Those considering investing in buy-to-let property in Perth, Western Australia, will be alarmed at new figures from the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA), which show a big hike in the number of vacant homes for rent in the city.

The latest figure, 4.9%, equates to around 8,100 empty homes and contrasts strongly with a figure of 0.7% in August 2012.

REIWA president David Airey says: “It’s almost approaching record numbers. It will not be surprising to see the vacancy rate hit 5% shortly, which means there are a lot of rental properties sitting empty and available for tenants.”

Airey expects the number to increase. “We’re leasing [on] average across the city around 1,200 properties a week,” he says, “but on top of that, another 150 a week are coming on, so effectively the surplus is growing by about 150 a week.”

“So to owners and investors, it’s a very good time to update your rental property to order to meet the market.”