AS GLADSTONE moved through the worst of the end of the construction boom last year the number of vacant rental properties in the city ballooned to well above 1000.
Real estate agent and the owner of Elders in Gladstone, Colin Burke, explained the number of rentals coming onto the market last year was at times going up by 100 or so properties each month.
But, in what may be a sign of better things to come, for the first time in 12 months the total number of available rentals coming onto the market has decreased.
The drop isn't much and Mr Burke said it was only early days but the number of available rentals dipped from 1,118 at the end of January this year to 1,111 last month.
"It's significant because it's the first time in 12 months rental properties coming onto the market have stopped going up by 20, 50, 100 a month," Mr Burke said.
"Last year we got up to 900 and then it kept going."
He said the reason for the slight drop in vacancies could be attributed to a surprising but pleasing trend which is seeing some people return to Gladstone for its affordability.
"From our perspective more people are coming back to Gladstone from places like Rockhampton and Bundaberg," Mr Burke said.
"The people who couldn't afford to live here during the boom are coming back."
And is it any wonder, when rental prices are so cheap.
Figures released by the Residential Tenancies Authority yesterday found at this time two years ago the average cost of rent for two bedroom flats and three bedroom houses were $310 and $370 respectively.
As of February those averages had dropped to $180 for a two bedroom flat and $240 for three bedroom houses.
The director of Ray White in Gladstone, John Fieldus, said this made Gladstone just about the cheapest place to rent on the eastern seaboard.
Mikaela Adams, who works for John and looks after rental properties in town, has just moved back to Gladstone after leaving in 2013 to get more bang for her buck.
"I moved to Toowoomba in October 2013 because rents were too expensive up here," she said.
"I was living in a two bedroom unit in central Gladstone and paying $410 a week. That same unit is now going for $160 a week.
"In Toowoomba there wasn't much difference in what I was paying for rent in Gladstone but I had a much better house in a really nice location," the 21-year old said.
Although Mikaela quite liked living in Toowoomba and has hopes of one day living on the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast, she couldn't resist coming back to where she grew up because of how affordable it was to rent and live independently.
"It's also good because all my friends are here and even a couple of them have moved back because they can afford to live here now," she said.
Mikaela did admit she knows she struck gold when she landed her job.
"I know that some of my friends have applied for over 900 jobs in Gladstone and haven't got any," she said.
Debrah Wilder has had a similar experience and had to leave Gladstone four years ago after she couldn't afford paying the high rents brought on by the construction boom.
"I lost my job as a cleaner and had to move because people got greedy and put the rents up so high," she said.
"I had to leave and go to Bundy which was sad because so many other people had to do the same. (But) I came back last October because I got my old job back and just last October got a place to rent for $180 a week," she said.
Debrah said she was happy to be back in town and is now working three different jobs as a cleaner to pay the bills.
Colin Burke said job security was a big factor in being able to attract more people to a town, but did say that part of what was making Gladstone's rental prices so affordable was due to the exodus of the bigger companies in town.
"The forecast is that we've reached the height of available rental properties and hopefully if what we're seeing continues, this number should plateau for the next six months," he said.
"This should see the big rental pool diminish which is unlikely to put pressure on rents. Prices should remain steady," he said.
LJ Hooker sales consultant Courtney Steel talks about 2 Swagman Dr, Benaraby
We are in a slower market where buyers are making slower decisions, but I wouldn't say we're in a bad market. The owners have only done a price drop just because they want it sold.
After signing up 61 new leases in February Mr Burke said his team had been the busiest they'd been in a very long time.
His current rental breakdown for three bedroom houses includes 312 properties with 13 houses under $150 a week and 81 under $200 a week.
Ray White director, Mr Fieldus, can remember seeing 20 cars lined up along the street for an open house during the boom.
"There was a lot of desperation in the boom and people had to leave town," he said.
"However, the pendulum has swung the other way and the town is now saying 'please come back'.
Mr Fieldus confirmed there was very strong evidence people were coming back, which has seen his rental vacancy rates halved from 8% at Christmas to 4.4% as of the end of February.
"In terms of the lease renewals, we've relet 88 properties, which shows people are feeling stable and looking at staying in Gladstone," he said.
"It's only very early days but what we've got to do is bring back Gladstone as a good seaside port, as opposed to a whopping big construction site."
On 2a Archer Street, Sun Valley:
"The day that they [his parents] said they were putting it on the market, it was a bit sad"
-- Elders sales consultant Luke Watts
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