Renters' queue grows as houses snapped up in quake-hit city

WOULD-BE TENANTS: Melissa Stewart and Scott Barnes with son Kalani Busby, 6.
WOULD-BE TENANTS: Melissa Stewart and Scott Barnes with son Kalani Busby, 6.

Rental properties in quake-hit Christchurch are still in hot demand, with some families willing to commit to a home before seeing it for themselves.

Prospective tenants have to fight their way through crowded viewings and deal with inflated rents, after the city's earthquakes wiped out a significant amount of the housing stock and increased demand for remaining rentals.

New Trade Me property figures released this week reveal that rental demand in the city has risen 47 per cent compared with the same time last year.

Supply is down 34 per cent, while rental prices have gone up by an average of 26 per cent.

At one rental viewing yesterday in the popular suburb of St Albans, the Sunday Star-Times watched more than a dozen people visit the property in less than half an hour.

The property's current tenant, Chloe Jones, said she had been inundated by potential tenants after the rental was listed on Trade Me about a week ago.

"I've had lots of people calling and saying they'll take it without even looking at it, and people are turning up when they're not meant to be looking through."

Jones had to live in emergency accommodation after the February 2011 earthquake forced her out of her central city home.

Her son had developed bronchitis after living in damp homes, but she had managed to find a new, warm place.

"I'm lucky, because I found it through a friend of a friend of a friend, and that's the only way you can get a decent house in Christchurch at the moment."

Melissa Stewart and her family, among those looking at the property, were making a second attempt to find a new rental in the city.

Stewart said they had to move out of their Linwood rental in February, after their landlord's home was red-zoned and he reclaimed the property.

The family spent five weeks "hard-out looking" after they left the rental, but had to move into a friend's place after they came up short.

"It was horrible, I didn't think it would be that bad. There were so many people looking round, and the rent was quite high wherever we went," Stewart said.

Christo Calitz and his family, who recently arrived in the city from Wellington, were just beginning the hunt for a rental but had already heard about the housing shortage.

"We came down four weeks ago and read the newspaper reports about 60 people showing up at some open homes."

Calitz said they had a month to find a rental, and were hopeful they would find a new home before time ran out. "We're keeping our fingers crossed. We're a bit concerned, but we're hoping it's not going to be as bad as it sounds."

Sunday Star Times