Hundreds of applicants and 'rent-bidding': The reality of trying to rent a house right now.

Right now, all across the country Aussies are spending their weekends queueing in streets and shuffling in-and-out of apartments in search of a place to call home.

Thanks to Australia's rental crisis, the process of trying to find - let alone secure - an affordable place to rent has become increasingly difficult, and left many feeling exhausted and powerless.

Even those with pristine rental histories, great references, and more than enough income to support them aren't able to secure a place. 

It's a frustration currently felt by many, including people like Rachel*. 

"My partner and I started looking at the end of last year with no success," she told Mamamia

"We took a break over Christmas and then started again literally in the first week of January. We spent every Saturday morning schlepping around Sydney to get to open homes, looking at average yet overpriced places... the process was torture."

When they arrived, they joined queues of other hopefuls also wanting to get their foot in the door. 

"One property we went to had over 120 people show up for the viewing! It looked more like a line for a festival than an open home."

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After applying for over 10 properties in the first few weeks of the year, Rachel was shocked when her new property manager called and told her she was finally successful. 

However, some haven't been as lucky. 

23-year-old Bree has spent the last two months trying to find an apartment for herself and her two other housemates in Sydney.

"We've been filling our weekends with over 10 inspections, applying to any we are remotely drawn to."

Recently, the three friends found an apartment they loved and "applied straight away but were rejected".

However, when the other application fell through, they held onto a glimmer of hope that they may have finally found a place. 

"We contacted the landlord and applied again, but we were rejected for a couple with a dog. This also fell through and we got a notification the house was going back up for inspection," she said. 

After contacting the real estate agent they managed to get a lease sent over before giving their landlord two weeks' notice.

"However, the next day we got a call from the real estate agent to tell us the landlords had changed their mind and our lease was voided before we could even sign," Bree added. 


The group are now "back to square one" navigating Australia's rental crisis.

They're just thankful their current owners have allowed them to stay until they find a new place. 

Over in Queensland, it's much of the same. 

Radio host Elly Chaney, from Sea FM, spent five months hunting for a rental property on the Sunshine Coast.

"It's just been the most stressful process," she told Mamamia's news podcast, The Quicky. 

"We'd go to inspections and there'd be hundreds of people there for these house and we just knew going to inspections that we didn't really stand a chance... We were five young professionals all in full-time work and we just kept getting knocked back."

Sometimes, the rejection came as soon as they applied. 

"Often we'd submit an application and then straightaway [we'd] get an email back saying this property has already been leased. Sometimes we were told by the agent that we were next in line. But more often than not, it was just as soon as we applied, [we were told] it had already been leased."

"Finally, after about five months and about 150 applications, we were accepted into a house, which had actually been put up $250 in rent, we found out from the previous tenants."

So what's going on? 

One problem contributing to the crisis is soaring rental prices. 

Thanks to rising interest rates and the cost of living, landlords have had to increase rents to keep on top of mortgage repayments, which doesn't help those trying to find an affordable place to rent. 


Perth has experienced the highest year-on-year rental increase than any other city, with a rise of 15.2 per cent. 

The average rent for the December quarter of 2022 was $530 a week compared to $460 the year before. 

Brisbane is not much better, with the city experiencing a 14.6 per cent increase. 

In comparison, Darwin, Canberra and Melbourne have experienced smaller increases with Melbourne up 7.9 per cent, Darwin up 5.1 per cent and Canberra up three per cent.

Over in Sydney, which has seen a 12.1 per cent increase, Stephanie* has experienced the pain of rent rises herself. 

She and her partner have been looking for a new place in Sydney’s inner west for the last two weeks after their rent was increased by $410 a fortnight. 

Unfortunately, she says it's been "slim pickings".

"We love our current home. It's convenient for both our workplaces, it's close to friends and has a great culture. But we're beginning to get priced out of the area and it's not great. There's been little houses within our budget and we're either sacrificing location or quality of the place," she told Mamamia.

With a modern apartment with two bedrooms and a lock-up garage going for around $750 a week, Stephanie has no choice but to either downsize to a smaller place or relocate to another suburb in the hopes of securing a cheaper apartment. 


"It sucks and feels unfair. Amongst all of life's other things, the feeling that someone can take your 'home' away from you and offer it up to the next highest bidder, feels so rough and it makes me feel so powerless."

Raised rental prices aren't the only problem either. 

Rental property vacancy rates are also dropping across the country, meaning there's not enough supply to keep up with the demand. 

According to Domain, the national vacancy rate is at an all-time low at just 0.8 per cent.

In Sydney and Melbourne, the vacancy rate has reached a record low of 1.0 per cent, while Perth and Adelaide, which are the most competitive cities for potential tenants, experienced a drop in vacancy rates to 0.3 per cent.

With competition fierce, some people are turning to the practice of 'rent bidding' and offering more money than the advertised price to stand out from the crowd. 

In New South Wales, landlords and agents are no longer permitted to solicit rent bidding. However, the practice is still allowed if it is tenant-initiated

"We offered to pay more money per week and two months of rent upfront when we applied for our last apartment in north-west Sydney," Amy* told Mamamia. 

"We also let the owner know we were happy to put forward a more competitive price in hopes this would give us the edge over other applicants. Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough to get us the place and we received another rejection email in our inbox three days later."  


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Why is the rental crisis happening now? 

According to Nerida Conisbee, Ray White's chief economist and one of Australia's leading property experts, the rental crisis has actually been building for "quite some time".

"What we saw through the pandemic was very, very strong increases in house prices... [and] we also saw very strong growth in rents. And part of it was [due] to a significant shift in population levels. So places like Queensland, for example, did attract a lot of people from down south... We also saw quite strong rental growth in places like Melbourne and Sydney," she told The Quicky. 

"Now the pandemic is over, we've got additional pressure, because population growth has started again [and] international migration is up again, and we also have a construction crisis, so that's starting to bite in terms of housing supply. We do have a shortage of homes, in many places."

Conisbee said the amount of people who purchased holiday homes during the pandemic also hasn't helped with supply. 

"In some local councils, we've seen a very big increase in the number of Airbnbs and also vacant homes. At the same time, there are a lot of people who need long-term rental accommodation. So there is a bit of a mismatch in some of these smaller regional areas in terms of what's available."


Will rental increases continue? 

It's not what many want to hear but according to Conisbee, they will. 

"The reason being is... that population growth has really started up again," she said, explaining that more students are coming back to Australia, adding extra pressure to the rental market. 

Low housing supply is another part of the problem, however, there are some factors that could affect how many people are looking for a rental. 

"At some point, affordability does kick... and you will get fewer people looking at properties once they reach a certain threshold," she explained.

Conisbee also said more people will stay at home longer because "they can't afford to move to the areas that they want to live in". 

"We don't just have a rental crisis, we have a cost-of-living crisis, and inflation is at 30 year high at the moment. So everything's expensive, and as a result, people are starting to rein in their spending and not having to pay as much rent is clearly [part of that]."

Is there anything that can help your chances when looking for a rental? 

There's no magic trick when it comes to securing a rental property in this climate. 

However, Elly said one thing that helped her was making connections with the right people. 

"We developed relationships with property managers, which did help us because sometimes they'd say, 'hey, look this property is coming up, we'll see what we can do'," she told The Quicky. 

"A couple of years ago, that was how I got into a property because we were leaving one. The property manager said 'look, we've got this one up our sleeve if you want [it] you won't have to apply for it'. So that was very handy."


Laura also said this worked for her when she was looking for a new place in Sydney’s inner west after her rent increased above what her and her partner could afford. 

"We spoke to the agent and got to know him really well and explained we were downsizing to try and save money," she told Mamamia

Another tip that helped her was attending viewings on weekdays rather than weekends, which are often more competitive. 

"We were the only people who were at the viewing... My partner and I applied that same evening and were approved by the next morning. Dog and cat in tow!"

She also suggests giving apartments a chance even if they don't look the best on the listing. 

"This place we got looked less impressive online but it was so much better in real life," she explained. 

But most of all, she recognises it all came down to "luck". 

"The timing was on our side and we happened to get in before there were many other options."

Are you struggling to find a place to rent? Share your experience in the comments below. 

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons. 

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.