Melody says it was difficult to look for a flat, especially on Facebook, because most of the homes posted on Facebook were for short-term holiday rent.
The couple drove around the Rarotonga and finally found long-term accommodation in Matavera.
Their problem is becoming increasingly common for the thousands whose families are not land-owners; now Cook Islands Tourism is acknowledging the scale of the difficulties.
The Tourism Corporation knows there is the danger of resentment if fly-by-night tourists deny homes to hard-working locals – and so this week it has begun surveying the community on how they feel about the shift to short-term rentals.
Families who previously rented out their homes to families who lived and worked here are now renting them out for a few days at a time on Airbnb or other sites. Airbnb alone was offering 306 properties for rent last night.
Tourism director of destination development Metua Vaiimene called on government to provide public housing for those who can’t find anywhere to live, and said government should offer incentives so people would invest in building long-term rentals like apartments and houses.
He told Cook Islands News that rentals had become an issue for locals, who feel tourism is having an impact on housing availability.
Families who have previously rented out their properties to local workers are now enticed by the promise of lucrative nightly tariffs and the opportunity to keep their properties well-maintained and cleaned between holidaymakers’ stays.
Vaiimene said the community regarded the shortage of rental properties as an important issue. “There is an issue of high rentals and it’s hard to find somewhere reasonable to live,” he said. “This has an impact to the community.
He said tourism operators needed workers – and workers needed somewhere to live.
“It’s a topical issue around the world and have seen examples of biggest places, like Barcelona where locals find it too expensive to live in their own countries.”
John Walters rents out Rona Kaitangata at Muri. He he preferred short-term because it was harder to keep a long-term rental clean, he said.
And Mary Ngaoire owns a furnished beachfront home in Tupapa.
They previously rented it out long-term, but have shifted to short-term for the more attractive nightly rate.
“You can ask anywhere from $220 per night upwards, as opposed to a fixed weekly rate of $400,” she said. “On short-term, customers pay for your accommodation as they book, so you are guaranteed payment for your property straight away.”
Most short-term rentals were linked to sales platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com.
“I run two short-term properties on the Gold Coast on Airbnb and our market is different to the Cook Islands, where my minimum nightly stay is one night ranging from $165 in low peak to $500 a night in peak, generally around Christmas and New Year.”
Short-term renting also gave them flexibility: “It allows us to occupy the property whenever we like.”