A rental squeeze gripping Auckland and Wellington is forcing house-hunters to battle hundreds of other applicants, accept rent increases and even continue living in the same house as their ex-partners.
An Auckland agent says more prospective tenants are flocking to house viewings than ever before as a photo posted to social media showed up to 50 people snaking their way through a Remuera rental this week.
One city tenant, aged in his 60s, said he and his wife were shocked when the first home they viewed - a three-bedroom Greenlane house with a rent of $830 per week - also had 50 people present.
The man - who only wanted to be known as Chris - had been keen to move out of his current rental because the landlord tried to bump the rent up by $20 per week.
But after seeing so many people in Greenlane, Chris and his wife - who own a property in Australia - decided to stay in their current rental and negotiate a lesser rent increase of $10 per week.
"To go to the first open home and have 50 people turn up - there's never been that kind of pressure," he said.
"My wife and I just looked at each other."
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January and February are traditionally very busy for house hunters with people looking for a change in the New Year, most rental leases coming up for renewal and students heading back to university.
However, real estate agent Cathy Huang, who is managing the Remuera property, said more house hunters than in previous years had turned up to viewings of her flats.
Aaron Tunstall, general manager of Impression Real Estate, which specialises in inner city rentals, said his company had been averaging about 50 prospective tenants walking into his office each day to make enquiries.
This came on top of phone and online enquiries and interest generated by the company's relationship with Auckland universities.
Tunstall expected February and March to get even busier when the company expected to let out about 130-160 properties each month, up from an average of about 60-80 during the rest of the year.
Twenty-one-year old Sophia Wang, who finished her studies last year, said high rents and competition for rentals meant many of her student friends were doing it tough.
She too would have to face the tough rental market next month when she moved out of a room she had been temporarily sub-letting from five student friends.
The five friends had started their tenancy early in December so they could avoid the busy New Year house-hunting period, even though not all of them planned to spend the summer in Auckland.
Wang said another student friend - who initially moved into a rental with his girlfriend and best friend - was now worried about breaking the lease and was struggling to afford to move out after he was dumped and his ex shacked up with the friend instead.
He now walked the hallway unable to look either of his ex-friends in the eye, she said.
Another Auckland student, who did not wish to be named, said he was set to soon move into a new rental with six other tenants, despite having never met five of them before.
He said he was looking forward to the experience, but was also nervous after living with "crazy" tenants in the past, one of whom pinned a note to the fridge detailing exactly how much food he was allowed to eat each day.
Nineteen-year-old Grace McClean in Wellington said she and four others had been lucky to find a flat in the capital, but they had been forced to convert the lounge room into her bedroom to lower the cost of the rent.
She said she had other friends still looking for a rental, despite going to more than 20 house viewings.
James Ranstead, national president of the New Zealand Union of Student Associations, said that - with rents going up year-on-year - he was concerned at the conditions students were being forced to live in to find a rental.
"It's a really pressing issue and it's hard on students," he said.
According to Trade Me data last month, Wellington rents now matched Auckland.
Median rent in the capital in December rose 5.8 per cent compared to November 2017 to $550 per week.
Median rents in Auckland were the same at $550 (up 3.8 per cent year on year) but had remained static for many months in 2018.