Australians looking to sidestep high rents by sharing rooms are in for a shock, new data shows.
According to share house listings website Flatmates.com.au, those looking to rent a bed in a share room should expect to pay from $168 to $192 per week per person across the capital cities.
The typical arrangement is two people to a room, yet higher numbers are not uncommon.
There may be four people in the room, but this South Yarra home still sets renters back $135 per week. Photo: Supplied
Listings for share rooms on Flatmates.com.au surged 27 per cent over the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, said general manager Thomas Clement
In Sydney, the average price per bed in a share room is $179 while in Melbourne renters fared little better – paying $176 to rent a room.
*Hobart and Darwin do not have enough listings to generate an average.
“One of the key reasons is that rental prices in major centres are becoming increasingly unmanageable for many people,” said Mr Clement.
“About 45 per cent of our users say they live in share accommodation for cost reasons, so for many people, living in share accommodation is a necessity.”
The most expensive cities to rent a bed is Canberra at $192 a week followed by Perth where the average bed will set you back $186 a week. Mr Clement puts this down to a lack of rental supply.”
Outside of Sydney and Melbourne room sharing is a lot less common and thus competition can be a little higher,” he said. Sydney had almost five times the amount of room shares listed than Perth, with room sharing available in a range of metro suburbs.
“In [other] cities room shares will almost exclusively be in CBD areas where rents are quite high. For students who may be limited by transport options in some cities, living closer to their campus’ is a more desirable option and something they are willing to pay a little bit more for.”
Brisbane is the cheapest city to rent a bed with an average of $169 a week.
Mr Clement said this could reflect the softer competition for rental properties in Brisbane as shown by the city’s increasing rental vacancy rate in 2015.
But it’s not just young university students sharing rooms.
“Flatmates can come from all walks of life and we have recently seen an increase in retirees, couples and single parents looking for a more affordable option to rent,” he said.
For $175 a week, Tirza Wildeboer shares a room with three others in Sydney’s CBD. From the Netherlands, working at the Sydney Fish Markets on weekends and interning full time during the week, she shares the room with others staying on a more permanent basis.
For those whose situation is long term, the high turnover of backpackers in the next bed can prove unsettling.
She didn’t pay a formal bond. Instead, she was instructed to pay $350 to the outgoing tenant and told she would have to get the bond from the next tenant when she left.
The landlord collects the rent himself, however has not attended to maintenance – the microwave, dishwasher and dryer are broken.
“A friend of mine lives in Darlinghurst and she shares [the] kitchen and bathroom with a lot of people but she has her own room and pays rent of like $1100 [per month]. I would never be able to afford,” she said.
Ms Wildeboer said the arrangement is not the worst she has encountered. A room-share arrangement she inspected had nine girls in a dirty two-bedroom apartment with cigarette butts on the floor.
A 2015 Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report found increasing demand for low-cost rentals offering room sharing options.
“Of particular significance is the increasing number of larger, suburban houses in the rental stock, some of which are used for multiple occupancy,” the report found.
The key concerns about rooming houses included informal arrangements with landlords that leave tenants vulnerable, heightened safety risks due to overcrowding, such as fires, and complaints to council about disturbance due to high turnover of tenants.
The report said rooming houses were “currently set on a growth path” in Sydney.
Gumtree has 21,272 listings for share houses and flat shares, with most in NSW.