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.


Australia’s auction market rebounds to 2017 ‘boom’ levels

From CoreLogic’s quarterly auction report: Over the 3 months to September 2019, the clearance rate across the combined capital cities came in at 69.9 per cent across 16,730 auctions, the strongest quarterly clearance rate seen since the June 2017 quarter (71.7 per cent). The weekly auction clearance rates have continued to improve over the September


Mortgage rebound solidifies Australia’s housing recovery

Thursday’s Lending to households and businesses release from the ABS revealed that total mortgage lending (excluding refinancings) rebounded strongly in August: As regular readers of MB will know, we consider the flow of housing and investor finance commitments to be premier indicators for dwelling value growth. This view is based on the incredibly strong historical


Melbourne and Sydney apartments are financial dead weight

If there’s one iron clad truth in property, it’s that land values appreciate while structures depreciate. This is certainly the case in both Melbourne and Sydney, where high-rise apartment value growth has badly lagged detached house growth over the past decade, according to new research from propertyology. From The Age: Analysis by Propertyology, a company


Sydney’s rental market tightens amid housing supply crunch

The Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) has released its September quarter rental vacancy report, which reveals a material tightening in the city’s vacancy rate: Sydney’s rental vacancy rate fell from 3.6% in August to 2.9% in September – the lowest reading since October 2018. The results follow Domain’s latest rental report, which


REIWA demands more first homebuyer subsidies to fix dead market

With Perth’s property market experiencing its biggest downturn on record: The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) has demanded a raft of additional first home buyers (FHB) subsidies to fix the dead market: REIWA released a six-point plan to address the issue, under which the state would increase the stamp duty exemption threshold for


Recessionberg launches bank inquiry into self

It’s never enough bubble for Joshy Recessionberg: The big four banks will be ­officially investigated for their repeated failures to pass on the full extent of central bank rate cuts to consumers under a government-launched probe into home-loan gouging. Josh Frydenberg has directed the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate the pricing of residential


Auction clearance rate surges

Auction clearance rates surged over the weekend, with the preliminary rate nationally coming in at 77.3%, up significantly from 71.3% last weekend: Auction clearances were also way above the 47.0% recorded in the same weekend last year: Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate was 82.3%, up from 79.8% last weekend, and way above the 45.1% recorded in


Australian housing’s supply-side squeeze

With this week’s release of dwelling commencements and completions data for the June quarter, it’s once again time to examine how Australia’s dwelling supply is tracking against population growth. The below charts track the following, which are based on the latest available quarterly data: Dwelling approvals to June 2019; Dwelling commencements to June 2019; Dwelling


Collapsing balconies add to unit defect crisis

Via New Daily: The company that built Sydney’s Opal Tower is embroiled in another safety scare at a different city apartment block. Residents of Otto Rosebery have been warned against leaning on their balconies or allowing more than three people to stand on them, after an investigation found the balustrades were of “inadequate strength”. Parents


Australia’s mortgage market goes BOOM!

Today’s housing finance data for August from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded another strong rebound in mortgage commitments: As shown above, total finance commitments (excluding refinancings) rose by 2.9% in August, with owner-occupied commitments rising 1.9% and investor commitments rising 5.7%. However over the year, total finance commitments (excluding refinancings) fell by 5.0%,


Final auction clearance rate slides into the 60s

Last weekend, CoreLogic released its preliminary auction clearance rates, which revealed the following results: Today, CoreLogic has released its final auction results, which reported a 3.7% decline in the final national auction clearance rate to 67.6% – well above the same weekend last year (49.5%) but below last week’s 71.0%: As you can see, Sydney’s


Prepare for the dwelling construction jobs bust

The ABS yesterday released dwelling construction data for the June quarter, which recorded a dead cat bounce in both commencements and completions. According to the ABS, the number of dwelling commencements rebounded by a seasonally-adjusted 1.1% over the June quarter, but crashed by 20.3% over the year. While detached house commencements fell by 10.6% over


ABC: Melbourne’s outer migrant suburbs a “modern slum nightmare”

The ABC has published an interesting profile on the outer-Western Melbourne suburb of Tarneit, which is fast morphing into a modern migrant slum nightmare: When the Bahadur family moved into their new home in Melbourne’s booming outer west four months ago, they dreamed of suburban bliss. But it turned out to be a nightmare. “We


Shrinkflation returns to Australia’s housing market

In 2017, MB coined the phrase “shrinkflation” to describe the unusual phenomenon where housing transaction volumes fall at the same time as dwelling values rise strongly. It appears that the Australian housing market is experiencing another episode of housing shrinkflation, with prices escalating at the same time as listings and transaction volumes have shrunk. The


Investors set to storm Australia’s housing market

Peter Koulizos, chairman of lobby group Property Investment Professionals of Australia (PIPA), claims that investors are set to storm Australia’s housing market: Peter Koulizos… said there had been a surge in buyer sentiment in recent months, with corresponding price increases in Sydney and Melbourne. The organisation has just released the results of a survey of


Coalition’s first home buyer bribe gets Senate tick

The federal government has identified a number of legislative priorities when Parliament resumes on 14 October. However, analysis suggests that the Coalition may lack the numbers to pass up to seven out of eight bills in the Senate, including the Ensuring Integrity Bill and a religious discrimination bill. The proposed first-home loan deposit scheme is


Developer shakeout goes to the knee-breakers

Via the ABC: Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto was retained by at least one investor to help recover money from the messy collapse of a major property developer that left investors owed millions of dollars, according to court documents. The allegation is contained within an affidavit filed in the Victorian Supreme Court by former Steller


Auction clearances hover above 70%

Auction clearance rates remained solid over the weekend, with the preliminary rate nationally coming in at 71.3%, down a few percent from 74.4% last weekend: Auction clearances were also way above the 49.5% recorded in the same weekend last year:   Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate was 79.8%, up from 77.7% last weekend, and way above


Hundreds of thousands of towering infernos “unsellable”

Yeh. Via Domain: Thousands of Victorian apartment owners whose buildings are covered in flammable cladding are paying rates that fail to recognise that the value of their property has plummeted. One academic has estimated that at least 40,000 properties across Victoria will need full or partial replacement of their cladding. The state opposition has called