Australian renters can’t live without their pets, new data shows, even though pets aren’t allowed in the vast majority of rental properties on the market.
'Pet friendly' topped the list of the most searched keywords by renters on realestate.com.au over the past year, particularly for houses.
That's despite pets being considered at only one in seven rental properties on the market, in a nation where most Australian households now have a pet.
'Pet friendly' is consistently among the most searched terms for renters, according to PropTrack senior economist Angus Moore.
"In part because not everywhere allows pets, and if you have a pet, it's an absolutely critical thing you're searching for," Mr Moore said.
Pet ownership surged during the pandemic, and an estimated 69% of households now have a pet, according to a recent survey by Animal Medicines Australia.
The most searched suburbs for pet-friendly rentals are in Brisbane, with Chermside, Coorparoo and North Lakes topping the list. Blacktown, Ryde and Marrickville had the most searches for pet-friendly properties in Sydney, and Richmond, Brunswick and South Yarra were most searched in Melbourne.
"There is clearly a demand," Mr Moore said. "It suggest there is an opportunity there for landlords to supply more pet friendly rentals."
Landlords need to be more open-minded when it comes to allowing pets in rental properties, said property manager and real estate consultant Brigitte Stills.
"A lot of owners just don't want the wear and tear and don't want the expense of dealing with it at the end of a tenancy," she said. "But at the end of the day, you want to lease your property out to a good tenant with longevity."
"My best tenants have been the ones that have pets, because they look after the property, pay their rent, and if there's any damage they are open about it and say they will fix it, and subsequently they do."
'Pet friendly' was the most searched keyword by renters, but only one in five rental properties on the market were advertised as pet friendly. Picture: Getty
Tenants Union chief executive Leo Patterson Ross said it has become easier for tenants to ask permission to have a pet during a tenancy, but applying for a rental property with a pet was still difficult because tough competition in the rental market allows landlords to be selective.
"The result of this difficulty in finding a home is we've got tens of thousands of animals being given up." he said.
Pet owners could minimise the risk of problems by ensuring their home was suitable for their pets, Mr Patterson Ross said.
"If you provide a safe and healthy home for the animal then you’re much less likely to get things like damage, noise and nuisance effects."
The rise of pet resumes has helped some owners make their case by putting landlords' fears to rest, Ms Stills said.
"Most of these pets come with better references than the tenants," she said. "They get reports from the vet and references from other owners they've leased from before."
Convenience commands a premium
When it comes to units, the feature that renters want most is furniture, with searches for 'furnished' outranking every other keyword.
"This is a case of market segmentation," Mr Moore said. "There's a group of renters looking to move in and live temporarily."
"They don’t have furniture or white goods and don’t want them because they’re only planning to stay for a short period, be that for work or personal reasons."
"They're looking for somewhere to rent that provides all that for them so they don't have to go through the very significant cost of acquiring those things."
"It’s a case of there being potentially quite a sizeable market for it, but it’s a slightly different product."
This luxury furnished one-bedroom apartment in the Sydney CBD is advertised for $1400 per week for short to medium leases. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent
Furnished rentals were most sought-after in inner-city regions, which have also experienced some of Australia’s strongest rental price growth over the past year, with prices surging almost 30% in some suburbs.
Tenants in inner city or coastal areas seeking shorter leases were prepared to pay for the convenience of a furnished rental, Ms Stills said.
"They do come with a premium, especially if they're anything up to six months," she said.
"At the end of the day you've got a furnished property, and that means you don't have to pay for furniture."
Renters seek affordability and value
Rising rents have also prompted some tenants to search for more affordable or flexible properties, with searches for ‘dual living’ rising by 18% over the past year, and searches for ‘granny flat’ increasing by 6%.
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"Rents have escalated tremendously, and the people who can't afford them are looking for dual occupancies or granny flats," Ms Stills said.
This newly built one bedroom granny flat with a shared yard in Kirrawee in Sydney's south is advertised for rent for $450 per week. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent
The experience of renting a granny flat varies considerably, Mr Patterson Ross said, and renters should be aware of issues around privacy and utilities.
"There’s some pretty dodgy shacks out there posing as granny flats that you wouldn't want to put your grandmother in, but there are some better quality ones," he said.
"There’s often legal issues that arise, particularly around metering and the way utilities are shared, but also shared spaces, which are often not well defined."
Buyers have also increasingly targeted granny flats, with owner occupiers seeking homes with income potential and investors targeting high-yielding properties to offset higher mortgage repayments.
At the other end of the market, there has been an increase in searches for premium or new apartments, with a 53% increase in searches for ‘penthouse’ in the ACT, and 37% more searches for ‘brand new’ in NSW.
In Queensland, searches for 'waterfront' increased by more than 7% for houses, and there were 11% more searches for ‘beach’ and 6% more searches for ‘ocean view’ among renters seeking units.
Like buyers, renters also sought properties with pools, which was the second-most searched keyword for houses and fifth for units.
More Queensland renters have sought waterfront properties in the past year, search data shows. This three bedroom Maroochydore apartment features a pool in the complex and is advertised for $660 per week. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent
“Anyone with children and anyone coming from overseas that has got the money, they're looking for properties that have swimming pools,” Ms Stills said.
She estimated that houses with pools typically lease for about 30% more, especially if maintenance is included.
Mr Moore said both renters and buyers have placed more value on amenities that enhance their lifestyle in recent years.
“Access to beaches, national parks, views, larger backyards, rooftops, penthouses, pools and gyms in the complex – we have seen those increasingly valued through the pandemic.”
Understanding what renters are searching for in local markets can help investors ensure their properties cater to tenants needs, Mr Moore said.
“This gives you a good sense of specific features tenants are looking for, and demanding, which might help you choose what property to buy, but also might inform how you structure or arrange your property in terms of whether it allows pets, or whether you invest in these features.”
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