Highlights over the three months to April 2017
- Best performing capital city: Hobart +5.1 per cent
- Weakest performing capital city: Perth -2.4 per cent
- Highest rental yields: Hobart and Darwin houses with gross rental yield of 4.9 per cent and Hobart units at 5.4 per cent
- Lowest rental yields: Sydney and Melbourne houses with gross rental yield of 2.7 per cent and Darwin units at 3.7 per cent
- Most expensive city: Sydney, with a median dwelling price of $860,000
- Most affordable city: Hobart, with a median dwelling price of $363,200
According to the CoreLogic results, dwelling values increased by 0.1% across the combined capital cities in April, with housing market conditions slowing in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Head of CoreLogic Research Tim Lawless said, “The two hottest housing markets in the nation have shown signs of slowing down in April, with the CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index recording a rise of just 0.1% over April, the lowest month-on-month rise in capital city dwelling values since December 2015.”
“The moderation in growth was due largely to a slightly negative April result in Australia’s largest capital city housing market, Sydney, where dwelling values were broadly flat (rounded up from -0.04%) over the month. The result for Melbourne was also lower than previous months of 2017, with dwelling values up 0.5% over the month.”
Softer results after dramatic capital gains: The softer results across Australia’s two largest capital cities comes after dramatic capital gains were recorded over the second half of 2016 and the first three months of 2017. Between July 2016 and the end of March 2017, Sydney dwelling values surged 11.3%, whilst Melbourne values increased slightly more at 12.6% in the same period.
The April results mark the weakest monthly change in dwelling values across the Sydney market since December 2015, when CoreLogic reported a 1.2% fall in Sydney dwelling values; the soft reading comes after dwelling values have risen by 75.1% over the past five years, an annual rate of growth of 15% over this period.
Most other capital cities also recorded softer growth conditions in April than for the first three months of 2017. However, Mr Lawless said, “The trends generally remain positive, with quarterly growth of 2.9% across the combined capitals index.”
The latest housing finance data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed that investors comprised 57% of new mortgage demand in New South Wales, excluding refinanced loans. This is substantially higher than the national average of 48%, or Victoria, where new mortgage commitments for investors comprised 46% of the market.Hobart Strongest Performer: Based on the rolling quarterly change in dwelling values, the strongest housing market is currently in Hobart, where home values have risen 5.1% over the past three months. Hobart’s housing market has staged a solid improvement over the past two years and is now the third best-performing capital city on an annual basis, with dwelling values moving almost 14% higher over the past twelve months alone.
Value growth eases but gross yields held reasonably firm over April: With value growth easing and weekly rents showing some subtle appreciation, gross yields held reasonably firm over the month. Across the combined capitals, the typical gross yield on a house is equal to the record low set last month at 3.0%, while the gross yield on capital city units has edged higher, rising from 3.9% in March to 4.0% in April.
The largest capital cities continued to show the lowest rental yields; Sydney and Melbourne both recorded a gross yield of 2.7% for detached houses in April. Across the unit sector, the Darwin market is showing the lowest gross yield profile at 3.7%, followed closely by Sydney and 3.8% and Melbourne at 4.1%.
Hobart continues to enjoy a solid rental return, at least relative to the other capital cities. However, with Hobart dwelling values consistently rising at a faster rate than rents, the yield profile has been trending noticeably lower since October last year.
Mr Lawless said, “If the softer capital gains result seen in April develops into a trend of weaker growth, the likelihood is that yields will stabilise at their current low levels and gradually start to rise if rental growth begins to outpace value growth.”
“Other factors pointing towards a subtle weakening of the market during April have been a trend towards lower clearance rates and higher listing numbers. These indicators have edged higher relative to a year ago in some cities, including Sydney.”
Clearance rates dip below 70%: While clearance rates finished the month on a strong footing and remain well above the long-term average, the weighted average clearance rate across the combined capital cities trended lower during April, slipping below 70% over the third week of the month. This was the first time the clearance rate fell below 70% in three months.
Importantly, the preliminary auction clearance rate over the last week of April rebounded back to 76.9%, suggesting vendors are still enjoying strong selling conditions. Mr Lawless said, “It’s hard to know whether the rebound in clearance rates over the final week of April could be attributed to vendors willing to accept a lower than expected price at auction. Considering growing sentiment and market commentary that the housing market is likely at or near the peak of strong growth conditions, some vendors may be more motivated to offload their property in case conditions do soften further.”
Number of listings edged higher compared to April 2016: The number of property listings relative to a year ago has also edged higher in several cities including Sydney. The last time Sydney listing numbers increased year-on-year was early September 2016. Mr Lawless believes that higher stock levels have the potential to take some urgency out of the decision making process for buyers, which may be another factor alleviating some of the upwards pressure on dwelling prices. He said, “If stock levels continue to rise, the benefit to buyers is more choice and vendors may find their selling position is not as strong as what it was over the past year or so.”
Valuation activity eases in April: Activity across the CoreLogic mortgage valuation platforms eased during April, with the CoreLogic Mortgage Index down from a historically high reading in March. Mr Lawless said, “At face value, mortgage demand appears to have slipped during April, however, the slowdown in lending-related activity can be attributed to seasonal factors.”
He said, “Monitoring the trend in mortgage-related valuation events through May and June should give a clearer indication about whether lending activity has been dampened by the recent regulatory changes, as well as the impact of higher mortgage rates announced by financial institutions throughout March and April.”
“Overall, the softer housing market results for April are but one month of data. Monitoring of the data flows over the coming months will provide firm evidence as whether this latest housing market reading develops into a softening trend.”
“With mortgage rates remaining well below the long-term average, we should see a continuation of support for the housing market and investment demand. On the flipside, this current growth phase has been running for almost five years across Sydney and Melbourne; it is rare for an upswing in the cycle to be sustained for this long and at such high growth rates.”
“Affordability constraints are very much evident across Sydney, and to a lesser extent Melbourne which would be progressively impacting on housing demand. Additionally, investment-related demand is likely to ease due to the changed regulatory environment and tighter lending and servicing policies from the banking sector.”
At the same time, housing affordability is likely to be one of the key themes of the Federal Budget to be announced on May 9 and the NSW Government Budget to be announced in late June, either or both of which could reasonably be expected to have some impact on the housing market in the months ahead.
“Housing out of reach”, “The death of the Australian dream”, “Generation rent is here”. For anyone looking to step onto the property ladder, these sort of headlines might be enough to make them ditch the dream of owning their own home. And the latest Housing Affordability Report from the Real Estate Institute of Australia does nothing to allay these concerns, showing that housing affordability declined across all Australian states during the December 2016 quarter.
With house prices at all-time highs, historically low interest rates and modestly rising incomes just aren’t enough to offset the increasing size of mortgages. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we’ve found ourselves in this position. Yet all levels of government are reacting as though it’s a problem that crept up on them at glacial speed.
The problem is simple. It’s a matter of basic economics: demand is heavily outweighing supply. But if the problem is supply, how do we address it?
Let’s take the Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1965, Baby Boomers currently comprise 25 per cent of the Australian population (approximately 5.5 million), yet they hold roughly half of the nation’s housing and financial assets. They’ve worked hard to achieve the Australian dream of owning their own home. But the Boomers’ luck at having been born at the right time to enjoy record property growth has been at the expense of their children and grandchildren. Why? Because they don’t want to leave their homes!
Baby Boomers are the first generation to experience an additional decade or two of relatively healthy life post retirement. But as their life expectancy increases, so too does their desire to retain their homes. Even though their children have grown and left the nest, and they find themselves rattling around in a house too big for their needs, they’re still not selling.
The bottom line is they’re not releasing their family homes to the next generation, and this is contributing to the tightening of stock levels.
In truth, there are few options for them to consider as genuine downsizing alternatives. Not only has new housing not kept pace with our growing population over the last two decades, but government planning across capital cities has also been focused on high-rise apartment living. But what if Baby Boomers don’t want to live in an apartment? What other options do they have?
However, a lack of options is only part of the problem. Empty-nest Baby Boomers are hindering the markets in our capital cities because the stamp duty costs for them to buy a smaller property or one in a different location are prohibitive. And stamp duty eats into their retirement nest eggs, especially those who have very little in the way of superannuation savings (because the majority of their working careers were completed prior to the introduction of compulsory superannuation in the early 1990s).
Meanwhile, stamp duty continues to flood state government coffers across the country with rivers of gold due to their failure to adjust rates to take account of increasing house prices. Consider New South Wales. Doubling its stamp duty receipts over the last four years, the NSW government is now reaping $8 billion a year. Failure to address stamp duty bracket creep has left homebuyers out in the cold. Over the last 25 years, the median house price in New South Wales has experienced growth of approximately 600 per cent. A statistic that’s shocking enough in itself, it pales in significance when you consider that stamp duty on a Sydney property has increased by almost 1,000 per cent over the same period. Is it any wonder there’s a hesitancy to sell in order to downsize?
If governments want to get serious about taxes, then they should start with the taxes that hurt housing affordability the most – and that’s stamp duty. Stamp duty concessions, not just for first-home buyers (as we’ve recently seen in Victoria) but also for older Australians who are downsizing, will go a long way to addressing housing affordability in Australia. Helping first-home buyers will only fuel the bottom of the market; we need to release stock across all price ranges by making it more palatable for people to sell their homes.
The topic is a politically charged one and it’s pleasing to see the federal government now preparing a range of measures on housing affordability to be included in the May Budget. By breaking down the barriers that discourage older Australians from downsizing to smaller homes, more property will be released to the market which will help tackle housing affordability.
The growing reliance of state and local governments on fat property tax revenues generated by the eastern states’ property boom has prompted analysts at CoreLogic to issue a warning – it may be time to consider a more sustainable model.
Research analyst Cameron Kusher said the latest ABS data showed property taxes now accounted for a record 52% of the total taxation revenue collected by state and local governments, up almost 10% on last year.
And stamp duty was the biggest earner, making up $20.6 billion of the total $49.5 billion collected from property.
“It’s pretty easy to see what booming housing markets do for state government coffers, with the NSW and Victorian governments seeing stamp duty revenues surge,’’ Mr Kusher said.
But he warned that this left them exposed to any downturn in activity.
“The uncertainty surrounding stamp duty and its dependence on stock turnover makes it an inefficient and volatile source of taxation revenue.’’
Mr Kusher said apart from stamp duty, $7.2 billion was raised from land taxes and $17 billion from municipal rates.
“Land taxes and municipal rates are much more guaranteed income streams than the more volatile stamp duty on conveyances. For this reason it would make sense to move from stamp duty to a much more efficient, easier to collect and holistic land tax.’’
But he said such moves would likely be resisted in NSW and Victoria as long as they kept raking in the windfalls generated by the current housing boom.
The weekly wrap from CoreLogic:
- Growth in dwelling values eased in April but this trend will have to continue for several consecutive months to confirm whether APRA’s cooling measures have succeeded in taking any heat out of the Sydney and Melbourne markets
- Capital city auction numbers and clearance rates rebounded last week. There were 600 more auctions held, with a resulting 74% clearance rate (up from 69.8% the previous week)
- Melbourne’s clearance rate was 78%; Sydney’s 74%.
- Nationally there was a 6.6% drop in new properties hitting the market in the 28 days to April 30, compared with the same period last year.*
- Sydney and Canberra were the only capital cities to have more newly advertised properties than 12 months ago. All other capitals, apart from Melbourne and Hobart, had at least a 10% drop in the number of new properties coming on the market.
*Seasonal factors that may have influenced results include Easter, school holidays and ANZAC long weekend.
And for the record
Capital gain is the term used to describe the profit on the sale of the property, once all expenses have been deducted. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is applicable to capital gains on investment properties purchased on or after September 20, 1985, but does not apply to your principal place of residence in most instances.
The tax you pay is based on the sale price minus the cost involved in acquiring and holding the property and any gain is included in your assessable income in the financial year you sell the property. There are, however, some exemptions for paying CGT.
Capital growth is the increase in value of the same property over time. The supply and demand in an area impacts the capital growth. If there is high demand from buyers and limited supply, the prices are likely to rise. But such growth must be measured accurately.
Rental Growth – Specifically Brisbane
Below is a summary of 2 bedroom apartment rents for the inner Brisbane postcodes and their corresponding change in the number of new apartment bonds lodged.
Housing markets are heavily influenced by supply and demand. The number of new apartments for rent is, for example, Albion has increased by 75% since 2016. Many of these new apartments rent for more than the older stock. Incentives are also in place to attract tenants at the promoted and often inflated rents used to help attract an investment sale. Rents for older apartment digs acrosee inner Brisbane are starting to slide, which is what happens when new rental supply is ramping up. Some 5,500 new rental apartments are up for rent across inner Brisbane over the past 12 months with vacancy rates ranging from 5.9% to about 7.5%.
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