Melbourne property’s winter chill

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Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. Look. Melbourne is the largest Greek city in the world, right? ( Well, it was when I lived there a few years ago!). So the collapse of the Euro will be great for Melbourne property as the US$ rises; our dollar falls and refugee funds from Greece, Europe, heads our way to take advantage of a lower price and security. Buy now! before you miss the next boom ( sarcasm tag, off)

    • quite few are going to sell to help the family in Europe.You can not let your parents& grand parents & sibling without care.There are so many suicide now in Greece it s scary.

      • I don’t understand why people kill themselves instead of fight for their rights to live in a fair way. I am betting if you watched AU and NZ suicide rates you would most likely see an increase in the number of people taking their lives as they have no hope and 10’s of thousands get laid off.

        • The extent of personal financial distress in Greece is overdone in the media – sure many are doing it tough (mainly those who were close to poverty before are now well and trully impoverished). However, the vast majority have little or no debt against their principal place of residence so being unemployed doesn’t mean they’re homeless. There’s also a large proportion of wealth being held in Swiss Francs. If you’re waiting for the Greeks to starve and the expats in Oz to start selling they’re property and sending money back to Greece, you’ll be waiting a very loooooooong time.

          • BakuninMEMBER

            What does Greece have to do with the Melbourne property market? Stupid and moronic posts.

  2. Charles Ponzi

    I hope it is a long cold winter with thick slippery ice on the property ladder. As a first home buyer I am prepared to wait for prices to fall much further.

    • Yep, After school holidays and Easter, winter has arrived just in the nick of time for the property spruikers to use as an excuse.

      BTW, Good to see Black Dragon make a successful re-entry back to earth:

      ”The reality is that housing still isn’t cheap even though we’ve had these falls,” said Louis Christopher, managing director of SQM Research.

      For a few months, I thought we lost him in the property spruiking orbit.

  3. Another large engineering firm bankrupt today according the the media, most of the Big 4 banks got burnt apparently, especially the ANZ. No wonder people don’t believe the unemployment figures…

    Around the corner from me (Prahran) is a large development site trying to sell apartments in a big luxury block; the other day I noticed the sales office wasn’t bothering to open during business hours any longer. Normally they put stickers on the sales office hoardings saying “30 percent sold” etc but there’s but no such advertising on that one and it’s been there for nearly six months. Added to that is the recent failure of developments in South Yarra like “Capitol Bakeries Tower” and you start to wonder if there’s a buyer’s strike emerging? There was an article in the “Age” the other day suggesting that the top end of the market is having the biggest problem – just from my own observations I’d say there’s some truth in that.

    • I predict the next ABS employment survey will show 100,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate to fall to 3.9%.

      I jest, of course.

      • You do. It’ll be 4.2%.

        Interesting that finally common sense is returning to the market where buyers are simply no longer seduced by the equity mantra of property. It took a while I must say.

        • I have no doubt whatsoever that UE will fall next time, I also think people will start to ask questions how this is possible when you are contantly seeing stories of layoffs etc.

          Maybe people will realise that maybe we shouldn’t be counting 1 hour a week as employed

          • Or maybe we shouldn’t be using the mainstream media’s choice of jobs stories as a good indicator of the real jobs market.

            Funny, as everyone here is so skeptical of every other story the MSM do, yet when it comes to breathlessly reporting job cuts, everyone takes it as a fair representation of the labour market, and the ABS numbers are the big conspiracy.

          • Funny, as everyone here is so skeptical of every other story the MSM do, yet when it comes to breathlessly reporting job cuts, everyone takes it as a fair representation of the labour market, and the ABS numbers are the big conspiracy.

            You’re overstating things a little.

            The MSM can’t be too wrong about the job cuts. Job cuts are not subjective. They happened. And they’ve been non-stop and broad-based across a variety of industries all year.

            Nobody I can recall has suggested the ABS is involved in a conspiracy. The ABS is basically saying that jobs are booming in 2012. Can that really be? Certainly, Roy Morgan has shown a spike. And after ANZ corrected the error with their job ads survey, it joined RM in painting a worsening picture.

            There are reasons to treat the ABS “jobs boom” with some caution.

  4. So housing really is not an Investment Strategy … oh noes!

    Bring on the correction and watch the buggers all bolt for the door – queue nicely please!

    Too late mate …. negative equity mate!

    I have waited six years for this I can wait another six months and save another 50k no problem at all – look at all that stock piling up.

    Do I feel guilty writing this?

    Hell no, the Greed that people exhibited with prices rising and the idea that expensive property was ‘good’ for Australians is utter nonsense now that housing is getting ‘cheaper’ of course I am happy why wouldn’t any normal person be happy to see prices fall and make housing truly affordable.

    Price Deflation is here, hat tip to Mr Keen.

    Don’t Buy Now – Wait Six Months or maybe a bit longer!



    • Here’s the problem, though. You are actually A BUYER! Sure, you’d like to think you’ll wait until it’s Turpie time, but will you? My guess is that at some stage, before the bottom. you’ll have bought; so will Mr Ponzi. And that’s what’s going to stem the fall. Buyers like you, who try to outguess each other as to ‘where the bottom is’. Personally, I don’t see bottom. I see a never ending malaise of ‘it’s better to rent than buy’ whatever happens to prices. Demographics are going to take a toll unimagined, from here on in.

      • thomickersMEMBER

        If he’s been waiting & saving for 6 years, he’ll have bargaining power over the ordinary buyer since the banks have reduced their lender valuations on property, which will reduce their “purchasing capacity” if your are below 20% LVR.

      • The Patrician

        Maybe the new “Turpie Time” is when the rising buyers cash savings match the falling price?

        Cash sales, the new normal?

      • Charles Ponzi

        Mr Ponzi here is in no rush to buy and will not buy until prices crash. I am prepared to wait.

        • +100 every month I am getting a reasonable return on investment with cash.

          Just Bruce public don’t have access to funky wealth schemes.

          So every month we save 60% of our income and make interest.

          When we buy i won’t worry about property +/- it will be an affordable family home.

          Simple and i am damned patient so is my wife and we see worse to come.

          Appreciate your comments though Ponzi and Janet.


      • Aristophrenia

        What a ridiculous post.

        Pretty damned sure I will be sitting here in 18 months looking over properties to buy that are 40-%60 cheaper than peak – TO BUY.

        Of course I will buy, thats the whole point, Im not interested in waiting for the bottom, I am interested in waiting for a correction to fair value – if there is a down trend beyond there all good. But once I am seeing %40-%60 decline Im straight back in, have said that all along and maintain that.

        my predictions have been bang on the money, am already seeing houses which should be well over $2 million, would cost even more than that to build, for the million dollar mark – happy days.

    • “I have waited six years for this I can wait another six months and save another 50k”

      Your use of the word “another” implies that you have saved so far by waiting 6 years. According to the ABS the Melbourne HPI has risen by 52% since March 2006. That’s about $170k more for the median than in March 2006.

      • You may be reading too much into the meaning of individual words, which is unnecessarily pedantic and comes across like taking a cheap shot.

        To any normal thinking person, the meaning is clear: ‘another’ 50k is simply adding another 50k to one’s deposit.

        • The meaning is not clear at all. Saving $50k over 6 months from income is available to very few people.
          It was my understanding that mainlander was referring to further falls saving him $50k of expenditure in 6 months time, not that he would have another $50k deposit in 6 months time as you suggest.
          Why the insult in your last line?

          • GunnamattaMEMBER

            Maybe right mate, but as someone who has money in international currencies (mainly USD where I moved it last year from RUB) I have to say that anyone moving into Australian Real estate from an international currency is an idiot if they have bought within the last year (or buys now).

            Puting the proceeds from the sale of a place in Moscow into an investment account and simply renting in Australia has certainly saved well north of 50K AUD, and I reckon it will ‘save’ a load more than that into the future.

          • Bloody hell calm down.

            Look I don’t need to justify my comments here and in a couple of paragraphs etc.

            Essentially what I am saying is we keep saving market keeps falling.

            We will then buy what were ready to buy that suits us at a price more reflective of value not price!!!

    • average housing bust peak to trough ~6.5 years. we are 15-20 months. i would wait just a little longer than 6 months. in six months it should be front page news……then rising unemployment, bank defaults, bank bailouts. etc. etc. we know how this goes.

    • I’m with you Mainlander. Been waiting only 2 years though (took my capital gains in 2010 and went renting) but it feels like 6. I’m looking at houses in Melb well above the median (I have more than the median set to go as a deposit) but not tempted by prices yet (where I’m looking they haven’t budged yet). I have some colleagues who have bought with mega mortgages ($2M +) in the last few months despite my (very unwelcome) warnings. I expect some of them to end up losing their houses as they need every dollar they can get but word in my industry is that work is getting scarcer (in a supposedly recession proof field). Like you, I feel no guilt over this.

      I also don’t mind buying in a falling market. I will view the capital losses as an ‘ownership premium’ (tenants really have abysmal conditions – I wish I could improve them, not for selfish reasons but just for social justice principles). I’m just not prepared to wear the sort of capital losses that are on the table at the moment. I suspect I have at least another year to wait, but more likely 2 until prices are tolerable (can save $200k in that time if work holds up).

      • We’re in the same situation here; Bought a unit in 2003 and sold it in 2010 for MORE THEN TWICE (with a lot of sweat equity, though). We were “paid” over $1500 a month to live in our place over those 7 years. THAT IS JUST NUTS!

        On a good day and if housing goes here like it has in the USA (which is almost a middle-of-the-road result in today’s western world) we have a 70% deposit. If we play our cards right, we’ll have cash to close AND be in a very nice neighborhood.

        But… remember all of that savings and patience! Look at my comment below about my 3 friends buying in 2007 in the US. This has a long way to run, A VERY LONG WAY!

      • Mortgages $2million plus? Seriously? A mortgage for $2million plus? On what kind of wage??? (just rough figures is fine, no privacy breaching needed)…

        • Well I’m on about $400k and he’s putting in more effort and time than I am so $2M is manageable. The problem is I can’t see it lasting for a number of reasons. Won’t tell you the field – I’ve been silly enough to use my first name and the two together would identify me. It’s not FIRE sector though.

          I’ve gotta say I never expected to earn as much as I do, just got into a field I thought I’d enjoy. I’ve only been on big dollars for a couple of years but I certainly don’t feel like I have the spending power I always imagined someone on $400k would have. I share a 4 year old car with my wife and ride my bike to work. I suspect I’m just very conservative and not prepared to borrow and count on future income, whereas many others in my position do. It’s nice to never have a bill I have to worry about and to have the occasional extravagance (business class flights on holiday last year) but the thought of digging myself a $2M hole to climb out of terrifies me.

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        You are 100% correct on the treatment of tenants, even when they are renting relatively upmarket places.

        Having come back to Australia after a long time overseas I simply cant believe the complete contempt with which people renting places (of any description) are treated.

        I rented a place (close to waterfront in Geelong) paid six months rent up front – Having come to the conclusion that anyone buying in my circumstances is completely insane. Then I got a building inspection firm to fill in the condition report on the place (which freaked the agent – CJ Keane – out) and identified a few issues. Almost straight away I identify a water usage issue and a leak in a skylight in a bathroom crops up. I ask the agent to do something about it. A month later no response whatsoever apart from excuses about an owner looking at doing something, owner telling the agent it should have been dealt with etc etc etc.

        God only knows how those down the rental chain are faring, but my experience has brought me firmly to the view that when the Australian Real Estate markets gets the kicking it so badly needs, I am going to go on out and buy a place and tell a few agents I aqm not buying through them because I think they are utter turds.

      • +1 sheesh some get it there are also intangible benefits i just want to buy an affordable HOME.

        Not interested in renting cash.


        Appreciate all the feedback and debate.

    • Careful @The_Mainlander… I’ve had 3 friends buy in the US on the first dead cat bounce in 2007. One is in a $310k home worth $150k, another is in a $365k home worth south of $200k… the third was bailed out by circumstance and his job on a relocation package, so they ended up out only their loan interest over what the rent would have been (so about $100k). We nearly bought in 2006 in the US, a $435k mistake that would now be worth ~$200k!

      Housing takes YEARS to fall, generally speaking the fall in prices matches that of the rise (so that 10 years to go here in Oz, or at least in Canberra: ). And when RE has flat-lined, you have YEARS to react.

      So… please learn from my friends; DON’T BUY EARLY! Keep that powder dry!

    • That’s one of the most insulting things about this mess. That we’re the ones who should feel guilty. Yet mega mortgage mugs and property investors who want their house prices to average a million bucks are considered to be the respectable people.

      Yeah, real buyers market. Even though Melbourne has been relatively lucky with 10% odd drops $500k still translates to a stupid dogbox with hideous strata fees or a crap house a long way from work. Long way to go.

    • I was in the UK for GFC #1. There were plenty of people just like you wanting to buy and had 20% LVR. But the banks stopped lending. They insisted on a 40% LVR. So nobody could get finance to buy a property – even though they could afford the repayments.

      The same thing could happen here. The price will finally get to a value that you deem ‘fair’ but you won’t get the money from the banks.

      • Thats why I already have 40% saved up and if prices come down 20-30% in a year I’ll have 60% plus. Now is the time to save for all you are worth as the deals will only be there for those that have plenty of cash to hand.

  5. Chris Vedelago is one of the few journo’s i can read these days from fairfax…even though he writes for that mob that continually allows Dr “property only ever goes up” Wilson to spruik his articles are balanced and aren’t afraid to paint a more accurate portrait of the residential market here in australia…

    it’s a shame they turned the comments off early! πŸ˜‰

    • Have huge issues with Fairfax and Domain due to related spruiking e.g. claiming clearance rates are 50-60%….. very misleading when properties disappear off auction listings between Friday and Monday. Worse and more devious is indirect spruiking in news and business sections e.g. “population growth to continue” even though growth rate is dropping like a stone…… but like other issues in Australia they tell most Australians (& themselves) what they want to hear…..

  6. This site needs to encourage even edify the work of Vedelago and Zappone at Fairfax. Little other MSM RE material is worth reading.

    On Janet’s ‘you are a buyer’ subject, Homesteaders need to wait until prices pass rents>repayments, which I see ~5 years hence and about where the USA is today. Prices may fall further, overshooting fair value, but buyers will be shielded by value.

    Buyers will need a fat deposit and pristine credit as the banks will be very wary – even though most of the RE being sold is owned by them.

    Don’t Buy Now!

    • My view, DC? An overshoot, followed by…an overshoot! It doesn’t matter what fair value is, if you haven’t got the money to pay for anyhting. Most Australians, and Westerners in general, have probably got about the most they will ever have, about now.The last 40 years has generated concentrated ‘wealth’ on an unimaginable scale ( or would we all have been at it in 1972!), and it’s going to be either realised ( the smart will sell their assets) or lost ( the ‘others’). From there it’s all down hill for the aggregate wealth of The West, and is likely to stay so until a time past me being here!

      • MontagueCapulet

        I agree about the general trend. But everything has a fair price. If the Australian dollar drops back to 50 cents based on the end of the China boom, and tUS here’s a spectacular housing crash along the lines of a 75% drop between now and 2020, you’ll be able to get Australian houses for 2.5 times average income with a 15% rental yield, and with a cheap dollar the prospects for the economy would be reasonable.
        If it falls far enough and hard enough housing will be a good investment again.

    • Don’t Buy Now, and DON’T BUY EARLY!

      Again, read my short tale above re: my friends in the US buying on the first dead cat bounce in 2007. At the time they thought they were the Smartest Guy’s In The Room, but now…

      We’ve got YEARS to run yet, even if Oz “plays catch-up” and has a steeper fall thanks to China+Europe+The Entire Western World…

      So, David, may I suggest an addition to the mantra…

      Don’t Buy Now, and DON’T BUY EARLY!

  7. Just driving around Melboune take note of the general repair of houses. Many are in a state of neglect and in serious need of expensive repair. This observation was written about over the weekend.
    Owning a big family home might just become a major liability for many who see their home as their castle.
    Recently I had a blocked storm water drain cleared it took about 1 hour cost $700.00. I had to get some trees lopped 2 hours work $650.00 plus tipping fees. The house needs painting quote $20k.
    It’s a relentless cost which many home owners simply cannot afford especially pensioners.
    Are the boomers experiencing a Peak Housing market?

    • Mitch,

      You have highlighted a very important, but often overlooked, aspect of home ownership in this modern age.

      As with horses and boats, it is often the case that the initial capital outlay, as steep as it may be, pales into insignificance against the maintenance and running costs.

      Those who have built McMansions with acres of glass, high ceiling, open plan living areas, swimming pools, megawatts of lighting, rendered and painted walls, and ducted air conditioning, are about to discover this truth, much to their dismay, and cost.

      Another significant contributor to this development is that, in years gone buy, the man of the house was generally a bit of a handyman, and attended to minor problems like blocked drains and guttering, cranky lawnmowers, broken tiles, leaky taps, and the like.

      Not any more – with the advent of “time-poor” families, general decline in the jack-of-all-trades mentality, and the growth of the services sector, these simple tasks now generally result in a quick reference to the Yellow Pages.

      • +100

        YES! So many of us are on the Debt Treadmill to Hell that we pay for childcare, lawn maint., gutter cleaning, appliance install, appliance delivery, tiling, fence repair, minor roof repair, minor car servicing (oil change, brake pads, windshield wipers, etc), car washes, takeaway dinners… the list goes on!

        ALL of this because we “don’t have time” due to work. Well… how much of that DINK’d second salary is eaten up by these expenses?

        I looked down the road a few months ago and saw no less then 3 gardening trucks out in front of homes on my short street. I wonder how many of those same families also have gym memberships because they don’t get enough exercise!?

        We have professionalized and/or externalized A LOT that used to be done by dad on a Saturday morning or mom in the afternoons. Don’t have the tools to do the oil change? Have a beer with Bob down the street and shoot the sh*t over the game in the garage.

        Now far too many of us are heads down drones working to pay others to do the stuff we used to be able to do ourselves (or pay the neighbor kid to do, I know, I WAS that neighbor kid!).

        • We should also consider the impact of “public liability”
          You. Know we almost need to have a sparky licence to replace a lightbulb.

      • thomickersMEMBER

        Good observation!

        When I purchase my McMansion i will plan & ensure that my superfund has sufficient funds to hire the proletariat to clean my rooftop/gutters when I get old.

      • Julius

        Then the day of reckoning comes and you have convinced the family that financially the best thing to do is sell the family home and all its fond memories.

        Next step, Real Estate Agent, guess what to get this house up to Auction presentation standard you need to paint the outside,polish the floorboards, update the kitchen possibly the bathrooms. Cost $100k ?

        Then Auction cost $5k, Agents Commission 1.5%, say $20k, Advertising $15k.

        On the day it gets passed in and the agent tells you its the state of the market and you get $150k less than was first estimated.

        Geez renting looks a better bet ,when the house gets tired move on removal cost $1000.

      • Alex Heyworth

        As with horses and boats, it is often the case that the initial capital outlay, as steep as it may be, pales into insignificance against the maintenance and running costs.

        The two best days in a man’s life are the day he buys his first boat, and the day he sells it.

    • A good point Mitch – which is why you often see houses that are being sold as part of an estate – owned by one person for 20+ years and in a poor state of repair – as renovator’s delights. It’s a cycle that repeats over and over again.

      An interesting thought though – the houses that were built in 1890’s through 1950’s were so well built that they could take this cycle of repair and renew. McMansions built in last 15-20 years – have such a cheap build quality that they won’t be worth upgrading.

      So “thinking out loud” – we all know that land appreciates and the building depreciates – wonder what will happen to all the new suburbs when the land price component falls as the property market deflates? Maybe means that the outer ‘burbs will deflate even more compared to the inner.

      I have already seen commentary that boomers are selling up the lifestyle acreage to move to something smaller and less costly to maintain ie back to town and that this is depressing rural land prices. The exception is real productive farming land.

      • That’s the smart of the construction industry. Why built something that last and get yourself out of work?

        • Chuckle. We in the IT world do exactly the same. Never make it work 100%…just release a few patches (“updates”) to keep the major bugs out, then release a new version and sell it as an upgrade.

  8. IMHO, if deflationary mindset is really setting in in Melbourne, then it will be hard to avoid a hard-landing (ie. crash) in property prices there…

    “Why buy today when it will be cheaper tomorrow?”

    …let’s just hope the economy isn’t structurally dependent on the extra debt that comes rising prices…



    • George Locust

      To what extent does one free falling market (melbourne) drag down the others?
      It used to be that SE Qld received a steady stream of Sydney refugees attracted by cheap(er) housing.
      Perhaps they might be heading south now?

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        Problem will be jobs in Melbourne though. All well and good moving here, but not so nice if your employment prospects are thinning.

        Keep in mind many Folks from ‘up north’ just about perish during their first real Melbourne winter.

        Being poor and un(der)employed in winter in Byron is one thing, it is a totally differnt beast in Melbourne…

      • Fair point – I was mainly talking about VIC.

        Having said that, however, it’s probably not unfair to say that if VIC real-estate prices suffer too much, too quickly, then this will flow onto our big 4 banks, and they will tighten lending (more), and this will have a flow-on effect to the rest of the economy, piece by piece.

        Just a thought.

    • Burb, if the current situation goes on for a lot longer, then IMO we will see taxation changes as the states faced with lower revenue from sales will have to do something. Services hit, or land tax? Some states are already under watch by the RA’s; something will have to give.

  9. If we are to follow the boom and bust to its logical conclusion and taking into account the exprience of other advanced economies such as the USA, Japan, UK & others it appears that we are just in the beginning.

    Get used to renting for the time being and concentrate on upskilling and remaining employed/employable because the very nature of the potential recession Australia is facing will touch everyone. There may not be securely employed & cashed up people around to snap up all the bargains when house prices come off 30-40% or more.

    Personally as a younger citizen I dont mind having an excuse to be lazy and leaving my money in a term deposit and avoiding all the hassles of ‘investing’ in housing to make (maybe) 7% max… Only thing is there is a point at which if you are cashed up it may be prudent to buy some real estate as if it hits the fan here and the RBA starts with the 1% short term loans to insolvent banks, and boosting the money supply/printing to bridge the gap in demand that slowing credit issuance will have generated, your cash savings could take a hammering in real terms very quickly.

  10. Bobby Fischer

    Thomickers has looked closely at cash versus property return for Melbourne over the last year. See here:

    Comparing cash at the bank versus property returns (against the RP Data index), as at April 2012, an initial investment of 630K would have turned into over 664K at the bank. Property on the other hand would be valued at around 596K. So in one year, there is almost a 60K difference!

    This is why the deflationary mindset is setting in. Property simply reeks right now – particularly in Melbourne.

    • Most people don’t have the $630k in the bank to start off that calculation with! That’s the problem. Debt is/has been the only way that housing has been ‘affordable’, and there’s nothing wrong with that in moderation. But when debt itself gets beyond ‘affordable’ and starts relying on capital gains to repay itself, that’s when the problems start…and my suggestion is that now we are going to see an unwinding of unaffordable debt, regardless of interest rate. That’s what many other countries on “0%” are finding out.

      • thomickersMEMBER

        most people may not have $630,000 cash in the bank but they certainly do pay interest (6.5%ish)on a $400,000 to $500,000 mortgage.

        One should compare the cashrate curve (risk free though taxable) with asset growth if you are a “property investor” and levered up on it (check the ROEs to show volatility…this is more than GFC stuff on your equity if you are 80%LVR).

        I did the spreadsheets to show an overseas relative who wanted to move from USDs to Australian property (approximately $500,000) due to the uncertainty around in the world. Let me tell you they are very happy with what i’ve given them.

        • I understand what on should do, but it’s not what most people actually do. They go off and borrow. End of story, and comparative exercises don’t enter their world. It’s “What will the repayments be” and ” How much can I borrow” . That’s as far as it goes.

      • +1. Well put.

        It also shits be beyond tears how the definition of ‘affordability’ has now become ‘serviceability of repayments’ and nothing to do with capital value.

        For me, this epitomises the transformation of the banker: a generation ago, it was a prudent person who would ask the question “is a 6x cost item affordable to a person on an income of x?”. Nowadays, it is “how far can we stretch a person on income of x to meet the repayments?”.

        The transformation of the general population’s psyche from humble, accept-what-you-can’t-have to can-have-what-you-can’t-afford and make-extraordinary-profit-through-no-skill,-thought-or-application-of-your-own has also eroded the quality of society, IMO. It’s certainly a different place now to the one I grew up in.

  11. Quick perusal of auction results recently in Melbourne shows that a high proportion of >$1m houses are not selling.

    Vendors still asking too much?

    I guess that many potential buyers are also making the sensible decision to buy in a “less desirable” suburb.