Fears over falling house prices, job security and obtaining an affordable mortgage supported rent prices in Belfast last year, it has been claimed.
First-time buyers are continuing to delay entering the housing market in the hope of better times ahead, a report by Citylets online lettings site said.
The document said after the 7% increase in private rent prices recorded over the first nine months of 2010, prices fell by 4.6% over the last three months of the year, when plummeting temperatures dampened demand from renters.
Northern Ireland's private rented sector generates an estimated £822 million in rent receipts annually.
Average monthly rents in the Belfast and Greater Belfast area were steady last year, during the last quarter worth around £559 a month.
Citylets rental market analyst Dan Cookson said: "We've recorded significant rises in rent prices over much of 2010, though the last three months of the year were noticeably quiet, with few people interested in shopping around for a new place to live in sub-zero temperatures ahead of Christmas. This helped to keep a lid on prices, which overall remained strong."
Some areas of the market did see a significant rise in rent prices over the last three months of 2010, with one-bedroom properties commanding an average monthly rent of £504 - an increase of almost 13% on the year.
The average monthly price for two-bedroom properties, which account for most of the Belfast City and Greater Belfast rental market (42%), was up more than 2% year-on-year to £519 per month.
Mr Cookson said first-time buyers were still finding it difficult to make it on to the market.
"The pressure on young professional renters to come up with tens of thousands of pounds for a mortgage deposit at a time when everyone is worried about their jobs has forced many to delay their decision to buy and caused many to renew their leases," he added.