IT COULD be a bad year for housing prices if building approvals are anything to go by. With the housing market teetering on the edge of a serious downturn, apartment developers seem to be having a “last blast”.
Building approvals data released last week shows a serious uptick in the number of homes that were approved. November building approvals were up 0.9 per cent compared to October, and are 8.1 per cent higher than November 2016. The source of the lift is mainly apartments, which rose from already high levels.
The timing of this big push is fascinating because November is exactly when Australian capital city housing prices started falling. Corelogic shows prices fell by 0.1 per cent in that month as Sydney took a sharp downturn. The developers didn’t know in advance that was going to happen, but they might have sensed it. After all, what could drive such a big uptick in building approvals is the sense that it is now or never.
Builders who have just got their approvals will be racing to get their apartment blocks and new developments done before everyone else. Those who finish early can hope to get in before prices really slump. Any who have delays will be worried they’ll end up selling into a soggy, lifeless market.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Markets are supposed to co-ordinate supply and demand. But that’s a hard job when supply takes a long time to come online. If you’re halfway through building a big development when the market falls by 10 per cent, you’re in a bind. The losses involved in finishing the properties and selling them for less than they cost to build will almost certainly be smaller than the losses involved in abandoning the project, so you have to push on to get at least some money back. This is the essence of the boom and bust cycle that characterises property.
Some very large developers might finish properties and then sit on them, hoping the market improves over time, but that’s also a risk. Markets can take a very long time to recover.
SOUTH OF THE MURRAY
The really interesting thing about the November building approvals data is where it was focused. All the increase was focused on Victoria. The average number of building approvals in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia was actually lower than in the previous month, by 2 to 3 per cent. But Victoria saw a whopping 27 per cent rise.
That anomaly becomes especially curious when you consider that Victoria was the market that actually went on to see price appreciation in November (0.5 per cent growth in prices, according to Corelogic). Could it be that developers, sensing Victoria is the only market with price growth left in it, are focusing their attentions there?
Another explanation for such a massive jump would be if a single large project came through the pipeline in the month of November. A giant apartment development somewhere in Melbourne, for example. For now, it’s not clear if that’s the case. Whether it is one project or many, the impact on housing markets of a big rush of supply is largely the same – extra supply generally makes prices lower than they would otherwise be.
QUIT WHILE YOU’RE WINNING
Some smart developers have already got out of the property development game, telling the financial press they are sitting out until the market repairs itself. The so-called “pipeline” of new building had been shrinking. The November building approval data shows a different picture. It suggests the pipeline might get fatter again for a little while and there could be one more flurry of cranes going up. The one caveat is this – builders can pay to get a building approval and then not use it. That might be the best case scenario.
The big question hanging over Australia’s high housing prices is whether a housing downturn can happen without also crashing the economy. A gentle and controlled downturn might be a positive – young people can afford to get into the market more, but people don’t feel like the sky is falling.
But a severe sharp downturn could be different. A giant backlog of supply that could be released into an already weakened market is a concern because it could accelerate a modest slide into a hard one.
Originally Published: sunshinecoastdaily.com.au
Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
That’s according to the sobering 60 Minutes segment Bricks and Slaughter which aired last night, revealing the country’s property downturn was just the tip of the iceberg.
According to reporter Tom Steinfort, the current slump is actually “more like falling off a cliff”, with a number of real estate and finance experts claiming houses could plummet in value by up to 40 per cent in the next 12 months.
If that happens, it would also cause an economic “catastrophe”.
Mr Steinfort spoke with data scientist Martin North from Digital Finance Analytics, who said Australia was uniquely vulnerable when it came to an economic crash tied to a property downturn.
“At the worst end of the spectrum, if everything turns against us we could see property prices 40-45 per cent down from their peaks, which is a huge deal,” he said.
“That’s higher than any other country in the Western world by a long way.
“There’s probably no country in the world more susceptible to the ramifications of a housing crash than Australia. We are uniquely exposed at the moment.”
Mr North said Australia was now in the same position as the US was back in 2006 and 2007 — a position which triggered an economic collapse.
“As a society, and as a government, and as a regulatory system, we’re all banking on the home price engine that just goes on giving and giving and giving. It’s not going to,” he said.
“We’ve got a debt bomb, we’ve got a debt crisis and at some point it’s going to explode in our face.”
He said foreclosures had also risen by 600 per cent in the region.
“The mortgage stress is definitely being felt especially in this area,” he said.
60 Minutes also spoke with several Aussie homeowners who gave harrowing details of the stress they faced trying to pay off their mortgages, including having their power turned off and being “hounded’ by their banks.
What does a million dollars buy in Aussie capital cities?
Market analyst Louis Christopher of SQM Research said the market had been “clearly overvalued”, labelling the downturn as the “correction we had to have” — at least in Sydney and Melbourne.
“On our numbers, Sydney was effectively over 40 per cent overvalued. And Melbourne was overvalued by about the same amount,” he said.
But property investor Bushy Martin said the blame lay squarely at the feet of buyers who “mortgaged themselves up to their eyeballs” in a bid to snap up dream homes before being able to afford them.
However, the segment has also sparked backlash online, with some claiming the situation had been exaggerated.
One Reddit user branded the report as an example of “alarmist journalism and scare tactics”, while another said it was “dramatic and cringe-worthy”.
Others also criticised the segment for making it seem like all homeowners would be affected, when the downturn was actually mainly focused in the NSW and Victorian capitals.
And some said it was unfair to blame the banks for the situation, and that homeowners needed to take responsibility for their own decisions.
That was in response to comments made by one homeowner on the program, who said the bank had “suddenly switched the mortgage to interest and principal”, raising his repayments by 57 per cent.
“The interest only part annoyed me the most. The bank didn’t ‘suddenly change’ your repayment from (interest only) to (Principal and interest) your IO term expired. You a) knew this would happen and b) assumed the bank would renew it when it expired. I hope this speculator gets burnt first,” one Reddit user said.
Related article: Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
Australia’s best place to invest is here in Queensland
EXPERTS are hailing Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as the hottest place in the nation to invest in property right now.
A lack of housing, a tight rental market and a rapidly growing population mean supply is failing to keep up with demand in the region – creating perfect conditions for investors.
Leading real estate industry figure John McGrath said the Sunshine Coast presented one of the best opportunities for capital growth because of its liveability, affordability and future economic prospects.
“From an investment point of view, where in Australia right now can you invest your dollar and get better returns than the Sunshine Coast or southeast Queensland?” Mr McGrath said.
” I don’t think there is a location that’s going to offer better investment growth in the future.”
His views are echoed by prestige property agent Tom Offermann of Tom Offermann Real Estate, who claims the Sunshine Coast “is on the cusp of the highest growth period in its history”.
“This is being driven by a raft of infrastructure projects that are delivering exceptional lifestyles, which in the past required some compromises for people coming from big cities,” Mr Offermann said.
The region is in the midst of an infrastructure boom, with billions of dollars being invested in upgrading and creating new facilities.
Work is underway on a new runway at the local airport, which is set to become international by 2020, and a new hospital and health precinct has recently been established.
“These are game changers,” Mr Offermann said.
“Astute property investors who recognise what is happening, and take action to secure the best located property they can afford, will reap the rewards of their foresight.”
Local agents say the region is crying out for more investment properties to cater to the needs of the increasing population.
According to demographer Bernard Salt, the Sunshine Coast’s population of around 298,000 residents is set to rise to 550,000 in 23 years, which will require more than 100,000 new homes to be built.
The latest Real Estate Institute of Queensland figures show the rental vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast is just 1 per cent, with Caloundra having the tightest vacancy rate in the state at just 0.5 per cent.
It’s good news for investors, who are currently achieving healthy rental returns of around 5 per cent.
In its recent report, Herron Todd White noted an increase in investor activity in the Sunshine Coast market, with the sub $350,000 unit and townhouse sector particularly popular.
“It’s not uncommon to see townhouses selling for $220,000 attracting a rental of $280 per week – over 6.5 per cent gross return,” the report said.
For investors looking to capitalise on the growth in the region, McGrath Real Estate founder John McGrath said now was the time to get into the market.
“I think there is a great opportunity, in particular right now, because we’ve seen Sydney and Melbourne have shown unprecedented growth over the last five or six years,” he said.
“Now those markets have come to a plateau and a lot of people are going to be saying; ‘Do we take our profits and reinvest them, or, in fact, do we move up north and get better value for money?’
“So, I think right now there’s a terrific window of opportunity where people can capitalise on the immense growth we’ve seen in the southern states.”
Reed & Co director Adrian Reed the increased international access the new airport would provide would likely change the profile of buyers in the Noosa region.
“We’re currently seeing an increase in Australian expats buying back into the market, but if accessibility becomes easier, we’re expecting a more aggressive upward trend in high-end premium property,” Mr Reed said.
He said that lending restrictions and the impact of the banking royal commission had had little impact on the region’s prestige market.
“The vast majority of deals I’m doing at the top end of the market are cash,” he said.
“They’re self funded retirees who’ve already sold their principal place of residence.”
Owner/builder Paul Saunderson, who is selling his home in Noosa Heads through Peter TeWhata of Tom Offermann Real Estate, said the local market was “out of control at the moment”.
“There are houses getting knocked down and new dwellings being built everywhere,” Mr Saunderson said.
He said the contemporary, four-bedroom, three-bathroom property at 20 Sanctuary Ave, Noosa Heads, which he lived in with his wife and two children, was attracting strong interest from interstate and overseas investors.
“It’s a good investment opportunity because it’s been valued as holiday letting, which is anywhere from $6000 to $10,000 a week during peak season,” Mr Saunderson said.
Jamie Smith of Century 21 On Duporth in Maroochydore said he’d never seen so much activity in the Sunshine Coast property market, with strong interest from both local and interstate investors.
Mr Smith said many investors were looking to buy in the less expensive suburbs, where new housing developments were popping up, such as Caloundra, Sippy Downs, Birtinya and Mountain Creek.
“It’s definitely unprecedented in terms of what we’re seeing on the Coast,” he said.
But Mr Smith said investors who were not already in the market needed to act fast.
“If you were here three years ago, you could have bought between $400,000 and $500,000,” he said.
“Now you’re looking at anywhere from $600,000 plus, so it’s definitely changed a little bit.”
SUNSHINE COAST SUBURBS FOR BEST CAPITAL GROWTH
Suburb Property type Median price 12 month change in price
Minyama House $1.31m 45.8%
Kenilworth House $399,000 40%
Yandina Creek House $820,000 32.3%
Beerwah Unit $375,000 25%
Mount Coolum House $676,200 23.2%
Mapleton House $543,250 21.3%
Mudjimba House $739,500 20.7%
Peregian Springs Unit $475,200 18.8%
Battery Hill House $579,500 18.4%
Montville House $707,500 17.9%
Queensland is the next property hotspot, experts say
As New South Wales and Victoria continue to experience weakness. Queensland is expected to take the lead, a National Australia Bank (NAB) poll of property professionals revealed.
According to the survey, industry experts project house prices in Queensland to increase by 0.7% next year and 1.3% in two years.
Some areas seen to perform strongly over the next year include Brisbane, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. Out of the suburbs, Coomera and New Farm are expected to realize robust gains.
Meanwhile, Queensland’s rental market is also poised to enjoy an upward boost, growing by 1.3% next year and 1.9% in two years. This is despite the stricter rules on housing investment.
The respondents of the survey also expect Queensland to retain foreign buyer interest. In fact, the share of foreign sales hit a four-year high of 22.8% over the previous quarter.
The results of the survey go against NAB’s own projection of the market. For instance, the bank expects house prices to remain flat in Brisbane over the next three years. Unit prices, on the other hand, is seen to fall by 4.5% over the next year.
NAB chief economist Alan Oster said Brisbane’s housing market seemed to be going sideways and its unit market still creates concern.
“It hasn’t peaked yet, so that’s good. We’re seeing quite strong economic activity in Queensland, so that always helps,” Oster said, as quoted by The Courier-Mail.
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