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The tidal pull of life by the sea has catapulted house and unit rent prices to record heights across key South East Queensland pockets – pushing desperate tenants further back from the beach amid predictions a new southern migration wave will break once borders re-open.

Gold Coast house rents shot up by five per cent to a median of $630 per week over the past three months with the city also collecting its greatest annual rate of growth – 22.9 per cent – since records began in 2004, the latest Domain Rent Report, for the September quarter, revealed.

Unit rents also rose 13.6 per cent over the year (4.2 per cent over the quarter) to $500, the strongest rate of annual growth since 2007.

Median house rents on the Sunshine Coast rose 17.6 per cent annually to $600 – while remaining stable over the quarter in what could be the calm before the next southern storm, experts say.

The figures reveal the stark impact of Australia’s tsunami-sized sea-change trend amid reports both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast rental markets are close to breaking point despite a slight boost in investor activity easing the tight vacancy rates in both cities over the past three months.

“It’s also challenging for entry-level buyers and that’s where it’s important that we create a diverse array of property for every type of buyer affordability. That should be front and centre for the government because it does become challenging when you’re faced with the rising cost of rents and battling rising purchasing prices [simultaneously],” Domain chief of research and economics, Nicola Powell said. “The fact that house rents on the Sunshine Coast held at their record high shows that ceiling has been reached there,” Dr Powell said.

“I’m expecting this plateau to maintain for prices because it’s been such a voracious rate of rent growth for tenants. Now, we’re likely to see a steadier growth.”

But while increased stock and investor activity could slow the incredible rate of price growth, RE/MAX Regency Robina property manager Jackie Hardstaff expected an intense final quarter of the year to again push rents through the proverbial ceiling.

“We are seeing more properties becoming available but the vacancy rate is still super low … and demand is still just as bad. It has been hectic. People are lining up to get in,” Ms Hardstaff said.

“And I think border openings will just send it up again. We found in our office that rental prices [recently] stayed stagnant a bit and even some we had to decrease because we had a decrease of interstate people and they are the ones paying the big bucks.

“So, when we see those borders open back up we will see the influx again and they will be offering higher rates, so I definitely think prices will increase.

“For young people, it’s going to be hard for them to get their foot in the door but we’re lucky to have some landlords who are trying to help them. But mostly, we are seeing then go north to suburbs like Ormeau.”

It’s a trend that sparked median house rents in the Ormeau-Oxenford region to jump 7.1 per cent over the past quarter to $525 per week, with units in the nearby Nerang region soaring by 7.9 per cent to $480 in three months.

As for where interstate buyers are navigating to, Ms Hardstaff said Mudgeeraba – thanks to its abundance of top schools – continues to be a major magnet with anywhere close to the beach also hot property.

The report revealed house rents in Mudgeeraba rose 8.1 per cent over the past year to $600 per week with Clear Island Waters, on the Gold Coast, stealing the top-performing crown by suburb after the median house rent skyrocketed 30 per cent in a year to $949 per week.

Up on the Sunshine Coast, the unprecedented house price rise coupled with soaring interstate migration has sparked a rental crisis that’s flowed far beyond perennially popular Noosa with a backlog of tenants expected to keep vacancy rates close to zero until next year.

North Shore Realty business development manager, Melle Polla-Mounter said while prices had plateaued over the past quarter the office was already bracing itself for the next influx.

“This is the calm before the storm … and the market is still really strong. We have a lot of people calling us from down south in a panic [because they’re afraid they’ll miss out],” Ms Polla-Mounter said.

“The sleepy beachside towns are where they want to be because you share the beaches with only a handful of people … particularly places like Marcoola, which has a cool community vibe where everyone stands out and has a drink in the afternoon.

“And it’s predominantly young families coming to the area … they are all working remotely and they can clock off at 5pm and be at the beach at 5.10pm.”

But while these newfound gems have sparked enormous price hikes – the median house rent in Mount Coolum rose a colossal 36.3 per cent to $695 over the past year – Ms Polla-Mounter said tenants were still happy to fork out the big bucks for a lifestyle she said was second to none.

“Five years ago I don’t think we had one property advertised for $1000 per week but now that’s nothing to be sneezed at and we get good interest on those properties,” she said.

It was the lure of a laidback lifestyle that drew David Greenwood and his wife Catherine Molloy to Marcoola from Melbourne just a few weeks ago. But while the decision to swap the cold and ongoing lockdowns was an easy one – finding their own slice of paradise was a nightmare.

“We came up for a holiday with my eldest daughter and her husband and their children [in July] … because we had made the decision to open a business here. We thought we’d need to be on the ground to look at shops but it turned out we needed to be here to look at houses. It was nearly impossible [to find a place to live],” Mr Greenwood said.

“It’s a full-time job … and we’re watching prices rise before our eyes.”

The couple – who decided to move north with their daughter and her family – had managed to juggle lockdowns while finding a place to live and tying up their affairs down south. But when they finally managed to sign the lease on a big family home and send the removalist truck north, a lockdown left them stranded and homeless in Melbourne.

“It was a nightmare … but our first day here – after lockdowns lifted and once we’d completed a compulsory two-week hotel quarantine – felt like it all got washed away. The weekdays feel like a Saturday,” Mr Greenwood said.

While he said the family were all living together in a large house that cost a small fortune – “we’re paying what we were paying in Melbourne, in St Kilda,” – Mr Greenwood said they were mere minutes from the beach and in a breathtaking part of the world.

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