Tenants have been warned to brace for rent increases right across the country.
Demand is so ferocious, properties are being snapped up within a day or two, contributing to a drop in the number of available rentals, according to Trade Me.
"It is highly likely that tenants will be asked for record rents in January and February all over the country," head of Trade Me Property Nigel Jeffries says.
"Demand will continue to exceed supply this year and as a result we are predicting that the national median weekly rent will rise between 3 and 5 percent."
- No more affordable regions in Auckland
- It's getting 'harder and harder' to be a landlord, landlords claim
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub says there is a crisis in Wellington, and a "crunch" in rental supply in other parts of the country.
"When rents rise sharply, it is a clear indication that there is a shortage of housing," he told Newshub.
"Fewer rentals are becoming available and the competition for those few places is intense."
Trade Me's data has every region's median weekly rent up year on year in December, aside from Taranaki and the West Coast, which remain unchanged. The median weekly rent is now $460.
By the numbers, according to Trade Me
- Rents in Wellington are up $30, and expected to go higher as the academic year begins.
- The number of available places has halved in a year across the country.
- In Auckland, availability is down 35 percent.
- Weekly median rent nationwide is up to $460 - in Auckland it's $530, and expected to rise.
- Rents rose everywhere in the country last year, except Taranaki and the West Coast.
- Hikes were highest in Northland and Marlborough, followed by Nelson.
- Rents for one- and two-bedroom places are up to a median of $380 a week, and large houses - five-bedrooms or more - up to $1100.
The factors driving the rental spike
Mr Jefferies says the rental spike is being driven a lack of housing, people renting for longer while they save for a first home and - in Wellington at least, more people moving in.
"Wellington is simply not building enough houses to keep up. There is also increased demand in some places from Airbnb and the like," economist Eaqub told Newshub.
"There is also insufficient supply of state and social housing, which is adding to demand for more private rentals."
Robert Whitaker from Wellington-based Renters United says half the population of New Zealand are renters, and that number's "growing all the time as home ownership becomes more difficult."
Mr Whitaker says it's not just new renters getting hit with price increases - landlords are reported to be increasing rent for existing tenants too.
Renters should brace themselves for an increase, he told Newshub.
Landlords are required to tell tenants at least 60 days before increasing rent.
In Wellington, the problem is compounded by yearly demand that comes with new students looking for rentals, a factor some landlords are exploiting.
"A huge problem in Wellington is one-year fixed-term rentals set up to expire in the January to March period, because that's when landlords can get the best price," he said.
While this time of year means increased demand as students move into university cities, Mr Whitaker says increased demand has a knock-on effect for all renters.
Some have blamed the $50 increase in student allowances for rent increases, but Trade Me's Mr Jeffries isn't convinced.
"I'm not so sure that's having an impact. This is a simple supply-and-demand equation. Demand is far outstripping supply, and the market is reacting with higher rents."
Two solutions - Shamubeel Eaqub
Economist and author of 'Generation Rent' says there are two solutions to slow the increase of rents:
1. Increase the supply of state and social housing "to ease the pressure on those at the very bottom of the pile."
2. Increase housing supply, "particularly smaller and cheaper units, which... make a good investment proposition for landlords and [are] affordable for tenants."