‘Uncharted territory’ as rental crisis deepens
"It's really hard to know how things will go from here - there's no crystal ball. We're in uncharted territory."
That's the words of Raine & Horne principal Christine Clarke, as the Coffs Coast continues to grapple with a COVID-induced rental shortage.
Ms Clarke is uncertain as to how the agency will manage over the next three months, as this time of the year is historically the busiest for people seeking housing.
"People are coming into town due to job transfers, or are trying to get their kids into school before the new year starts," she said.
"No one really knows what the next months hold, but we're all hoping we're moving in the right direction.
"The State Government has so much control in turning the tap on and off on people's movements."
In February 2020, the rental vacancy in Coffs was at 5.4 per cent - dropping to just 0.5 per cent by November.
In contrast, vacancies in inner Sydney sat at 2.8 per cent in February before rising to 4.6 per cent in November.
That's according to figures from the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW).
Ms Clarke, who has served several years as a board member of REINSW and over 30 years as a Coffs agent, said it was around six months after the pandemic hit that an influx of people began migrating from the city to coastal NSW.
"People out of the area had investment and retirement properties on the Coffs Coast, and they realised you know what, we can work from how now and we may as well do that in Coffs," she said.
"There's just been a surprisingly great movement of people who wanted to try something different, and go somewhere considered clean and safe."
Ms Clarke said many people who had recently sold their properties were also looking to enter the rental market, simply because there has been limited housing stock available for sale.
"We virtually had no stock left - we sold everything," she said.
"And there's been very little vacancies in our rental department. But there continues to be loads of inquiry, there's no doubt about that."
The region's tightening rental market made headlines late last year, with agencies reporting unprecedented levels of demand and stories emerging of people being left homeless.
In Bellingen, the rental situation has also been dire with residents resorting to creating a 'locals only' Facebook group to help people already established in the region find accommodation.
Looking ahead to 2021, Ms Clarke said there was still uncertainty clouding the property market, but said Coffs had been lucky to escape the worst so far.
"I guess we have to watch this space at the moment."