Rental search It can be desperate times if you are looking to rent something. Especially when vacancy rates are dipping under 2 per cent in some areas, such as Melbourne’s inner city and its outer reaches.

Even if you’re not too fussy, tight rental vacancy rates in many cities means the situation can be dire. So it’s not surprising that when we asked our readers what they had done to secure a rental property, more than one-quarter said they had offered more than the asking price, taking a punt that a landlord couldn’t resist some extra income.

It seems if people find a house or an apartment they like, they are often pulling out all the stops to secure it. Other survey respondents told us they had payed the rent and bond on the day, completed their application before the open for inspection because it showed they were keen and ready to go, or buttered up the leasing agent, believing it never hurts to be friendly.

Personally, the most ridiculous thing I’ve had to do is provide pet references for our two small dogs who aren’t large enough to chew the big toe off the postman. My two ankle biters are another matter – but no references requested for them. Yet.

Looking around Australia, there’s bound to be a vast chasm in how easy some tenants will be having it in their hunt for a home. As the below figures show, it’s likely to be difficult in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, but a whole lot easier in Brisbane and Perth. But if mining returns to its previous highs, that could change too.

There’s also news that investors are making a comeback to some parts of the market – for example in Sydney in the city’s west and south west. That could help to ease the situation for some tenants by providing more rental properties. The other good news is first home buyers are expected to begin buying again soon, potentially freeing up some rental homes as well.

Vacancy rates around the country

Canberra; About 1 per cent, as of April, 2010

Adelaide; 1.03 per cent for the month of May.

Wollongong; 1.1 per cent in May. Up 0.2 per cent from the previous month.

Sydney; Overall 1.2 per cent in May, a fall of 0.1 per cent from the previous month.

Melbourne; Overall 1.5 per cent in May. Within 4kms of the CBD, 0.9 per cent in June, down from 1.6 per cent in May. Outer suburbs 0.8 per cent.

Newcastle; 1.6 per cent in May, a fall of 0.3 per cent from the previous month.

Darwin; 2.5 per cent, as of April.

Brisbane; 3.9 per cent in the three months to the end of June. Within 5kms of the CBD 2.6 per cent. Remainder of Brisbane 4.6 per cent.

Perth; 4.1 per cent in the three months to the end of March. This is a significant turnaround from March 2007 when the Perth vacancy rate plunged to just 0.8 per cent.

Carolyn Boyd is a property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market.