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.


Mortgage growth still points down for property prices

This week’s mortgage commitment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed a record bounce in mortgage demand, with new commitments (excluding refinancings) surging by 8.9% in July and by 11.8% year-on-year: The next chart plots the rolling annual change in the value of mortgage commitments (excluding refinancings) against CoreLogic’s 5-city dwelling value growth


CoreLogic weekly house price update: slowing falls

In the week ended 10 September 2020, the CoreLogic 5-city daily dwelling price index, which covers the five major capital city markets, fell another 0.06%: It was the 18th consecutive weekly decline. The fall was again driven by Melbourne, whereas Brisbane and Adelaide recorded strong rises: Quarterly dwelling values continue to fall at a decent


Poof! Mortgage arrears disappear into APRA Invisopower!

The Dinkum Index from Fitch: Fake, of course. Arrears are all piled into forbearance loans. Via Banking Day: APRA has made further regulatory adjustments to the capital treatment of loans to customers affected by COVID-19. These include provisions covering loans subject to more than one restructure and the extension of concessional capital treatment to loans


Banks may gouge struggling mortgage holders

According to APRA, repayments on $195 billion of mortgages had been deferred as at August, representing 11% of Australia’s total mortgage loan book. With a significant chunk of these borrowers still experiencing financial stress, and likely to seek further relief from mortgage repayments, there are concerns that Australia’s banks may take the opportunity to jack-up


Domain straight back to dodgy journalism

Didn’t miss a beat: Australia’s house prices hold up against the rest of the world Australia’s property market is still ranked in the top 20 in the world, despite any damage inflicted on it by the coronavirus pandemic. Out of 56 countries and territories in the global index’s second quarter analysis produced by independent property


Locusts: Lower immigration “disastrous” for property market

Oh, how times have changed. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the property lobby and government continuously claimed that Australia’s housing affordability woes were due to a chronic lack of supply and not impacted by Australia’s turbocharged immigration intake. Now, the story coming from the property lobby is the polar opposite, with the industry warning of


Australia’s mortgage market goes boom!

Today’s new mortgage data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded a strong rebound in July as COVID-19 restrictions were eased: The next chart plots the time series: Total new mortgage commitments (excluding refinancings) rose by 8.9% in July, with owner-occupied mortgages surging 10.7% and investor mortgages rising 3.5%. Year-on-year, total new mortgage commitments


CBA: Aussie property prices to rebound in 2021

CBA’s head of Australian economics has revised down its forecast for peak-to-trough property price falls and now believes that values will rebound strongly in 2021: Key Points The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on Australian residential property prices, but outcomes vary significantly by capital city. We expect dwelling prices to continue to decline


Millions of renters to plunge off eviction cliff

The national cabinet announced in March that it would impose a six month ban on evicting tenants who had encountered financial hardship because of COVID-19. Tenants were advised to negotiate with landlords about possible rent reductions, but many had to settle for deferrals rather than reductions. Protections against evictions will end in most states and


Mortgage market turns shuffling zombie

From CoreLogic weekly property indicators, the leading mortgage index has entered some kind of zombie state:   Materially down on last year and far down on previous. Remember that this is owner-occupiers only and investor mortgage are far worse. Listings are still providing some market support: But it is artificial given the huge fall in


Melbourne’s auction market is dead

CoreLogic’s preliminary auction clearance rate retraced slightly, with 67.5% of reported auctions cleared versus 67.7% last weekend: Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate was solid with 69.5% of reported auctions sold, albeit down from 74.0% last weekend. However, Melbourne’s preliminary clearance rate bombed to just 33.3% from 49.6% last weekend off only 28 auctions. According to CoreLogic:


A housing supply absorbtion question

A housing supply absorption rate equation You are a housing developer with a large plot of land on the fringes of a major city with no planning constraints. How quickly should you sell these lots to supply them to the housing market? This is the question I answer in a new working paper entitled A Housing


Joye: Time to buy property

From Mr Joye today: There are signs the modest coronavirus-induced housing correction may be coming to an end in all cities but Melbourne, according to the latest daily CoreLogic index data. The risk to this nascent recovery is a second wave emerging in New South Wales. Remarkably, across Australia’s eight capital cities home values have


Renters and landlords square off for war

Via Dan Ziffer at the ABC: In March, the coronavirus crisis threatened to bring the roof down on the rental market that houses one-in-three Australians, as incomes crashed and evictions loomed. A combination of income support, “pausing” repayments on mortgages and a ban on evictions propped up the system and bought all the players six


CoreLogic: Stalled immigration will crush property demand

From CoreLogic’s head of research Eliza Owen: Recent forecasts from Treasury indicate annual population growth across Australia is set to slow from around 1.4% pre-COVID, to 0.6% through the 2020/21 financial year. In raw numbers, that implies Australia’s annual population growth will reduce from around 350,000 in 2019 to 154,000 over the year ending June


Apartment rents crash at astonishing rate

Yesterday, The AFR reported the extraordinary rental slaughter taking place across Sydney and Melbourne: CoreLogic’s Tim Lawless reported similar yesterday, with apartment rents across Sydney and Melbourne crashing by 4.2% and 4.4% respectively in the five months to 31 August: This comes on the back of collapsing immigration and ballooning rental vacancies across both capitals:


Charting the epic apartment construction bust

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this week released its dwelling approvals data for July, which revealed that apartment approvals have fallen 63% below their November 2017 peak: Today, I want to focus on the high-rise apartment segment, which has driven the apartment bust. The next chart shows the picture at the national level and


Melbourne auction market collapses

CoreLogic has released its final auction clearance results for last weekend, which reported a final auction clearance rate of 59.8%, down slightly on last week’s 60.0%: Sydney’s final clearance rate softened to 64.2% (from 66.1% last week), whereas Melbourne’s bombed to 40.6% (down from 45.0% last week). As noted by CoreLogic: In Melbourne, 162 homes


Kusher: Sell property now!

Via Cameron Kusher keeping it real at …mortgage holders who have lost their jobs should seriously consider the likelihood of them finding another job, or a job with an equivalent salary. If the likelihood of this occurring is low, they should strongly consider selling their properties sooner rather than later. 1. Competition Of course,


Melbourne awash with empty properties

Melbourne’s rental vacancy rate ballooned by 20% in August, according to new data from Domain: New data from Domain has laid bare the impact of the stage four lockdown on the rental market, revealing the portion of available, empty rental properties is up by a whopping 140.7 per cent compared to the same time last


Household mortgage stress hovers at record highs

Via Martin North: The August 2020 data from our surveys continues to tell a sorry tale of more households feeling the pinch, whether they are mortgaged, renting or investing. Within the numbers there was a slid in Victoria in particular reflecting the latest lock down and the rising pressure on business there. Overall mortgage stress