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.


A ray of sunshine for housing?

Well it looks like housing finally got some good news yesterday with a bit of a Queensland driven rise in housing finance. This was a predicted event. I had this to say back in July: I am actually expecting to see a bit of an uptick in median values in July as people bring forward their property transactions to


Insiders turn bearish on housing

You know the housing market has taken a turn for the worse when industry groups renowned for ‘taking-up’ the housing market change track and start conditioning sellers to lower their price expectations in order to promote sales. A reader, last week sent me the below email report from Ray White, which I think you will


Australia’s MIA politicians

Don Brash, leader of the New Zealand ACT Party and former governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (1988 to 2002), has delivered some stirring speeches recently lamenting the declining level of housing affordability in New Zealand.  On 25 August, Dr Brash gave a speech in which he noted the role played by regulatory


RPData on income

Ever since Corelogic took over RPData in January I have noticed that the company’s outlook for property has slowly become more subdued and, in my opinion, more realistic. I am a unsure whether this is the influence of the new US owners, who would be well aware of the risks associated with overexuberance in both the


Will rates work again?

  I note today that Australia’s favourite bullhawk, Chris Joye, has claimed that if: …the RBA starts cutting rates, I would be bullish on housing. Unlike almost any other housing market in the world, Australia is unique insofar around 90% of all mortgage debt is purely adjustable-rate and priced off the RBA’s target cash rate


RPData August analysis

As noted earlier by Data Sword, the latest RPData index was out today and as usual he has done an excellent job in the analysis. The press release is also out (available below) and as usual I like to provide a bit of analysis outside the data. The results certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise


Housing falls accelerate

It will come as no surprise to regular MB readers that Australian house prices continued to slide in July, according to the latest RP Data-Rismark house price index. On a seasonally adjusted basis prices fell 0.6% in July while the 0.2% June decline was revised lower to show a fall of 0.4%: The raw figures


How the RBA undervalued housing

Remember this chart? It is taken from page 15 of the RBA Research Discussion Paper: Asset Prices, Credit Growth, Monetary and Other Policies: An Australian Case Study, released in September 2010. As you can see, the RBA chart shows a nationwide dwelling price-to-income ratio of around 4.5. Senior RBA officials have quoted this ratio in


The bell tolls for Melbourne housing

Since writing my first article in April warning of the precarious outlook facing the Melbourne housing market, Melbourne home prices have softened, falling by 2.0% in the 12 months to June according to the most recent RP Data release: Although the median annual fall of 2.0% appears moderate in light of the huge run-up in


Black dragon: Don’t buy now

Last week Louis Christopher from SQM research, otherwise known as black dragon, made it very clear about his expectations for the Australian Real estate market over the coming months: …. but by the fact that most of us here in Australia are worried about our debt, and, as the Reserve Bank of Australia has reported,


Perth takes another hit

Over the late few weeks both the Unconventional Economist and I have highlighted the on going delusion in Western Australian real estate. Today I note that Perth is taking another hit from the MSM: Perth’s ailing property market is causing home owners to maintain a firm grip on their properties, waiting on average two years


Dr Wilson you’re almost there

Anyone who has followed the Australian property market for any length of time would know the name Dr Andrew Wilson. He is an economist at Australian Property Monitors and a well known as someone who likes to talk up the market. He is quite well known for declaring any current weakness in housing activity as


Mirvac joins the capitulators

While delivering the news of a 22.3% fall in net profit yesterday Mirvac, one of Australia’s largest property development groups, stated that real estate price increases are no longer part of their business model. Residential property prices are expected to remain flat with little growth in the foreseeable future, one of Australia’s biggest property developers,


More on “The block” flop

Earlier this year The Unconventional Economist and I were interviewed by Christine Kenneally for an article in the The Monthly. Christine is a well-written journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate and New Scientist along with authoring her own books. Today, inspired by The block flop , Christine


Messages from the front-line

Anyone that follows the Australian housing market will know that the South-East Queensland (SEQ) and Perth housing markets are in trouble. After registering above average house price growth in the years leading up to the global financial crisis, both regions are now underperforming, registering significant falls over the past 12 months. According to RP Data,


The block flop

Back in June I noted that Channel 9 had completely overestimated the housing market for this year’s production of “The Block”. The production company behind Channel 9′s hit, The Block, may have bitten off more than it can chew after paying $3.6 million for a row of rundown terraces in Richmond. As the property market


WA has no idea

On Wednesday, Delusional Economics posted a cracking article about a new mortgage product being offered by BankWest enabling first-time buyers to purchase a home with only a 3% deposit: First homebuyers will be able to borrow 97 per cent of a loan under a new Bankwest mortgage product. Bankwest managing director Jon Sutton announced the $500m loan strategy


The foolproof investment

I just noticed that the residex blog had a couple of interesting data tables containing the breakdown of growth in house and unit prices over various time periods according to their own indexes. Houses Area Median Value Growth Rent Sales Predictions 20 Years % p.a. 10 Years % p.a. Year Ending July 2011 Last Quarter


Earth to APRA…

In their latest monthly report this is what Herron Todd White had this to say about Western Australian housing: Perth Western Australia’s mining industry continues to be a symbol of Australia’s growing economic prominence on the global stage. The vast riches on offer have resulted in rapid population growth leaving the housing market in an


Housing’s straw man argument

Rismark International’s Joint managing director, Christopher Joye, yesterday posted an interesting comparison of the Australian and UK housing markets, which he cleverly uses to defend Australian housing values. Let’s take a look at some key extracts. You often hear that Australian housing is more expensive than, say, UK or US housing, if not the dearest


Herron Todd White’s bearish August

Two weeks ago I posted an article about the vintage of the real estate market in Brisbane. While doing so I provided a number examples of recent home sales in Brisbane that were below the value of the previous transactions in order to judge which year the market had wound back to in a broad sense.  Today


Unsold housing supply jumps

As Macrobusiness readers would be aware the Australian economy has entered a period of slow credit growth, in fact last month Australia managed to deleverage for the first time since the GFC. This lower rate of credit issuance is having flow-on effects across the economy and one of the most obvious places is house prices.