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Rents reach record highs: What can you do?

moving state fi

The cost of renting continues to soar, and it's leading people to make big decisions about where they live.

Rent prices went up in all 8 capital cities between April and June 2022 and year-on-year, figures from CoreLogic released today show.

Overall, rents in capital cities increased 9.1% compared to the same time last year.

The cost of rent in cities increased by 3% over the past quarter, the first time since the pandemic they've outpaced rents in regional Australia (up 2.7%).

Low supply levels and higher demand due to shrinking household sizes have contributed to the increases.

CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said: "With the exception of Darwin, the strong rental growth seen over the past year has led dwelling rents across all of the capitals to reach new record highs."

Rent increases in capital cities

Capital cityMedian rent (weekly)Increase over 12 months

The research shows Canberra has the highest median rent of $690 per week, followed by Sydney with $643. Rents are the least expensive in Melbourne, $480 per week on average.

Over the course of a year, theoretically, you could pay $10,920 less in rent on average by living in Melbourne rather than Canberra.

Of course, many people don't have the chance to up-sticks and move across the country. But for some remote workers, it's a prospect that has turned into a reality.

Cost of living drives interstate moves

Aaron McAllister moved to Adelaide from Camden in Sydney in February this year. "Cost of living was 100% a factor," said the 27-year-old, who works in publishing at Finder.

"I couldn't afford to purchase a place in Sydney after the prices shot up 22-30% in the space of 2 years."

"Rental prices were also expensive considering I lived an hour out of Sydney. Even just granny flats out the back of someone's house were $400 and up a week.

He added: "In Adelaide, I could get a more desirable lifestyle and bigger place (with friends) for a cheaper price."

McAllister said the move had some challenges – Adelaide has the lowest rental vacancies of any capital city in Australia. Figures from Corelogic show it had a 0.3% vacancy rate for houses and units in June.

"Finding a place is hard and you have to pay higher than the advertised rent if you want it, but it's still cheaper overall."

What can I do if moving cities isn't an option?

Finder research shows nearly half of Australian renters (45%) have struggled to meet rent payments.

If you're finding yourself under rental stress, speaking to your landlord and contacting your local tenants' union may be good starting points.

"If your lease is about to expire and you're on the hunt for another listing, it might be time to look for a more affordable option," adds Rebecca Pike, money expert at Finder.

"Search for listings in areas where rent is commonly cheaper, or bunk up with a family member or friend. Sharing the rent with another person can free up money for you to spend on other essentials."

More cost of living indicators

The high cost of housing is just one factor making things hard for renters. Utility bills, food and transport are very expensive for everyone at the moment.

Finder research shows there are some big variations in the cost of living between the capital cities. To give you an idea, we took averages from 2 cost of living websites: Expatistan and Numbeo.

Cheapest city for utilities

In contrast to its steep rent prices, Sydney was the most affordable city for utilities such as electricity, gas and water. Bills cost $183.26 on average per month in Sydney. Canberra was the second cheapest city at $223.78.

Here's how Sydney compared to the other big cities:

  • It's 44% cheaper than Melbourne
  • It's 58% cheaper than Perth
  • It's 82% cheaper than Darwin.

Cheapest city for transport

Hobart had the cheapest public transport costs – $96 per month on average for travel. Canberra was the second cheapest city at $100, with Adelaide a close third at $101.

Here's how much less Hobart was for transport compared with other capital cities*:

  • It's essentially twice as cheap as Sydney (which costs $193.19 – 99.7% more)
  • It's 64% cheaper than Melbourne
  • It's 68% cheaper than Brisbane.

*Note that comparable figures for Darwin weren't available.

Cheapest city for dining

Lastly, we added together the typical cost of a meal at a standard restaurant with a "combo" meal at a fast-food outlet and a beer at the pub.

Darwin had the cheapest price overall at $41, while Adelaide was second. Dining in Perth was 8.5% more expensive and it was the priciest city at $44.50.

Read more on the cost of living in 2022, including tips to help you save money.

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