Still searching: Maria Aeon White and Dean Brockwell are frustrated by the lack of rentals in town.

Maria Aeon White has been to 32 countries but it’s Bridgetown that she and her partner, Dean Brockwell, want to call home.

But there’s just one problem – they’ve been searching for over a month, but they just can’t find a rental property.

They’re not alone. Would-be tenants searching for a home to rent in Bridgetown are having a hard time finding one, with strong demand and a limited supply of properties.

The couple have tried advertising on Facebook, messaging people online and speaking to real estate agents, but so far nothing’s turned up.

She clearly loves Bridgetown and relishes the prospect of settling down here.

“Everyone’s super friendly and people are open towards us,” she said.

“It’s extremely frustrating, we’re both professionals who are keen to bring skills and contribute to Bridgetown,” Ms White said.

She’s particularly disappointed that there are so many vacant homes on the market with no one willing to rent them out.

Buying remains an option for them but the couple are keen to get familiar with the Bridgetown area before finally choosing a place to put down roots.

The rental shortage is surprising local real estate agents who were expecting a market downturn, not strong demand.

John Pitman, sales manager at Blackwood Valley Real Estate, said his agency had only one rental property available and the market had been tight for the last couple of months.

“We’re having home-opens on rental properties – that’s unheard of down here,” Mr Pitman said.

“There’s a lot of demand for rentals with people wanting to come here. Well why wouldn’t you?” he said.

“If you’re an investor it’s a good time to buy with interest rates low, strong demand and plenty of properties available to buy.”

Emily Tunstall, Director and Licensee of Ray White Bridgetown, agrees that Bridgetown’s rental market is very tight.

“Demand for rentals is consistently strong in Bridgetown for affordable homes. Post COVID, we’ve experienced increased activity in both rentals and sales from mainly Perth as well as interstate,” Ms Tunstall said.

“Regional centres like Bridgetown are an enticing option right now, particularly for FIFO families where a safe community and good schools are important and the ability to work remotely is possible.

“We’re also seeing increased activity from potential buyers using rentals as an opportunity to consider the area before making more permanent plans.

“Some interstate owners are returning to their properties as a result of COVID, or selling, which is temporarily contracting the rental market.

“There are some real bargains out there that would make great investment properties, and we do consistently have a list of quality tenants actively seeking to make Bridgetown their home,” Ms Tunstall said.

John Ranieri, principal of Harcourts, agrees that there’s a huge shortage of rentals, while the number of house sales in town were “going through the roof”.

He thinks real estate agents started preparing for an expected market downturn in March because of the pandemic, but the opposite happened.

“We’ve exceeded our target every single month from March through to now, and in fact August was our best month in eight years,” Mr Ranieri said.

“It’s just been out of this world,” he said.

The interest in Bridgetown properties has been broad-based. He said some people were moving from Margaret River in search of cheaper properties to reduce their mortgage or to gain cash from the move.

Others were coming from Perth attracted by the lifestyle and planning to work from home using the NBN.

Local people were buying up blocks to take advantage of government grants to build homes.

He said that 18 months ago there was a rental shortage because of the Greenbushes mine expansion, but it was harder to pin-down a reason for the current shortage.

Banks were becoming a bit tougher on finance with the uncertainties of the pandemic and were a little risk averse, Mr Ranieri said.

Like Mr Pitman, his message for anyone local thinking of buying an investment property is “go for it.”

“The prices haven’t gone up too much in Bridgetown and surrounding areas, they’re staying very flat, but properties are moving very quickly.”