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'Tight market': Queenstown's rental market may be the first to show the ramifications of the latest trans-Tasman bubble pause

By TRACEY ROXBURGH and GUY WILLIAMS

Queenstown’s rental market may be the first indicator of how well the Whakatipu will  withstand the latest trans-Tasman bubble pause.

New Zealand’s government stopped quarantine-free travel between here and Australia from
11.59pm on July 23 for at least eight weeks.

In New South Wales alone, two deaths and 233 new cases were reported overnight Tuesday.

While rental properties have been in high demand this winter — something Housemart’s Hayley Stevenson says is par for the course during July and August — the impact of the closed borders has started to filter down to that market.

Stevenson says she’s already noticing an uplift in inquiry from people with Airbnb  properties looking to put them into long-term rentals.

That’s in part due to the threat of looming interest rate increases, but also because owners are look ing for more certainty of income.

She also believes other rental properties may become available as the effects of the latest international travel shutdown start to bite in Queenstown.

‘‘A short-term company we were talking to, that Friday [the bubble closed], lost 75 bookings which resulted in hundreds in thousands of lost revenue, which resulted in them having to lay off some staff.

‘‘We will see that filter through in the next two to three weeks.

‘‘Hopefully they can pick up other work in town, if not they may have to start looking at other options.

Complex situation: Housemart director Hayley Stevenson

‘‘There are so many factors to it — people are struggling to get hours, restaurants are struggling with lack of tourists so they’re closing at lunch time, or they’re closing Monday and Tuesday, so those people get reduced hours.’’

Property manager:  ‘Keep rents realistic’

Queenstowner Charlie Evans, who has lived here 11 years, started looking in June for a rental property — it took her more than a month to find one.

‘‘I didn’t realise it was going to be as hard as what it is.

‘‘I’ve got a colleague living in Cromwell wanting to move back here and the properties are now doing waitlists for viewings — you’re not allowed to apply for a property until you view it.

‘‘People that were thinking of moving to Queenstown down the line now can work from home, so they’re all relocating here now.

‘‘There’s just so much demand.’’

Pre-Covid she was pay ing $900 a week for a four-bedroom house in Lake Hayes Estate — that reduced to $750 last year.

She’s now paying $780 for another four-bedroom property, which she believes is about the going rate.

Ray White Queenstown property manager Beth Chisholm says there’s not one of her 65 properties — the majority of which have overseas owners — being charged out at pre-Covid rates yet.

While they see the rest of New Zealand as being ‘‘back to normal’’, she’s had to explain Queenstown isn’t there yet and worked with them to keep rents ‘‘realistic’’, and is
reiterating last year’s call for landlords to be sympathetic.

‘‘People are still struggling, big-time.

‘‘It’s across the board, especially in the hospitality and accommodation sectors — how are those hotels going to survive in October, November and keep their staff on?

‘‘Their hours have been reduced, or they may be job-sharing — I just think owners have got to be realistic and not greedy,’’ Chisholm says.

ed@scene.co.nz