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.


Australian Banks: Delusion Meets Desperation

The following article was posted on Seeking Alpha – a leading North American investment blog that provides free investment market analysis primarily from money managers, investment newsletter writers, and the general public. The great Australian housing bubble debate is gathering momentum. In recent weeks, several international observers have released warnings that Australia’s housing market is severely overvalued. For instance, in its latest survey of


This is gonna hurt

Fellow econblogger, Delusional Economics, has posted an excellent, yet frightening summary of some of the key risks currently facing the Australian financial system, housing market and broader economy. It is captured in an email message from “Deep Throat” – an experienced financial industry participant whom wishes to remain anonymous. Deep Throat has delivered a worrying analysis of the Australian banks’


CBA: Desperately Seeking Housing Affordability

Last week, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) – Australia’s largest bank – released a presentation on the Australian housing market to support an upcoming overseas tour by senior management who are meeting overseas investors. The CBA’s press release for the presentation read as follows: Australian Residential Housing Sydney, 9 September 2010: Senior executives from the


Safe as (straw) houses

Whilst I was on vacation escaping the bitter Melbourne cold, Morgan Stanley Chief Strategist, Gerard Minack, released an excellent research article on the Australian housing market, entitled Living in a Bubble. Mr Minack’s article received widespread coverage in the press (for example, see here and here), so it is likely that many Australian readers are aware of his analysis already. And fellow


Population Ageing is Bad News for the Housing Market

In Bringing it Home, I argued that demographic factors have played an important role in creating Australia’s housing bubble and that these same factors are likely to contribute to a house price correction in the future: “One of the key drivers of Australia’s strong house price growth has been the Baby Boomer generation’s rampant buying of investment


Oz Real estate, 1 story , many perspectives.

A reader “Billy” sent us an e-mail today to point out that the international business times has noted that mortgage demand in Australia continues to be very weak. Demand for new mortgages tanked by 20% during the June quarter when compared with the same time last year, figures from credit reporting agency Veda Advantage show.


Forbes Calls the Australian Housing Bubble

I know I said that I had finished writing about the Australian housing bubble. But these articles in Forbes (click here and here) are simply too good to pass by without an honourable mention. It seems that Forbes has similar views about Australia’s housing bubble to those expressed on The Unconventional Economist (see here, here and here). I always find it


Nailing up the Oz real estate coffin

Last week we mentioned that a high profile property spruiker seems to have given up. Today we note that Australian politicians are racing to close the door on “Big Australia”. A coalition government will reduce Australia’s immigration numbers back to a reasonable level, according to shadow treasurer Joe Hockey. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott shortly is


Death of the Spruiker

A very well known Australian property spruiker has finally admitted the dreaded words. Our judgment is that a combination of higher interest rates, modest housing finance growth, skinnier auction clearance rates, and a surge in supply-side listings suggests that we may not see much, if any, further house price growth this year. Indeed, the second


Yes Minister

The Australian Federal Minister for housing, Tanya Plibersek, is the “front person” for a home buyer and property show. Her statement: The Australian Government understands the importance of housing to people’s lives and we are working hard to help more people get into a home at a price they can afford. Since coming to government