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What Happens Next For Australian Property Markets?

What Happens Next For Australian Property Markets?
September 6, 2021 Propertyology Head of Research and REIA Hall of Famer, Simon Pressley

With Australian property markets currently booming at a faster rate than we’ve seen for 17-years, the most common question that Propertyology gets asked by clients and our media friends is “…how long will this boom last?”

At this stage, I think it is highly likely that this national property boom, which commenced in Q4 2019, will run deep into 2022, at least.

All things being equal, I think we will look back upon this crazy period with the history books showing that some locations produced a 30 to 50 percent increase in house prices over a 3-year growth cycle. Plenty of other locations are likely to produce 70 to 100 percent growth across a cycle that could easily run for 5-years or more.

At an individual city level, the single biggest influences on property market performance will always be localised economic conditions and localised housing supply volumes.

The biggest macro influences on future real estate performance will be the actions of a few key people in high places. While it is impossible to get inside their head, I think the ten (10) most influential macro factors for property markets over the next 5-years will be as follows:


1. Rental Supply

While Sydney and Melbourne have a significant surplus of rental accommodation (43,607 dwellings advertised vacancies as at the end of July 2021), the 15 million people who live in the rest of Australia only had a (combined) 17,706 dwellings available.

In Australian real estate history, there has never been a bigger crisis than this.

There are countless stories of businesses all over Australia advertising jobs but unable to attract candidates because there is no accommodation available for those who are keen to relocate.

Changes to household structures, relationships, finances and lifestyle preferences are other everyday drivers behind a need to change where one lives. But there is nothing available.

Consequently, annual rents have already increased by thousands of dollars in more than 40 Australian cities.

The problem will get significantly worse before it gets better.

A fact of life is that the only tangible solution for more rental supply is increased investor participation rates.


2. Lockdown Legacy

With each week that Sydney or Melbourne is in lockdown my fears for their future economic health increases. Melbourne has already been locked up for more than 200 of the last 500 days, while it appears highly possibly that the current Sydney lockdown could surpass 100-days.

Hospitality businesses and CBD retailers can only survive on a drip for so long. For the owners, employees and commercial landlords of each of these businesses, the ability to pay mortgages and rents is in serious jeopardy.

Ditto to investors who own apartments – don’t touch them!

Australia’s two biggest cities continue to have the most concerning property market fundamentals in all of Australia.


Related article: Best performed property markets

3. Regional Relocation

The inverse of the emotional and financial scaring from big-city lockdowns is the insatiable appetite for open space, natural environments, and work-from-home flexibilities.

Over the first 12-months of COVID-19, regional Australia had a net population increase of 44,000 from internal migration (and 145,284 over the last 5-years) while Sydney and Melbourne each had a population decline of 32,000.

In locations all over Australia, Propertyology’s buyer’s agents are seeing first-hand examples of this transference of housing demand every day.

I expect the regional relocation trend (the green line in the below chart) to continue to gain pace.

4. Government Debt Strategies

It was unquestionably the right decision for governments worldwide to raise debt to fund a series of important COVID support packages. But, before too long, the attention of governments will turn towards trying to return their respective budgets to surplus.

The financial statements of each of Australia’s state governments will be tested significantly over the next 5-years. State economies and property markets will be affected.

Already, we’ve seen the Victorian state government recently introduce new taxes and the Queensland state government has desperately struggled to fund infrastructure for many years.


5. Interest Rates

A rising interest rate cycle generally means fewer buyers of real estate, primarily because glass-half-empty personalities lose confidence.

It will take six increases of 0.25 percent just to get back to the interest rate settings of mid-2019, when mortgage holders coped fine. And future interest rate rises will be more than offset by a strong labour market and wage growth (higher incomes).

Personally, I will not be the slightest bit surprised if the RBA begins lifting interest rates as soon as the next federal election is out of the way.

Whenever rates do rise, it will be a good thing because it will be recognition of a strong national economy and many COVID uncertainties behind us. Property prices will still rise, but the rate of growth will relax.

6. Housing Supply

Last year, Australia’s construction sector (housing supply) was stimulated at a time when the national population growth rate was the lowest in more than 100-years (housing demand).

It is my view that, by 2022-23, property markets in some bigger profile locations may be confronted with over-supply challenges.

7. China

Of the 250 nations which Australia exports goods and services to, 42 percent of our export revenue (or $165 billion in 2020/21) was from China. From just one customer, that’s an enormous amount of revenue that Australians rely upon to support 100,000’s of jobs and to fund infrastructure.

$134 billion of that $165 billion annual revenue from China (or 81 percent) was collected by Western Australia, predominantly for the steel-making commodity, iron ore. Just this month, the WA state government announced a record $5.6 billion budget surplus which was fuelled by $11.3 billion in royalties from the sale of the state’s iron.

When China is spending big coin on WA’s iron ore, strong trends are produced for WA’s economy, internal migration and vacancy rates.

WA’s unhealthy reliance on China also means the opposite is true. It’s the primary reason why Perth’s median house price declined by 10 percent over the decade ending June 2020.

8. International Border

The current insufficient supply of labour is restricting opportunities to fulfil economic development potential in industries such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing. Increased wages from such high demand for labour will invariably be passed on to consumers.

At some point, overseas migration will recommence. But the economic pendulum has well and truly swung away from Sydney and Melbourne and more towards the smaller capital cities and (especially) regional Australia. Accordingly, it is highly probable that a significantly smaller ratio of Australia’s future overseas migration intake will be placed in our two biggest cities.

9. Tax Reform

The Australian Labor Party recently declared that they have no intention of meddling with negative gearing or capital gains taxes however, watch-this-space for property tax changes at state government level.

The NSW government is considering replacing the large one-off stamp duty cost with a smaller (but annual) land tax. The ACT government is already in the process of implementing a similar model. Don’t be surprised if other states also propose changes to stamp duty at some stage.

The new taxation model will increase housing demand, although it’s not all roses.


Related article: How to acquire a high-performing property portfolio


10. Credit Policy

In previous reports, Propertyology has commented extensively about how past decisions made by the banking regulator, APRA, became the primary cause of the current national rental crisis and booming growth in asset values.

While I think it is less likely than likely that APRA will bow to growing calls to (again) squeeze credit, their track record for considering big-picture consequences is not good.

One can only hope that the APRA Board does not wish to leave a legacy as economic destroyers and dream-breakers.

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