What the median rental price can get you in Australia’s capital cities — and how it compares to other countries
What the median rental price can get you in Australia’s capital cities — and how it compares to other countries
12 May, 2022
After almost a decade abroad, Daniel Sceberras is planning to move back to Australia in October this year — and he's already begun scouring Sydney rental listings.
The 40-year-old IT worker has lived in London since 2013, first in sharehouses and later in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife in Kingston upon Thames, on the outskirts of the city. The London renting experience, he says, has left a lot to be desired.
Not only are rental prices what he describes as "extortionate", taking up about 40 per cent of the couple's income after tax, but getting maintenance and repairs done on their older Victorian-style building in a timely matter is a constant battle. Then there's the problem of pets: despite desperately wanting a dog, the couple has been forced to delay their dream due to widespread no-pet clauses.
"It's just been a bad experience here in the UK," he says. "We would love to buy a property, but it just doesn't seem possible — hence why we're in this rent cycle, we can't get out of it."
Over in Australia, renters — who make up about 30 per cent of the population according to the latest available Census data, collected before the pandemic — are facing similar struggles.
In the first three months of this year, Domain's latest rental report reveals the cost of renting a house soared to a new record high median price of $508 per week across Australia's capital cities.
This increase in rental prices is happening against the backdrop of a similarly unaffordable buyers market, making it harder for Australians to make the jump from renting to ownership.
Australian renters are also having to look harder for a place to call home. According to the latest PropTrack rental report from property firm REA Group — which uses their site realestate.com.au to gather data about the market — there has been an ongoing decline in new and total rental listings since the start of the year. The total number of properties available for rent in March was the lowest it has been since 2003 and 24 per cent lower than the same time a year earlier.
Those properties are also staying up for a historically low number of days as people scramble to find a place to call home, with the situation likely to worsen as more migrants return to the country after border closures.
Less than three weeks out from a federal election, it paints a dire picture. And we know that for many people renting amid record inflation and skyrocketing cost of living pressures, it certainly feels like a full-blown crisis.
"There's been a crisis for many low-income earners struggling to pay their rent for a long time," says Brendan Coates, the economic policy program director at the Grattan Institute. "That's why the first solution is an increase in rent assistance — if you think of that as cost of living relief for low-income renters — which was notably absent in the budget."
But despite the gloomy statistics, Daniel is hopeful his approaching move Down Under will get him a better deal overall. After researching rental listings in Sydney's northern suburbs, where he hopes to secure a two-bedroom property come October, he expects he'll be paying a similar price but getting much more bang for his buck.
"The photos look like they're better conditions than we are currently in here," he says. "And then there's location. If we looked at Bondi, that would be a 30 per cent increase in our rent, but if we go inwards a bit to Chatswood or Lane Cove, which is still accessible to the beach, it's not too bad."
So are Australians worse off than those overseas when it comes to renting? To find out we took a look at what the $508* median weekly rental price would actually get you in all of Australia's capitals and similar cities across the world.
*All prices referring to overseas properties have been converted to Australian dollars.
What you can get for your money in Sydney varies drastically depending on where you wish to live.
As Coates says, it's a classic trade-off: "You ask people, do you want an apartment in the city, a townhouse that's further out, or a suburban house that's further out again, and they are all roughly the same price — and what we see is that people are willing to take that trade-off to be able to live better spots. It's a myth that homeowners only want the quarter-acre block."
The median price, unsurprisingly, also shifts significantly depending on a suburb's proximity to the city and beaches. In the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills, for example, the median weekly price for a house is $850, while in Blacktown in the western suburbs, it's exactly half that.
For $500 and under a week, you'll be hard-pressed to find a property with two or more bedrooms in the inner-city suburbs. The handful that can be found are typically in apartment blocks, unrenovated, with few amenities and limited space. (A common theme is tiny rooms that barely fit a double bed being listed as a second "bedroom".)
One two-bedroom terrace house in Darlinghurst, walking distance from the CBD, features a stove atop a microwave and no oven. The $500 a week property is described as "cosy" and a "hidden gem".
Moving further west towards Ashfield, Burwood and beyond, the options for families in this price range open up. In the suburbs around Parramatta — a roughly half-an-hour drive from the CBD — the two-bedroom apartments are more modern and spacious, with many falling well below the $500 limit.
There are also stand-alone homes in this price range, with two or more bedrooms — though they are more scarce than apartments. The quality and style of the home vary greatly from suburb to suburb, but they tend to be older.
London, United Kingdom
In London, like Sydney, where you are located in the city has a big impact on what you can get for your money. A colour-coded map of the median rental price for a two-bedroom in each postcode across the city looks loosely like a series of expanding rings: the first, covering the city centre and surrounding suburbs, is marked red to denote a median weekly rent of about $700 and above. The further you expand from the centre, the cheaper it becomes.
Kingston upon Thames, where Daniel currently lives, is on the south-west border of the map with a weekly median rent of close to $600 for a two-bedroom property. The city-wide median is about $645 per week, according to the data published by the Mayor of London.
There are almost no properties with two or more bedrooms for under $500 a week or below in the City of London or the immediate surrounding suburbs. Further out in Croydon — almost an hour's drive from the city centre — you can find a two-bedroom apartment, fully furnished, "with space for a separate dining area".
But don't expect to find a house on a budget: a search on Zoopla, a local real estate listing site, reveals almost no private homes anywhere in London for under $500 a week.
Canberra is Australia's most expensive city for renters. At the beginning of this year, the median weekly asking rent for a house was $700 — the highest median asking rent ever to be recorded across the capital cities, according to Domain — and $540 for a unit.
That's partly because of its size; it takes only half an hour to drive from one end of the city to the other. Vacancy rates are also at an all-time low, with overall advertised vacant rentals halved compared to December last year.
So it's perhaps no surprise that $500 won't get you much in Canberra. In that price range, options with more than one bedroom are limited to basic apartments and a few townhouses, some within walking distance to the city centre.
Washington DC, United States
Another national capital with even less space (but almost double the population) is Washington DC, which has similarly few two-bed rental options for around $500 a week. The dozen or so properties we could find were all small apartments, most on the outer edges of the city.
Rents are also hitting record highs in the United States, according to a national report compiled by rental listing site Zumper, with Washington DC the seventh most expensive city in the country to rent a one-bedroom property. The median price for a one-bedroom is about $790 a week.
Renters hoping to keep costs down are better off in Melbourne than in any other Australian city. Despite being the country's second-largest city, the median weekly rent for a house has remained lower at $450 — one of only three Australian cities to fall under the national city median.
Unlike Sydney, this means it's possible to live near the city centre on a budget. There are thousands of properties with two or more bedrooms around the inner city for $500 and under a week. These include apartments, but also houses with patios and backyard space.
In Brunswick, a trendy suburb in Melbourne's inner north known for its cafes, bars, and live music, a two-bedroom terrace home "with a rustic feel", large built-in wardrobes and a big courtyard will set you back $500 a week. Meanwhile, in beach-side St Kilda, it's possible to find a three-bedroom Victorian-style home with a garden shed for $475.
Slightly further out, bigger homes become more common in this price range. In Coburg North, a 20-minute drive from the CBD, one asking price for a well-maintained — but unrenovated — five-bedroom home with a sunroom, large manicured garden, a hills hoist, and secure garage was just $500.
Canada has not been immune from rising rents seen around the world following the pandemic.
Across the country, the average rent for all properties — a different measurement to the median rental price used in Domain's report — was up 6.6 per cent in March this year, compared to 12 months earlier, according to a national report from property listings site rentals.ca.
Toronto, the country's largest city, comes in at number two for the most expensive place to rent — behind Vancouver. Rentals.ca lists the average rental cost for a two-bed property in the city at about $3,045 a month, or just over $760 a week.
Finding a property available for $500 and under a week is still possible, however, with a few hundred results coming back. This shrinks considerably when you look only at properties with two or more bedrooms, with only a handful located in downtown Toronto and the surrounding suburbs.
A two-bed, two-bath "basement rental in a historic Victorian home" in Palmerston — a 10-minute drive from the CN Tower — will set you back about $494 a week, while slightly further north in Corso Italia, a similar price will afford a newly-renovated two-bed apartment, with big windows and a courtyard.
Like the other cities we've looked at, houses in this price range are significantly harder to come by — especially with more than two bedrooms. To the west of the city, in Scarborough, most results that come up under a search for houses are actually basement rentals under the main property. Some are spacious, and in good condition, but lack natural light.
The median weekly rental price for houses in Brisbane is exactly $500, a new record high for the city after a 14.9 per cent annual increase.
Availability has also dwindled over the past year, according to Domain, with "certain areas in a rental crisis". But unlike other cities, it's still possible to find houses with two or more bedrooms within a short distance of the city centre.
In East Brisbane, an older style home with three bedrooms, a sunroom, a fireplace, air conditioning, a backyard and a traditional front verandah is going for $490 a week. Further out, the houses in this price range are bigger and more likely to be recently renovated.
In Camp Hill, a 10-minute drive from the CBD, $430 a week can get you a two-bedroom family home with a huge fenced backyard and a rumpus room advertised as a "kids playroom or study for those who work from home".
Phoenix, United States
Phoenix, the capital of the south-western state of Arizona, is the fifth-largest American city but only the 41st most expensive to rent in, according to Zumper.
The city is among the fastest-growing in the US, according to the New York Times, as people seek out more affordable housing and tech companies move in to set up shop. This migration is pushing vacancy rates down and housing demand up, with rental prices surging by 28 per cent over a year to February.
With a median rental price for a two-bedroom property of about $568, it's possible to find two-bed options within the $500 price range, but these are mostly limited to apartments.
Most of the available apartments appear well-maintained and newly renovated, with some closer to the city centre including shared swimming pools and facilities. Some are also advertised as pet friendly.
The median weekly rental price in Perth is $480, making it the third-cheapest Australian city for renters. While it was one of the few cities not to hit a new record for rental costs this quarter, Domain predicts it won't be long before the median price surpasses the previous high recorded in 2013.
Even so, there is a broad range of properties available for under $500 a week across the entirety of Perth — including two-bed and above houses near the inner city.
Where you would struggle to find anything with more than one bedroom for $500 a week in inner Sydney, in Bedford, a short 20-minute drive from the Perth CBD, you can find a large three-bedroom family home with a garage, pergola and big backyard.
In the riverside hub of East Perth, which has been named the best suburb for lifestyle in Western Australia, houses in this price range are harder to come by but two-bed apartments tend to be modern and well-maintained, with balconies, air-conditioning, storage and often access to shared facilities like pools.
The further inland you travel, the more options there are for houses with two or more bedrooms — and the cheaper they become.
Auckland, New Zealand
Like in Australia, Kiwis are having to pay more for rent on top of soaring inflation. In Auckland, by far New Zealand's largest city, the average rent for a three-bedroom property is roughly $567 per week, according to a report from real estate company Barfoot and Thompson.
Within Auckland city, there are few houses with two or more bedrooms for $500 and under. The ones that are, tend to be older style homes — most, however, come with substantial outdoor space.
In Avondale, a traditionally working-class suburb in west Auckland that has since been dubbed "up and coming", a single-level brick home with two bedrooms and a "private backyard garden" goes for around $490 a week.
For those looking to be in the heart of the city, a basic, carpeted two-bedroom apartment in a large modern complex will set you back roughly $475 per week.
Australia's most southern city is in the midst of a rental crisis driven by low supply, and this is reflected in the prices, with a median weekly rent for houses of $520. In 2016, the city was the most affordable in Australia for renters — now it's the fourth most expensive.
"All regions across Hobart are at record highs with affordable tenancies hard to come by," the Domain report reads.
Searching for properties with two or more bedrooms for $500 and under brings up limited options across the city. Near the city centre, there are more apartments than houses in this price range but slightly further out, the variety in properties opens up.
In Sandy Bay, a short distance from the popular Salamanca Markets, a two-bedroom art deco apartment on "one of Hobart's most beautiful tree lined streets" will set you back $480 for a sunroom, hardwood floors and plenty of natural light from large windows.
In terms of houses, there are more options to the north of the city centre, near Moonah, New Town and Glenorchy — but these are still limited. In West Moonah, a 15-minute drive from the CBD, a standalone three-bedroom house with a renovated bathroom, big backyard, and patio is going for $495 per week.
Honolulu, United States
Honolulu, like Hobart, might be separated from the mainland by water — but that hasn't stopped high rental prices from making their way over.
According to the Zumper report, Hawaii's capital is currently among the 30 most expensive cities for renters in the United States, with a median weekly rental price of $777 for a two-bedroom house.
Earlier this month, the city's mayor Rick Blangiardi banned short-term vacation rentals outside of resort areas, limiting stays to three-months or more. He hopes the move will improve conditions for people who live permanently on the island, which has suffered from housing availability.
A search for available properties under $500 a week in the city brings back just 23 results, with only two featuring two bedrooms or more.
One of these is located in a basic apartment block, a 35 minute walk away from the beach, with very little natural light and a shared coin laundry. The other is similarly dull, with a tiny balcony and few windows, but five minutes closer to the beach by foot.
It's not a good picture for renters in Adelaide. According to Domain, the city is the most competitive capital city rental market in the country, as "tenants operate in a severely undersupplied rental market that firmly favours landlords".
Furthermore, "bidding wars are common ground" with tenants having to fight to secure a home, driven by an influx of interstate movers, increasing house prices forcing people to rent for longer, and people returning from overseas.
This has led to a new record median weekly house price of $465 — the second lowest in Australia — after seven consecutive quarters of growth.
For $500 and under a week, it's still possible to live in the inner city for now. This includes houses and apartments with at least two bedrooms. Within walking distance of the city, an unrenovated three-bedroom bungalow in Gilberton with a backyard and shed will set you back $495 per week, if you can put up with bright '70s wallpaper and green bathroom tiles.
Further inland, in St Agnes, another leafy three-bedroom home with a large backyard is advertised for $470 a week — this time with two renovated bathrooms and an updated kitchen.
While renting in London is notoriously expensive, in Britain's second-largest city the average cost of renting is significantly less eye-watering.
According to a quarterly report compiled by Zoopla, the average weekly rental price for Manchester (again, a different measurement to the median) in December 2021 was about $363.
But even so, the city saw a 9.5 per cent increase in rental prices compared to the previous December, in keeping with post-COVID trends elsewhere.
In the centre of town you can find modern apartments with two or more bedrooms for about $500 a week, but options for houses are limited.
Slightly further out in Salford — a 20-minute commute on public transport from the city centre — a three-bedroom, two-storey townhouse with a large balcony will set you back about $490 a week.
The further you go out of the city, what you will find in this price range remains pretty similar: brick townhouses with two or three bedrooms.
In Australia's smallest capital city — Darwin's 132,000 residents represent just 0.5 per cent of people living in Australia — rental prices are among the most expensive in the country.
With a median weekly asking price of $610 in the March quarter, it's above both Sydney and Melbourne, with units similarly pricey at $500 a week.
Throughout the centre of Darwin, apartments are in much higher supply than houses for $500 and under a week, with only a tiny few houses available in this price range on the outer limits of the city.
Apartments tend to be modern, with tiled floors and balconies, and at least two bedrooms. On the Esplanade, in the CBD, a basic, older two-bedroom apartment with waterfront views will set you back $420.
Just up the road, a fully-furnished, modern, three-bedroom apartment with a wrap-around balcony and spa bath in the main bedroom (yes, in the actual bedroom) is advertised for $500.
In the surrounding suburbs like Parap and Stuart Park there are very few listings for properties with at least two bedrooms under the national median.
Editor’s note, May 9: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage Australian residents living in Darwin as 000.5 per cent.