Australian Property

Australian property is one the widest and deepest asset bubbles in the history of capitalism. Any objective assessment of this “market” can lead to no other conclusion.

With a long history of commitment to home ownership, Australians have always been prepared to structure their finances around property. This showed up in a total dwelling stock to GDP ratio that persisted around a very high 150% from 1960 to 1990. In the late 1990s that shot up to 200% and then embarked on near ceaseless climb to 360% today.

There are many other guides to the extreme overvaluation of Australian property. The ratio of household debt (overwhelmingly mortgages) to disposable income is the highest in the world at 186%. Median price to income multiples are anything from 12x in Sydney, to 10x in Melbourne, down to still immensely unaffordable 6x in smaller capitals, up from 3-4x times in all over the long run for all. The extent of overvaluation is plain.

What makes the Australian property bubble unique is the degree to which it has warped the nation’s political economy. Once a diverse and vibrant resources and manufacturing economy, over the twenty years that the Australian housing bubble grew that shape changed completely. An huge proportion of the debt underpinning Australian property is borrowed from offshore, almost $1 trillion, mostly by its big four major banks. This perpetually inflated the local currency, as well as input costs like land prices, which dramatically diminished Australian competitiveness and drove tradable sectors like manufacturing offshore. From 14% of output in the 1970s, manufacturing hit 5% of output in 2016, the lowest in the OECD.

Moreover, the centrality of Australia property to the wealth of the national polity increasingly distorted policy and even elections. In the 2008 global financial crisis, the then Labor government bailed out the the big four banks with guarantees to their offshore loans, rewriting the entire rule book for Australia’s financial architecture in one panicked afternoon. Public subsidies poured into demand-side stimulus, as well as RMBS markets. Any notion that Australian property was a “market” evaporated. Australian property was, and remains, a kind of asset quango, a public/private partnership in support of the retirement plans of its pre-dominant Baby Boomer generation.

MacroBusiness cover all elements of Australian property daily.

These guarantees exist to this day and reached their peak distortion to the political economy in 2016 when the ruling Liberal/National Party Coalition government fought and won an election in the singular defense of “negative gearing”, the principal tax policy most responsible for investor’s favouring property over other asset classes.

Contemporary Australia does not just have a property bubble, it has morphed into Propertocracy in which the primacy of house prices determines who leads the country, what policies are chosen and which generations prosper.

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EMERGENCY! Trigger the ADGSM now

Here’s what the Australian Industry Group said yesterday: “The cessation of gas trading by Weston Energy plunges hundreds of businesses across Eastern Australia into uncertainty around their energy bills and is a warning of more pressures to come on business and households from high energy prices,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of national employer association Ai

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Half of Australian building companies trading insolvent

Recently we have seen multiple major residential construction companies go into liquidation, including Probuild, Condev, ABG Group, and Privium, alongside several smaller players like Hotondo Homes Hobart, Home Innovation Builders and Next. Construction giant Metricon is also reportedly on the verge of collapse following last week’s sudden death of founder and CEO Mario Biasin. Russ

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Australia headed for rental market calamity

CoreLogic’s latest housing affordability report showed that the proportion of household income required to meet rental costs has surged over the pandemic, led by Australia’s regions: Another report from CoreLogic, released yesterday, showed that unit vacancy rates are plummeting, in part due to “increased rental demand thanks to the return of overseas migration”: Rent values

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Sydney’s house price bust gathers steam

CoreLogic’s daily index shows that Sydney is leading Australia’s nascent housing market downturn, record a 1.0% decline in dwelling values over the quarter to be down 1.3% from mid-February’s price peak: Westpac’s latest Housing Pulse shows a “sharp deterioration” across NSW housing indicators, suggesting there is “more to come near term” for Sydney’s house price

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Home buyers are still flocking to Queensland

While Sydney’s and Melbourne’s property markets are sliding into the red, Queensland’s continues to rise on the back of strong interstate demand. PropTrack’s Potential Buyers Index, which measures the number of people seriously interested in buying, shows that demand nationally has been trending down since March: But an analysis of the SA3 regions with the

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Auction market plumbs new 2022 low

CoreLogic has reported the lowest preliminary auction clearance rate in 2022; albeit based on volumes that we 41% lower due to the federal election. The national preliminary clearance rate slid to 62.9%, down from from last week’s preliminary result of 64.6%, which was revised to 60.1% at final figures. In the same weekend last year,

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Westpac: crashing buyer sentiment pulls house prices lower

Westpac has released its Housing Pulse for May, which declares that Australia’s housing market is now “entering a broad–based correction phase that will be largely shaped by the speed and extent of the interest rate tightening”. Home buyer sentiment has collapsed to its lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, with Westpac tipping

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Mirvac: immigration reboot to overwhelm housing supply

While all the usual suspects continue to claim that rigid planning and lack of land release is responsible for Australia’s housing shortage, Mirvac CEO Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz basically admitted that this shortage has been caused by excessive levels of immigration, which will worsen as the Big Australia policy is rebooted: “We’re in a genuine national crisis

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Melbourne and Sydney house prices tumble

CoreLogic’s daily dwelling values index, which measures price changes across the five major capital cities, fell another 0.12% in the week ended 19 May, which follows the 0.11% decline over the prior week: This fall was driven by Sydney (-0.27%) and Melbourne (-0.18%), which more than offset price rises across the other major capitals: So

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Another Big Australia shill moans about housing shortages

Simon Kuestenmacher is Director of Research at The Demographics Group and is described as “a rising star in the world of demography”. The Demographics Group is the private enterprise headed by self-proclaimed “unabashed supporter of a bigger Australia” Bernard Salt, who has spent years lobbying for mass immigration. Kuestenmacher has been frequently cited in the mainstream

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Airbnb behind Australia’s rental crisis

One of the big conundrums arising from the pandemic is the sharp fall in rental vacancy rates across Australia despite negative net overseas migration. Logically, the loss of hundreds-of-thousands of migrants should have seen Australia’s rental vacancy rate rise. However, vacancy rates instead plummeted. One plausible explanation is that Australian’s desire for additional space has

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“Perfect storm” sends Aussie home builders bust

The situation has gone from bad to worse for Australia’s residential building industry. Following the recent collapses of major Australian construction firms Condev, ABG Group, Probuild and Privium, giant Metricon is now facing a similar fate: On Wednesday, it was reported that Metricon was in emergency talks with clients after falling into financial strife just

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ANZ: Markets always wrong on Australian interest rates

The latest Australian interest rate forecast from the futures market tips the Reserve Bank of Australia to lift the official cash rate (OCR) to 2.7% by the end of this year, peaking at 3.4% by mid-2023: If the market’s projection proved correct, this would be the equivalent of another nine 0.25% interest rate hikes over

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Scott Morrison should read own housing affordability report

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday attacked Labor for claiming that the Coalition’s policy to allow first home buyers to borrow up to 40% of superannuation to purchase their first home would “blow up the housing market”: [Morrison] took a swipe at Labor’s criticism of the policy, saying the party had “lost touch completely” after it

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It’s official: Housing supply won’t keep pace with mass immigration

Last year’s NSW Budget revealed that the state’s housing shortage had all but disappeared thanks to the collapse in immigration: Building approvals are now running well ahead of the change in population, which is depressed due to the lack of inward migration. This suggests a potential oversupply in the near-term relative to the underlying demand

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Do we really need more tax breaks and demand for property?

May 2022 Australian property market affordability update Australian property market prices have started to drift lower. In recent months, mortgage fixed interest rates have risen substantially, now standard variable rates are on the rise. The official rate rose, and already affordability is as poor as it has ever been in some markets.  Housing valuation and

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Coalition’s super-housing plan would increase inequality

On Sunday, the Morrison Government announced that if reelected, it would allow first home buyers to borrow up to 40% of superannuation to purchase their first home, capped at up to $50,000 (see yesterday’s article). Under the policy, first home buyers would need to have $125,000 in their superannuation account in order to withdraw the

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Asking rents surge amid tight vacancies

Australia’s rental crisis continues to worsen, with SQM Research recording a surge in asking rents amid tight vacancies. While the national vacancy rate rose 0.1% in April to 1.1% on the back of the smaller capital cities (see below table), asking rents nationally soared another 1.4% over the month to be 13.8% higher year-on-year: According

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Mortgage repayments to double for half a million Aussies

Fixed mortgage rates have already ratcheted up, as illustrated in the next chart from CoreLogic: While not captured above, variable mortgage rates have also begun drifting higher following the RBA’s 0.25% hike in the cash rate earlier this month. Steve Mickenbecker from financial comparison site Canstar has warned that around half a million Australians could