While location and price are top priorities for renters, the latest behavioural search data from realestate.com.au reveals what renters are looking for in a home – but could this change post COVID-19?
Australia’s favourite rental house is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom abode, while the most popular rental unit has two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Preferences change, however, depending on which suburb the tenant is looking in.
What are tenants really looking for when they are browsing for a new home? Picture: Freepik
In suburbs neighbouring universities, where there are large share house communities, there is demand for bigger houses with more bedrooms. For example, in Glebe, which is near The University of Sydney, the majority of tenants are seeking four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes.
In St.Lucia, which neighbours the University of Queensland, tenants are seeking four-bedroom homes with three bathrooms – if you are share-housing with four or more people, the more bathrooms the better.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, in capital cities, smaller homes are the go-to for tenants. In Southbank in Melbourne’s CBD, the majority of tenants are searching for one-bedroom, one-bathroom homes. This could be the best option for fly-in, fly-out business people, or single dwellers who enjoy all that the city has to offer, but just need a simple home to sleep in.
Looking to outer suburban areas where families settle, larger homes are the preferable option. In Ferntree Gully, which is a 40-minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD, tenants are searching for five-bedroom, two-bathroom homes.
Pets are very important to tenants
While a home’s configuration is important for tenants, they will likely hold off applying for a lease if the home doesn’t come with the right conditions.
Renters are looking for features to suit their current living requirements, according to Nerida Conisbee, chief economist at realestate.com.au.
“[The keyword searches] are quite different to buyers, whose keyword searches tend to be a little bit more aspirational. So renters are looking for very practical things,” she said.
The filter system on realestate.com.au demonstrates what is most important to tenants when they are browsing for a new home.
Use REA's latest interactive to see what features tenants are seeking in a rental in each state
A Flourish data visualisation
Across the country, pet-friendly abodes are the most popular filter in each state proving that tenants sure do love their furry friends.
Victoria leads the way with rental reform for tenants with pets. Under new laws, tenants must request their landlord’s consent to bring a new pet into the property, however, landlords must not unreasonably refuse the pet, and if they do, they will need to appeal to VCAT. Tenants can also fill out a pet profile when they apply to a new rental via 1form.
Most other states still haven’t updated their tenancy acts and so it is at the landlord’s discretion if they accept a pet in their property. In NSW, for example, there is no clause in the state’s Residential Tenancies Act 2010 that prohibits someone from keeping a pet, or that requires a landlord’s permission. However, landlords will often add the restriction of a pets clause into their tenancy agreement.
There are still changes afoot in other state and territory jurisdictions with regard to pets, which is evidence of a changing rental landscape, according to Conisbee.
“10 years ago, only a quarter of households rented, we’re now seeing a third of households renting, so it is something that is becoming more long term for more people,” she explained.
Pet-friendly abodes is the top filter for tenants seeking a new home. Picture: Bianca Ackermann/Unsplash
Other common search filters tenants are using when looking for a new home are furniture, air-conditioning and pools.
Pools are especially important for those living in warmer climates such as the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
Normally short-term renters are looking for fully furnished accommodation – this is particularly apparent in the ACT where government employees populate the area on temporary contacts.
Air-conditioning is a strong preference for most tenants across the country. Interestingly in Victoria, which is known for having four seasons in one day, heating is of equal importance.
What has COVID-19 made tenants realise about renting?
In the current health crisis, there’s no doubt many tenants are being confronted with the short-comings of where they live. This is especially true for those who have chosen to live in social, inner-city hubs where cafes, pubs and shops are now closed.
Share-housing has also come into question due to social distancing. More tenants in a house means cheaper rent, but with many renters now working from home, things can get awfully cramped.
Most tenants, however, are staying put and adjusting to their new home life, only moving out if they have no other choice, according to Sam Nokes, head of department – property management at Jellis Craig.
“The cost of moving home is high,” he said. “Most tenants have stayed put to minimise outlay.”
“We have seen people move, though, because they can’t afford it. A number of young Melburnians have taken the opportunity to move back in with mum and dad where they can. It’s foreseeable that they will want out as quick as they can.”
What will tenants want in the future?
Homes have become a safe haven during the pandemic, emphasising the importance of comfort. With this realisation, tenants are likely to want more out of where they live going forward, including more space and flexible leases.
COVID-19 has really “up-ended” the rental market, which could lead to changes in the choices that people are making with regards to where they decide to rent, according to Conisbee,
“Depending on how long this goes for, space could potentially become a bigger issue,” she said. “I think flexibility in leases, the power has always been with the landlord, but what we’ve seen over the past couple of months is that the power now sits with the tenant, so I think greater flexibility in leases is what people will be asking for.”
Spare bedrooms and flexible leases might become priorities for tenants post COVID-19. Picture: Getty Images
In the past few months, property managers have received updated requests for what tenants are seeking from a rental, and price has never been more important.
“Cost is number one at the moment. People are moving from more expensive properties to ones that are more affordable, even if that means missing out on lifestyle,” said Nokes. “In saying that, the only people out there at the moment are people who have to move.”
Nokes also anticipates more tenants will be seeking more virus-friendly amenities in the coming months.
“Built-in desks, outside space, a secret tunnel between your best mate’s house, a delivery window for the UberEats guy,” he joked.