Auckland renters are regaining the upper hand in the property market, thanks to more choice.
Brendon Skipper, head of property at Trade Me, said more rental properties were available in Auckland so prices were staying relatively stable, up only 3 per cent in Mt Eden on this year's first quarter compared to last year and falling 3 per cent in Remuera and 4 per cent in Epsom.
But Christchurch rents are going through the roof, due to a shortage of residential properties.
Auckland now has 4,800 rental properties available, a further 2,200 within the city area, 871 in Manukau, 818 on the North Shore, 457 in the Waitakere area and 238 in Rodney.
"With things picking up economically, you've a shortage of properties in Auckland but from what I understand, more investors are buying and there are more rentals coming online," Mr Skipper said.
This week, the Real Estate Institute said 8,128 houses had sold last month, up 23 per cent on February and up 11 per cent on the same month last year, the largest number of sales in a single month since May 2007. Auckland and Christchurch drove an 8.1 per cent or $30,000 increase in the national median house price compared to last March, and a new record of $400,000 was set.
The Trade Me data tallies with figures from property management company Crockers last month showing the cost of renting a three-bedroom house in trendy central Auckland suburbs was levelling or falling. Ponsonby, Herne Bay and St Marys Bay remain among the most expensive places to live but rents for three-bedroom homes there of $703/week had levelled out.
Mr Skipper said in Auckland city, the average weekly rent across all types and sizes of property was $500 for the first quarter of this year, down from $508 for the same period last year. The Auckland region average weekly rent was $486, up on last year's $479. Nationally, there was a 5 per cent increase in the number of available rentals in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, but demand was down 2 per cent. Rents increased by only 3 per cent nationwide.
The continued strong rental supply was driven by Auckland, with the number of available rentals in Manukau increasing 22 per cent and in North Shore by 16 per cent for the three months to the end of March.
At the same time, interest from prospective tenants was struggling to keep pace with supply. Demand was down 12 per cent in the Auckland isthmus area, 11 per cent in Waitakere and 7 per cent in North Shore, while demand in Manukau was up 2 per cent after a 6 per cent decline in the last quarter.
Mr Skipper said large suburbs like Mt Eden, Remuera and Mt Wellington were a "microcosm of the wider picture in Auckland".
"The number of listings has continued to track up, as buoyant values and low interest rates lure investors back to the market. On the flipside, demand from tenants has been diluted as they have more rental stock to choose from. This means landlords will be working harder to secure great tenants, especially if they have a property that doesn't tick all the boxes."
- additional reporting APNZ