Tenants going to extremes to find housing as rental prices surge

Tenants around the country are going to extreme lengths to secure a roof over their heads as rental prices hit record highs.

Next month, the average Wellington rental property is on track to hit an all-time high of $640 per week.

Renters are giving the country's mounting rental crisis a big thumbs-down. As the lines outside flat viewings get longer, the fight to find a home is becoming increasingly desperate.

"We have made flat CVs and thought we would stand out, and then turned up to flat viewings and everybody else has a fancy folder, filled with nice things about themselves," Massey University Wellington welfare vice-president Tessa Guest told Newshub.

It's not just flat CVs. Guest says hopefuls are engaging in bidding wars, staying in backpackers and even doing housework in exchange for accommodation.

"The rental market at the moment is quite desperate," she says.

Last year, the average cost of a rental property in Christchurch went up 1.7 percent to $379, while Dunedin went up 8.4 percent to $464.

Rental properties in Auckland rose 2.2 percent to $563 a week. Hamilton went up 6.1 percent to a December record of $420. Wellington went up 10 percent, topping the country with rents of $604 per week.

"People are paying so much money for what [is] not worth it," one person told Newshub.

"It's ridiculous," said another.

It isn't just students feeling the pinch - professionals and families are too.

"Previously, they've been competing separately for different types of housing. Now it's an all-versus-all scenario, where you're trying to find anything you can to get into a house," Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said.

It mostly comes down to supply - high house prices mean people stay in rentals longer to save deposits, putting pressure on the market.

In turn, rent prices are going through the roof.

"Essentially, we need more houses," Olsen said.

Trade Me's latest figures from December show the number of enquiries on its rental listings has risen 17 percent on the year before.

Demand in Auckland and Wellington has increased by 20 percent and 8 percent respectively. In Christchurch, it was up 22 percent, and in Dunedin, 24 percent.

"With demand already really high, we expect to see record rents and some pretty startling demand figures over the next few months," Trade Me head of communications Logan Mudge said.

Some landlords warned the Government they would need to pass on the costs of its rental reforms - which include limiting rent rises to once a year and introducing new healthy homes standards.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says there is no link between that and rising rent prices.

"The rental market is definitely very tight in a number of cities around New Zealand. We've had a housing crisis that this Government is addressing, but it will take time to build the houses that we need," he said.

Until then, tenants will continue to put their best foot forward - to get their foot in the door.