Real estate is buzzing with questions about the so-called recovery in property markets. Is it real? Does it have legs? Is it a dead cat bounce?
Before providing answers, we need to understand the questions, some of which show a chronic lack of understanding about real estate markets.
The questions assume that what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne reflects the nation. It doesn’t.
Generalisation is the blight of real estate consumers. We’re afflicted with writers and commentators who discuss Australia as a single market, quoting economists whose knowledge of the intricacies of residential real estate could be written on the back of a postage stamp in crayon.
The overriding assumption is that events in the two biggest cities describe the entire nation. If they’re booming, the “Australian property market” is booming. If Sydney and Melbourne prices are falling, then prices are falling across the nation.
Journalists who parrot this nonsense – in the process of re-cycling press releases from lazy research firms and ignorant economists – are treating their customers shabbily. Misinformation proliferates.
So, are property prices recovering in Hobart? Well no, they’re not, because they didn’t fall. Hobart prices remain comfortably higher than last year, having been rising for the past three years.
Are property prices recovering in Canberra? Also no, because Canberra didn’t have the Sydney boom and it didn’t suffer Sydney’s post-boom correction. It’s just been chugging along happily, as Canberra tends to do. It’s the perennial Goldilocks of Australian real estate – not too hot, not too cold, just right.
Price recovery is also a foreign concept in Regional Victoria because prices have been rising strongly in many towns and cities outside of Melbourne for the past two years, and continue to do. Dozens the regional centres across Victoria have recorded double-digit growth in their median house prices in the past year.
So when media talks about the possibility of recovery in Australian house prices, people who live in Ballarat, Bendigo, Pakenham, Warragul, Bright, Mildura, Wangaratta, Seymour, Moe, Kyneton and many other Victorian centres wonder what on earth they mean.
There are similar scenarios is many regional locations across New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland.
When media discusses recovery in real estate prices, they’re essentially referring to Sydney and Melbourne, which dominate coverage in big media, to the exclusion of all other locations.
That’s where the question of market recovery and the realness of price increases is focused.
What we’re witnessing is an end to the post-boom downturn and price correction in Sydney and Melbourne. The evidence is strong and real. Looking across price data from multiple sources, we first saw an easing of the rate of decline, then a bottoming of the downturn – and then, increasingly, signs of a return to growth.
This was accompanied by an improvement in auction clearance rates – which, as I commented last week, are a rather blunt instrument by which to measure markets but, taken alongside other data, can add some weight to overall conclusions.
Often anecdotal evidence is more telling than the statistics, and this also is increasingly positive. All kinds of property professionals have been feeling the upturn in demand and the growing pressure on prices, in an environment where stock on the market is generally low.
None of this is terribly surprising. The perfect storm of negatives that impacted the big city markets in the first half of the year has blown over – and has been replaced by a series of fortunate events, starting with the Federal Election result.
Too much has been made (as usual) of the impact of interest rate reductions. These don’t hurt, but interest rate levels are never the prime motivator of events in real estate.
Far more important are the improvement in overall sentiment, the end of the fear created by Labor policies, the greater ease in obtaining finance and the state of economies at a local level.
So what we have in Sydney and Melbourne is a fairly normal post-boom market. The correction phase that usually happens after a prolonged up-cycle has happened and now we’re back into situation normal – healthy activity and some pressure on prices, but with little likelihood of a return to boom conditions.
We’re more likely to see booms in other places – Brisbane, where conditions are improving and prices are attractive; Adelaide, which has an emerging economy likely to underpin an upsurge in real estate demand, helped by great value-for-money real estate; Perth, which is fighting back after a long downturn in the underlying WA economy; and many parts of regional Australia, such as regional Queensland, where a growing number of regional centres have improving economies, lower vacancies and attractive price/yield scenarios.
Originally published by Terry Ryder in the Property Observer here.