine

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