Regions feel rental pinch

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoMidwest Times
Kimberly Kent's new investment property in Carnarvon.
Camera IconKimberly Kent's new investment property in Carnarvon. Credit: Supplied

Early signs suggest WA’s population boom and resulting rental crisis are not isolated to metropolitan cities, with places like Carnarvon, Kalbarri and Geraldton all feeling the property pinch.

Online removalist booking platform Muval received 48 per cent more inquiries from people looking to move to regional WA in the September quarter than in the June quarter.

The more moving vans that take the trip up the North West Coastal Highway, the more competitive the rental market gets.

Real Estate Institute of WA figures show rentals are in very short supply in the Mid West and Gascoyne regions. Geraldton’s vacancy rate has fallen to 1.5 per cent — the lowest recorded rate in REIWA’s decade studying the region.

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While REIWA does not calculate rates outside of key regional centres, the listing numbers for some towns tell a similar story.

Ray White Kalbarri principal Ron Nachtweh said not one residential rental property had gone up for grabs since the regional borders opened after the COVID-19 lockdown. He said usually he would have five to eight rentals on the market at all times.

At the height of the recent tourism boom, a person would walk into the office and inquire about a rental most days, with many more prospective tenants probably scrolling hopelessly online.

The market has since cooled off, but Mr Nachtweh said his waiting list still had 14 names on it.

Further north, REIWA data shows there were only six properties for rent in Carnarvon as of late November.

Ray White principal Ted Schultz said he had noticed a surge in the number of out-of-towners moving in, contributing to the high activity in the property market.

Aboriginal Legal Services lawyer Ansha Krish was based in Perth at the start of this year. She said restrictions on travelling overseas inspired her to “wander out yonder” and eventually led to her moving to the regions.

Although she first moved to the Pilbara a few months ago, she has just taken a permanent job in Carnarvon and said she was now putting together the pieces of her big move.

According to Ms Krish, looking for a rental property was a nightmare and many of the leftover properties up for rent were lacklustre.

“I was about to apply for a place and than the agent called and told me it had just been broken into,” she said.

Fortunately, she has managed to find a place to live in order to start her life in WA’s fruit bowl. “I just can’t wait to try the frozen bananas,” she said.

Mr Schultz agreed the rental market was tight and the remaining properties on offer were not appropriate for everyone.

As a result, he said sales activity was on the rise.

He said new arrivals were forking out the deposit and buying a house, showing many making the sea change were looking to stick around.

Kimberly Kent recently bought an investment property in the Gascoyne town despite living in the South West.

She does not plan to move up immediately but has her sights set on Carnarvon as a place to spend her later years.

Ms Kent said she rediscovered a warmth for Carnarvon while travelling in WA this year while the State’s borders were closed.

Kimberly and Mathew Kent while travelling in Carnarvon.
Camera IconKimberly and Mathew Kent while travelling in Carnarvon. Credit: Supplied

“I am so excited to own property there. It’s so underrated,” she said.

Her new investment property, which has two mango trees at the back, is set to undergo renovations to get it in good shape before she puts it up for rent.

She said she loved Carnarvon.

“It’s one of those places that needed a little more love and investment,” she said.

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