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.


Sydney dwelling prices fall for eighth consecutive week

By Leith van Onselen More evidence has emerged that Sydney’s housing boom looked cooked. CoreLogic’s dwelling values index has registered its eighth consecutive weekly decline in Sydney dwelling values, with values down a cumulative 0.7% over that 8-week period, with dwelling values also down 0.7% over the past 13-weeks: Sydney’s quarterly growth rate continues to


Mortgage stress continues to rise

By Martin North, cross-posted from the Digital Finance Analytics Blog: Digital Finance Analytics has released the October 2017 Mortgage Stress and Default Analysis update. Across Australia, more than 910,000 households are estimated to be now in mortgage stress (last month 905,000) and more than 21,000 of these in severe stress, up by 3,000 from last


Sydney drives dwelling approvals rebound

By Leith van Onselen The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released dwelling approvals data for the month of September. At the national level, the number of dwelling approvals rose by a seasonally adjusted 1.5% to 18,849. The overall rise was driven by the volatile unit & apartment market (+2.6%), whereas house approvals rose by


Navigating the stamp duty to land tax mine field

By Leith van Onselen After last week’s Productivity Commission (PC) report included a recommendation for the states to shift from stamp duty to land taxes, and the property lobby endorsed the idea, attention has turned to how the reform could be implemented in practice. Kevin Davis, research director of the Australian Centre of Financial Studies,


High density living worse for environment

By Leith van Onselen A new report has been released which argues that high-density living is less environmentally friendly than suburban living. From All Homes: In a revelation that challenges the long-held assumption that it’s more efficient to reside in a vertical village than a horizontal one, the three-year US study shows that apartment dwellers


UBS declares end to Australia’s 55 year house price boom (again)

Doesn’t happen every day, via Domainfax: A global investment bank has called the end of Australia’s world record housing boom, saying the golden years are “officially” over after home prices fell in Sydney for the second month in a row. “There is now a persistent and sharp slowdown unfolding”, ending 55 years of unprecedented growth that has seen


Gottiboff threatens building strike amid rental reforms

By Leith van Onselen From mouthpiece Robert Gottliebsen, comes the threat that Highrise Harry Triguboff will cease building apartments for rent if the NSW Government implements rental reforms to improve security of tenure: NSW politicians are looking to follow Victoria and are considering draconian new laws to hit residential property investors even harder… Triguboff has


CoreLogic: Melbourne rental yields hit another record low

By Leith van Onselen Following on from yesterday’s post on CoreLogic’s daily dwelling values index results for October, CoreLogic has released its full results, which also cover the smaller capitals and regional areas (see next table). As shown above, the smaller capitals and the regions had a mixed month, with Hobart recording a solid rise


Can immigration save the housing bubble?

Blackrock CEO Larry Fink thinks so: “The biggest problem you have in Australia is the amount of leverage that’s in real estate. I don’t see a housing bubble. “You have a housing bubble if your economy sputters, you have a housing bubble if you reduce immigration. “If you allow immigration you have new entrants in society who


Sydney and Melbourne drive Australia’s housing shrinkflation

CoreLogic’s Cameron Kusher has penned another interesting blog post examining ‘shrinkflation’ – the unusual phenomenon whereby transaction volumes are falling at the same time as dwelling values are rising – with the bubble epicentres of Sydney and Melbourne leading the way: Despite a surging population and record high levels of new construction, a lower proportion


Housing credit growth continues to slow

By Leith van Onselen The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has released its private sector credit aggregates data for the  month of September 2017: A chart showing the long-run breakdown in the components is provided below: Personal credit growth (0.0% MoM; -0.3% QoQ; -1.0% YoY) is still in the gutter, whereas business credit growth (0.1%


CoreLogic: Sydney home values fall 0.5% in October

By Leith van Onselen CoreLogic’s dwelling price results are in for October, with a -0.01% decrease in values recorded over the month at the 5-city level, driven overwhelmingly by diverging fortunes in Sydney and Melbourne: Values growth continues to trend lower following the turbo-charged growth recorded over the 2016-17 financial year: Quarterly value growth is


CoreLogic: housing affordability deteriorated further in June quarter

CoreLogic’s Cameron Kusher has penned a blog post showing how housing affordability worsened over the June quarter, driven by Sydney and Melbourne: The latest data to June 2017 indicates that, despite the cash rate remaining stable at record lows, housing affordability has generally worsened over the most recent quarter.  The changes in affordability at a


Lower-income Aussie households leverage up

By Martin North, cross-posted from the Digital Finance Analytics Blog: The ABS published some revisions to their Household Income and Wealth statistics. Two data series stood out for me. First, more households are in debt today, compared with 2005-6, and second more households have debts at more than three times their income. Here is the


ABS: Australian land values in nuclear boil-over

By Leith van Onselen On Friday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its 2016-17 Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) data release, which provides a detailed presentation of annual national accounts data. Locked away on Table 61 is my favourite section of the release: data on aggregate land values at the state and national


Chinese tide goes out on global commercial realty

Last week from Gottiboff: Significant parts of the Sydney apartment market and the associated apartment land markets have cracked and are now suffering serious falls. The level of decline is much greater than most were predicting three to six months ago. The repercussions of what has happened in Sydney will quickly spread to Melbourne, although


How far does Sydney property have to fall?

From McGrathmaggeddon: Sydney’s once red-hot housing market is likely to see prices plateau or fall up to 5 per cent next year, though if there were a spike in interest rates we could see a “double digit” correction, according to veteran real estate agent John McGrath. Speaking ahead of the release of the group’s annual