By KATHERINE MULLARD
ALL Regina Millis wanted for Christmas was a house ? but with 2007 gathering momentum the mother of six is still desperately looking for somewhere to rent.
Ms Milliss and four of her children have been living out of motel rooms in Coffs Harbour and staying at her mum's house in Nambucca Heads as they join the growing list of prospective renters waiting for somewhere to call home.
"I've been trying to get a house in Coffs for four months now, it's hard. You look at houses and they go, just like that," she said.
"We want a four bedroom house so the kids can have their own rooms, but they're out of our price range, they're about $300 plus a week, and I can't afford that. The three bedrooms are expensive too, they're about $290 a week."
Instead of spending the last week of school holidays cooling down at the beach, Mrs Milliss and her four youngest children have been out and about on foot canvassing real estate agents and inspecting rental properties in their bid to find appropriate accommodation.
"I'm finding it hard because I don't drive, and I haven't rented in years ? I owned my own home before this ? this makes it hard to make up the 100 points of ID that you need."
"We even got rid of our pets to make it easier to find a place!" she said.
Ms Millis and her brood are not alone.
The Coffs Coast has not been left unscathed as NSW reels a rental crisis with vacancy rates low and demand for rental properties far outweighing supply.
"Coffs Harbour real estate agents are dealing with tenancy inquiries on the hour every hour, and it's difficult for anyone to find suitable accommodation," the Mid North Coast Director of the Estate Agents Co-operative, John Sercombe, said.
"The market place is tight because of the NSW vendor tax introduced in early 2004, and investors have simply moved elsewhere. Now we're paying for it in 2007," he said.
Mr Sercombe said the 2.25 per cent tax on the sale of investment properties was introduced in May 2004, and has had an adverse impact on the NSW rental market with investors taking their money interstate, forcing a decrease in rental properties and an increase in rental prices.
According to Belinda McHale of Raine and Horne Real Estate Coffs Harbour, it's the boom time for people looking for rental properties, and among those hardest hit have been families and university students.
"We have more prospective tenants than rental properties available. Uni students are finding it hard because quite often they have limited references, and there are also a lot of families looking for houses with yards," she said.
"It will be interesting to see what happens with the rental market in winter. That will be the time to tell."
Currently, the average price for a three bedroom house in the Coffs Harbour area ranges from between $250 to $420.
While Mr Sercombe predicts that this cycle is set to shift, he said it will be a while yet before we see any change in the rental markets.
"Over the next year or two people will start to build and invest again, but it will take time," Mr Sercombe said."