IS the Australian property market about to collapse and the bubble burst?
Are our homes soon going to be worth 30 per cent or 50 per cent less than they are today?Well that depends on who you ask.
If you ask US based Jonathan Tepper, the founder of macroeconomic research group Variant Perception, it is not a matter of if, but when it will happen.
Mr Tepper predicted on the 60 Minutes television program on Sunday night that a drop in values of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent would hit the Australian property market.
But Australian property industry experts reckon he is way off the mark.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver has heard similar claims for the past 12 years and doesn’t put much faith in them.
“I am a bit amused,’’ he said
“I am not surprised that this story keeps getting wheeled out because it’s a good story in a way, there’s nothing better than a good old fashioned scare to get people to take notice.
“In a way I think it is a bit of a joke, this sort of story has been wheeled out almost continuously now since 2002, 2003. We had a big run up in property prices then and it did become a bit bubbly around that time and of course various people were inclined to think that property could crash. Even at the time I thought there was a risk it could crash, because we had gone up 20 to 30 per cent. Then as the years rolled on I began to realise and I think most people in Australia realised, that the Australian property market is a lot more complex and a lot more stable than people give it credit for and the reason prices don’t crash is because we don’t have an oversupply like America did at the time of the GFC.’’
Terry Ryder of Hotspotting said the claims were just regurgitating a very old story.
“I am acutely aware of it, because I did a research exercise towards the end of last year and what had been in media since year 2000 about real estate and what the outcomes were and found that those sorts of claims that the market was going to collapse and values were going to fall “x” per cent have just been a constant part of the media landscape for the last 15 or more years and none of them have come true and are very unlikely to.’’
He said such predictions were just ludicrous.
“Even the worst basketcase economies in the world post GFC have never had the sort of price collapses which have been predicted for Australia, we just don’t have those conditions.’’
He said while there would be small pockets or regional towns such as Moranbah in Queensland where values had dropped substantially, that was as a result of a set of circumstances exclusive to those towns and would not have the same affect across the country.
Mr Ryder said Australia had a very heavily regulated lending sector and lenders were extremely cautious, particularly since the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) had tightened up lending conditions even more in the past year.
“You do have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a loan in this country,’’ he said.
Real estate expert Andrew Winter said commentators who expressed this kind of “drama” about the market were forgetting what the commodity was.
“This commodity is property, residential property and that is where all the calculations fail.
“For the simple reason is we can live without gold, we can even now live without oil, we can live without stocks and shares, we can live without just about everything now, but we can’t live without somewhere to live.
“There is this whole crowd of people who love to give the property market a hard time as it if it is a bad boy for making people money.
“The problem I have with that is if it didn’t as a nation we would be stuffed and so would a lot of other countries too.
“We have used it for the last century to backup our finances and now that is not just the big rich kids, the people with lots of properties, that’s your normal mum and dad.’’
“For someone to say it is going to go down 30 to 50 per cent and not say just in a mining town or just in a regional coastal area that had a penthouse released for $2m and they have all gone down 50 per cent or whatever, your general house in New South Wales and your general house in Queensland is going to drop 50 per cent, is not only just a headline grabbing thing, it is actually really dangerous.’’
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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
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.
Gold Coast house values record the biggest growth in Queensland
The Gold Coast has recorded the strongest growth in house prices in Queensland over the past 12 months.
GOLD Coast house prices are leading the way in Queensland, up six per cent in the past 12 months to an average $620,000.
The latest figures by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland show homes on the Glitter Strip are $35,000 more on the same time last year.
Unit prices are up 1.9 per cent to $428,000.
REIQ data reveals houses on the Glitter Strip are worth $35,000 on the same time last year.
REIQ’s Queensland Market Monitor for March said the strong population growth came on the back of infrastructure projects such as the $550 million Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct and M1 upgrades.
“The property market has been one of the big winners from the sporting event as the $1.5 billion infrastructure investment has boosted confidence and demand for housing in the region,” the report stated.
“We expect house prices will show an upward path in 2018. However, this growth will most likely be more moderate.”
A quiet real estate period leading up to, and during, the Commonwealth Games likely contributed to a slight drop (-0.3 per cent) in the March quarterly median sales price, the report reveals.
Andrew Henderson says a growing population and employment opportunities were contributing to a strong property market. Picture: Jerad Williams
REIQ Gold Coast zone chairman Andrew Henderson said he expected interstate migration to continue to benefit the city.
“I expect the market to remain strong,” he said.
“There is a heavy amount of interstate buyers moving here.
“I was at an auction recently where the winning bidder was from Sydney and the underbidder was from Melbourne.”
Mr Henderson said growing employment opportunities were also attracting homebuyers to the city.
The Gold Coast property market is expected to remain strong.
“We have some of the best health facilities in the country and our universities are world recognised.
“Those two things alone complement the tourism industry and the lifestyle aspects that the Coast offers.”
The report found the fastest-selling suburbs on the Coast included Worongary, Merrimac, Highland Park, Mudgeeraba and Carrara.
It also revealed the rental vacancy held tight throughout the first quarter of the year at 1.1 per cent.
Andrew Bell says the Coast had evolved from a tourist town into a vibrant city with an expanding economy. Picture Mike Batterham
Ray White Surfers Paradise Group CEO Andrew Bell said the Games heralded the next chapter for the Coast, as it evolved from a tourist town into a vibrant city with an expanding economy.
“The city’s property market is riding the irreversible momentum that has now come to the Gold Coast in terms of economic diversity and with more employment options we will need more housing options for people,” Mr Bell said.
“We are no longer going to be subject to tourism upsides and downsides as we were in the past because our economy has well and truly diversified beyond just tourism.”