The return of students to Auckland has some in the property sector picking a rise in demand and prices for rental properties.

Andrew King, New Zealand Property Investors Federation president, said an increasing number of young adults would remain at home with their parents but late January and February would bring an influx of students looking for accommodation.

"The acid test will be over the next month. It will be busiest over the next six weeks," he said.

Kiri Barfoot, a Barfoot & Thompson director, said of the around 11,000 houses and flats her firm managed, few were empty and those which were usually rented fast.


Auckland rents rose $15/week from December 2011 to last month, she said, and Ponsonby and Mt Eden reported rising inquiry numbers after two quiet weeks.

However, Trade Me this month released data for the end of last year showing Auckland rental demand plummeting, site listings rising and rents static.

King said those trends emerged around the time of the year students left and Trade Me was only measuring demand based on the average number of inquiry emails received for each listing, yet many tenants phoned to ask about places.

Supply data was based on total listings on the website, not new listings, and King said some places remained available to view even if a property was leased.

Brendon Skipper, head of Trade Me Property, said interest from Auckland tenants was weak, particularly in the central area, putting downward pressure on prices. Christchurch rental demand had stayed high, rising 25 per cent in Merivale, 52 per cent in Linwood and 57 per cent in the central area.

"A lot of landlords outside Christchurch are wrestling [with] over-supplied rental markets and may need to drop asking rents when they get back from the New Year break to lure tenants," Skipper predicted.

King said his business, Roommate Cabins, could not meet demand for temporary sleepouts. Of 166 cabins available, 164 units were on sites.

"It is currently $90 per week cheaper to rent the average home rather than own it, plus you don't have to find the $75,000 deposit to buy a home when you rent it."