New data shows COVID-19 lockdowns have had a devastating impact on relationships, while realestate.com.au has also seen a spike in search activity for one-bedroom rentals.
Never before have couples and families spent more time in close quarters with each other, and while some relationships have flourished, others have come to an end.
A recent Relationships Australia survey showed 42% of respondents experienced a negative change in their relationship during COVID-19.
“We are seeing that almost half of respondents were challenged by their living situations during this period and that those who were challenged were more likely to notice changes in their relationships,” said national executive officer, Nick Tebbey.
With more people tipped to go their seperate ways, one-bedroom homes appear to be hot property.
Jump in searches for one-bedroom homes
Since the pandemic hit, realestate.com.au has seen a steady increase in searches for one-bedroom rentals across the country as couples become singles and housemates look to live alone.
The increase in people looking for one-bedroom homes has happened gradually over the course of the pandemic. Property Manager at Jellis Craig, Sam Nokes, confirmed a similar trend during the health crisis saying there has been a 40% increase in enquires for one-bedroom rentals throughout the suburbs of Melbourne.
“Interestingly, if [enquiries] didn’t go up in March or even in April, they went up in May. It took about six weeks for people to realise they hated their housemates or hated their partner,” Mr Nokes said.
Realestate.com.au data showed that by April, searches for one-bedrooms had increased by 68% compared to the same time last year and jumped by a whopping 91% in May 2020 compared to May 2019.
The increase in search activity for one-bedroom rentals continues to stay strong with an 84% rise in June 2020 compared to a year ago.
Mr Nokes said the most popular areas he noticed people enquiring about one-bedroom apartments were in suburbs surrounding Melbourne.
“5km to 6km from the CBD has been proven to be really active,” he said.
More divorces could push up demand for one-bedders
Social distancing rules and home isolation has put relationships in a pressure cooker-type situation.
Australian Family Lawyers’ head of family law ACT, Courtney Mullin, said she expects divorce rates to rise as a result of COVID-19, as well as other stressful events this year such as the drought and bushfire crises.
“We haven’t seen an increase in the rate of divorce yet, but we expect that it will increase in the next year or two,” Ms Mullin said. “We saw this happen following the GFC.
“In Australia, you need to be separated for 12 months before you can file an Application for Divorce.”
For those coming out of a relationship, getting into a one-bedroom abode is more desirable than entering the sharing market, according to Mr Nokes.
“[People coming out of relationships] also tend to be open to spending more money on the perfect one-bedroom rental to heal their broken hearts,” he added.
“For people who have broken up – they are looking for a bit more premium because by having two people in a smaller place, they’ve been able to save a bit of money and are happy to spend a little bit more.”
Share houses are also folding
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and it’s not just couples who are breaking up amid COVID-19, but housemates as well.
Candice, who chose not to reveal her surname, lived with two others in a share house in Brunswick until recently when one of her housemates decided to move on.
“I think in moving in with housemates from a website or Facebook group you can’t always foresee how things are going to go. We certainly felt the stress of COVID in my house, my two housemates were very different personalities, but before COVID they could spend a lot of time apart,” Candice said.
“COVID was like a pressure cooker for our household, and it highlighted and emphasised all of our differences around what is important to us all living in a home. My remaining housemate and I didn’t want it to just be a share house. It just wasn’t going to work and one of us ended up moving out.”
With thousands of employees being stood down from work during the pandemic, financial hardship has forced some housemates to find more affordable living arrangements.
Flatmates.com.au has reported an influx of new properties being listed throughout the pandemic, which could be a result of housemates seeking alternative living situations.
Mr Nokes said he’s spoken to several share housers who say they normally find it easy to fill a vacant room.
“Only yesterday I was talking to a tenant in a four-bedroom place in Richmond, and they said normally when they had a housemate leave they would have about five or so people come over for a beer and they would decide who they liked and it would take them a week to replace somebody. They now have three rooms that are empty,” he said.