Short answer: you’ll have the most options to choose from in January, but you’ll pay a bit more. If you can look a little later in the year, you might find a slightly cheaper deal.
January is the busiest time of the year in the rental market, with more new listings coming to market than any other month. On average, January has 16% more new rental listings than a typical month. By contrast, December is the quietest.
This is true no matter what city you’re looking to rent in. New rental listings are 10-20% higher in January than in an average month across all capital cities. Only Canberra bucks the trend slightly. January is busy in Canberra, but November is even busier.
So why is so much activity concentrated in January?
The simple answer is that January is when the rental market churns. People look to move at the start of the year and that means they move out of their current rental, which brings that rental to market.
Of course, if rentals are coming to market because the previous tenants have moved out, we should see more people looking to move in January as well.
And that’s exactly what we do see: more people search in January for rentals on realestate.com.au than any other month.
While January provides more rental options, there’s also more competition from other prospective renters. That means it’ll probably be hard to find a bargain.
So, when is the cheapest time to look for a rental?
That’s a complicated question because prices rise over time. December will normally be more expensive than January, simply because prices will likely increase over that period.
We want to abstract from this “trend” increase in prices and find which months have prices that are predictably higher or lower. Economists call this “seasonality”.
What we find is, the most seasonally expensive months are earlier in the year – February in particular. Even though there are lots of options to choose from early in the year, there’s also a lot of competition and so rents end up being a bit higher.
April and May are the cheapest months. But April is also one of the months with the fewest new rentals to choose from (other than December). While you might come across something a little cheaper in April or May, it will likely be harder to find.
There are some differences across the capital cities, but the general pattern holds: early in the year is more expensive; April and May are cheaper.
That said, finding a rental in May is not going to yield big savings. Seasonality means that rents in May are on average around 0.9% cheaper than we might otherwise expect. Based on the ABS’s estimate of average weekly rent (~$360), that’s a saving of just under $200 over a year. The same is true of February: it is the most expensive month, but prices are only around 1% higher.
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