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Regional WA has defied WA’s slow rental market with rents increasing by up to $200 a week in the past three months.

According to new Real Estate Institute of WA figures, all but two regional areas saw an increase in rents in the December quarter, compared to three months earlier.

By far the biggest increase was recorded in Karratha, where rents increased by $200 a week to $700 a week, on average. Modest increases were also recorded in Albany ($10), Esperance ($7) and Broome ($5). Regional rents in WA increased an average of $20 to $380 a week.

REIWA president Hayden Grove said a shift of workers from Perth to regional areas could be behind the unexpected demand on rentals in regional areas.

“You’ve got a lot of people going to Perth for work. Now that work has stopped, they’re returning to regional areas and many of them are looking to rent,” he said.

REIWA’s Karratha chairman Richard Naulls was shocked by huge increase in rents which he attributed to families, who had been snapping up the city’s most expensive rentals in the lead-up to Christmas.

Many, he said, still considered $700 a week for a four bedroom, two bathroom house cheap, since they paid much more during the mining boom.

“A lot of those leases were coming to an end and they might have been paying $1,200 a week back then… It’s affordable and there’s still work up here,” he said.

In Perth, rents were remained unchanged at $400 a week in the three months to December – a further drop from a year ago when investors could command a median price of $440 a week.

Mr Groves said he believes the rental market has “reached the floor” and agents had re[orted a small increase in demand in recent weeks.

Perth’s vacancy rate sits at a record six per cent.

Originally posted in The West on February 23, 2016