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It's now more affordable to rent in New York than in Auckland.

Hayley Hannan goes behind the headlines of a cut-throat rental market where flat-hunters offer landlords cash and even chocolates to sweeten a deal.

Within hours of posting an online ad for his Mangere Bridge home, Michael Aldwell was inundated with phone calls, emails and texts from about 150 people. People kept calling, he says, even after he'd told them the property was taken.

"We posted the ad two weeks ago and the emails just went crazy. We had more than 1200 views on Trade Me. The ad was only open for 72 hours and we still had around 30 to 40 people contact us, saying, 'We know you've taken the ad off but can we please have it?"'

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People offered extras to rent the three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1960s' bungalow. "We had people say, 'We'll bring cash now' and dropping off references with a box of chocolates."

Trade Me property head Brendon Skipper has been told of people camping outside rental properties to be the first in line the next morning. His figures for the October-December quarter confirm increased demand for a smaller supply of flats.

They show a drop in listings for the 10 most popular suburbs, the largest a 35 per cent slump in Ellerslie. In eight suburbs email responses increased, the highest a 69 per cent rise in Blockhouse Bay. Rent increased over nine of the 10 suburbs.

Mr Skipper lists several reasons. "Property sales haven't been that flash and the real estate industry recorded one of the worst couple of months in 10 years."

Auckland is attractive for students, people returning from OE, staff moving to head office and migrants.

Michelle Jones, general manager of Crockers property management, says more people than ever are turning up to rental sites. Leasing consultants are recording up to 50 people at viewings when there used to be only half a dozen.

There is always some fluctuation at this time of year with university students returning, she says, but this year's demand is above average across all Auckland suburbs.

Some flats are holding ballots to select flatmates, says Angela Maynard, executive officer of the Auckland Tenants' Protection Association.

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So why is the rental market so hot?

Ms Maynard says recent property tax changes could be causing landlords to sell up. Property investors now face tighter controls on what they can claim in depreciation.

Other sources blame the economic climate, with homeowners forced to sell and move into the rental market and overseas owners coming home - literally.

Fewer houses are being built. Statistics NZ reports consents, excluding apartments, fell 2.6 per cent in November, the fifth consecutive monthly fall.

It appears the competition is here to stay - for now, at least. Mr Skipper warns renters can expect the same levels of demand for another couple of months.

There's no place like ...

Auckland has been labelled the 12th most "severely unaffordable" housing market in a recent survey.

The seventh annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey looked at 325 markets across Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK, US and China. It classed Auckland, Tauranga, Christchurch and Wellington as "severely unaffordable", while boroughs in New York are "affordable". So what kind of rentals would you get in New York?

"Flatting in Manhattan is tough," says Sean Gillespie, a former journalist with

The Aucklander

who lives in the Big Apple. "A 40sq m apartment could easily cost $4000

a month and you'd still be dealing with visiting vermin and incessant street noise. However, you get legally-enforced central heating, a landlord who doesn't live in Australia and proximity to the world's most cosmopolitan city."

If you find a flat, what do you get for your money?

William Walker

  • 24, graduate engineer
  • Flats in Grey Lynn
  • The deal Five bedrooms, 1 bathroom, additional toilet. Unfurnished. Dishwasher supplied. Off-street parking for 3-5 cars, small backyard.
  • $137pw, plus $20 for gas, power, internet, water.

I've lived here for seven months. There's nine of us, including me, living in the flat.

We saw a big blackboard sign outside the flat, called the landlady, and moved in. We only had four to start with, and thought we'd try to get a couple. Then a girlfriend moved in and the rent started dropping. The rent kept dropping as more girlfriends migrated into the flat. Now there's me and four couples.

Each week I pay $137 for rent and $20 for gas, power, internet and water. Then we each usually cook one meal a night each week which is $30, but that can vary. I cover my own breakfast and lunch. It usually costs about $100 a week after a few bought lunches and weekend food.

The rent altogether is $950 a week. For a five-bedroom flat, I don't think that's fair. But, because we have got so many people, it's quite sweet.

We converted the downstairs laundry into a bedroom. At first the landlady wasn't too happy. But when she saw how nice it is, she brought her brother round to show it off.

I like the flat's big living area. There's lots of people, it's a good location. I'm close to my work. I scooter home every day for lunch. I can walk to most things I use, if not bike.

It's just like student flatting. There's always someone here. Because everyone's got different schedules, it doesn't interfere as much.

We've had one bum linger around outside. One night I took out a half-eaten sandwich, and then he slept on the front porch. When we got up in the morning, he had tidied up everyone's shoes in a neat little row.

Mike Glasswell

  • 25, freelance animator
  • Flats in Massey
  • The deal Three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Double garage. Bush backyard and deck. Unfurnished. Whiteware provided. Double garage. HRV system.
  • $117pw, plus $33 to cover rent, power, phone, internet, contents insurance and emergency fund.

I've lived here for a year and a half maybe. I live with my girlfriend, Jo, and her brother named Owain.

Jo and I share a double bedroom with an en suite and a walk-in closet. My room is probably this room out here (the lounge) because it's got all my stuff. All my action figures and collectibles, my masterpiece Optimus Prime and DVD collection. There's a whole lot more toys in the cupboard.

I pay $150 a week. That covers rent, Sky, phone, power, internet, but we have to buy groceries out of our own funding. Before, when we had four people here, we didn't have to pay for food separately - there was enough money left over to buy food out of the account. I pay an extra $30-$35 food each week.

Yes, that price is definitely fair. I'm not complaining. My friend in the city used to pay $100. But, when I saw his place, it was really rotten and brown. If you have to pay an extra $50 for niceness, sign me up.

All the whiteware was provided for us. Our landlords also bought us a washing machine and dryer. My parents are the landlords, so they thought they'd help us out, which is nice.

We used to have another couple living with us, but they moved into the city. The third bedroom is now an unofficial drying closet but

I might turn it into an animation closet.

This is the first time I have ever lived out of home so I like that independence. It's quite secluded. It's off the main road, which is good.

I have lived out West, basically in this area, for 25 years. I just got familiar with the area and I guess I sort of have a loyalty to it. I've seen the city and I guess I don't like a lot of people walking and slowing down in front of me. Here, I see a couple of bogans, but I guess that's natural.

My lifestyle is pretty relaxed and I try to have a good time, a good vibe. I can taste the fresh air, which is good. I cut down some trees the other day - like a man.

Nelson Longstass

  • 24, sales rep
  • Flats in Devonport
  • The deal Four bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Unfurnished. Whiteware not included. Deck and backyard. Off-street parking for 4 cars.
  • $130pw, plus $70 for Sky, gas, power, phone and internet.

I've lived here for a month. I just moved in with my mates (three other guys) and it's closer to work. I used to live on a farm in Albany, which was great, but it was far away.

I've got good flatties. They're good mates of mine and they have been here for a while. It's a really social flat; there's always people around. We had a helicopter party the other week, that was good fun. We all flew remote-controlled helicopters.

I pay $130 a week for rent, and around $70 a week for Sky, gas, power, phone, internet. So it's not bad, really. It's cheaper than my last place. The reason I moved in here was to save money. It's pretty cheap for Devonport.

We've got a good view. On our deck you can see across to the city, to the Sky Tower. You should see the sunsets. It's handy, it's close to a lot of things. I don't like the traffic. It's a nice, quiet neighbourhood. Everyone's pretty friendly, it's a good area, not a lot of trouble. The area has a lot of middle-aged people. They seem quite wealthy. It's a well-off sort of neighbourhood. I grew up in Devonport and can't seem to get away.

The bottle shop is close - that's quite a good one. The beach is five minutes down the road, there are cafes in Devonport.

My lifestyle has sort of changed since I've lived here. I've done my back, so I have had to cut a lot of my extracurricular activities. Everything I did was activities. That's why this flat is good because there's always someone around, something going on.

Eddie Batende

  • 22, MIT student, entrepreneur and Spectrum Care community support worker
  • Flats in Dannemora
  • The deal Seven bedrooms, 4 bathrooms. Furnished, whiteware included. Off-street parking. Backyard and barbecue.
  • $200pw to cover rent, Sky, power, water, gas, phone and internet.

I've lived in this house six months now. I live with my girlfriend, her brother and two other Kiwis, one guy and one girl. Normally, the owner of the house is my girlfriend's dad and when he left for Australia, he asked me if I could come and look after his son he left here. He asked, "Can you come in and give him a hand?"

I pay $200 a week for everything. Internet, rent, electricity, sky, phone and gas. I work near my parents' house so sometimes I hop in and eat.

I hardly eat here. I think what I pay is fair. All the furniture is provided, and all the bills and rent are included in the $200 I pay. We pay different prices. I take the biggest room in the house because I have too much furniture. That's why

I say $200 for me is fair.

First of all, the area: I like the area. It's quiet and calm and it's modern. I like how it's peaceful and you can study and you can do anything you want to do. We have dairies close by, a bus stop, a park and Botany Mall just down the road. My job is in West Auckland. It's far, but I like my job that way.

I like living here, because I'm older and I feel like I have responsibility. Sometimes, they come to me and ask if I want to do this.

I try to make friends with my neighbours but you just see people from their cars; some come and say, "Hi". In my country [Congo, East Africa], it is different. I know someone from two to 3km away. But here it's different, we try. Especially this street, we try.