Port Kembla should have the happiest tenants in the Illawarra, with rents for units dropping to an average $210 a week.
This is down from $250 and represents a 16 per cent drop on last year, the region's biggest rent cut for 2012, according to figures released this week by Australian Property Monitors.
Not so lucky are the tenants at Keiraville, where unit rents have soared by what observers say is an unprecedented 60 per cent, attributed to not only demand but also the new stock available to a more affluent clientele.
"Overall, the year's rental figures show the market is in pretty good shape with a range of options," said Laing and Simmons principal Victor Shalala.
"It's nothing like the horror stories in Sydney when you consider you can have a lifestyle in a $270 house in Warrawong and be lying on the same beach as a person paying, say, $1000 at Balgownie."
Mr Shalala said he could see no reason why the cheap rents in Port Kembla would not continue into the new year, citing a one-bedroom Port Kembla unit on his books for $210 a week in Wentworth Street with rent that had not risen since the last occupant left (see inset story).
Mr Shalala, however, said he had never seen anything like the 60 per cent rise in Keiraville rental units, which leapt from $200 to $320.
"I'd imagine it has something to do with the new developments like the townhouses in Robsons Road," Mr Shalala said.
"International students and academics who can afford higher rents are going to go for new stock, particularly townhouses, because it's close to the uni and they're not the type of people who would want to spend the weekends mowing lawns."
Other southern suburbs where unit rentals have dropped include Albion Park Rail, which saw a slump of 8 per cent from $240 to $220, and Shellharbour, which dropped a more modest 1.5 per cent from $340 to $335.
Fairy Meadow remained static on $330 a week.
The biggest drop in house rental prices was in Wombarra, with a 10.7 per cent drop from $560 last year to $500, and East Corrimal, with a cut of 8.8 per cent ($400 to $365).
Warrawong also dropped by 1.6 per cent, with an average house rental of $310.
There were also plenty of rises across the region.
The biggest rise in home rentals was at Coledale, with a jump of 18.1 per cent from $470 to $555, while the biggest increase in the southern suburbs was in Cringila, where average rents rose 15.4 per cent from $260 to $300.
Rises in the northern suburbs were attributed to demand from Sydney, while the rise in lower socio-economic suburbs like Cringila was related to people looking for affordable housing.
Dapto units, after Keiraville, had the biggest hike in this category, with a jump of 22 per cent from $180 to $220.
The stand-out inner-city player was Coniston, where units jumped by 21.7 per cent from $230 to $280, but strangely there was no movement on last year's average of $380 a week for houses.
McGrath Wollongong's rental specialist Cheryl Jeeves said the past year had some unusual shifts in demographics.
"There seems to be more young people choosing to live with parents than in previous generations and this must relieve some of the pressure on rental markets," she said.
"What I'm also noticing is that people reaching retirement age are opting to rent high-end properties while they sort out more permanent retirement living, which I'm finding these days often involves relocation out west to rural properties."