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.

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A property investor rebound is inevitable

Property investors have largely been absent from Australia’s property rebound, which so far has been driven by owner-occupiers (including first home buyers): However, The AFR believes that property investor interest will reignite in 2021; although it will look far different to previous cycles: Many investors have had a tough year. Apartment rents in inner Sydney

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Final auction clearance rate retraces

CoreLogic has released its final auction clearance results for last weekend, which reveals that the final national clearance rate retraced to 69.0% from 71.0% the prior week: Sydney’s auction clearance strengthened to 73.3% from 73.1% the prior week, whereas Melbourne’s fell to 68.0% from 70.1%. As noted by CoreLogic: There were 1,757 auctions held across

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Get set for a mortgage refinancing tsunami

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA’s) indicator lending rates show that the average discount mortgage rate was only 3.65% in October and the average 3-year fixed rate was only 2.39%: The wide gap between variable and fixed rates, alongside the bevy of fixed mortgage deals below 2%, is projected to cause a mortgage refinancing boom

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Owner-occupiers drive Australia’s housing rebound

Eliza Owen, head of research at CoreLogic, has released a report explaining how owner-occupiers and first home buyers are driving Australia’s housing rebound: The volume of finance secured for the purchase of property experienced a strong rebound in the September quarter, following the initial shock to demand for housing in the first two months of

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Criminal mortgage lending push in trouble?

Via the AFR comes Labor’s finance spokesman Stephen Jones has torpedoed the scrapping of responsible lending laws: “If there are serious issues about the flow of credit, we’re willing to look at it but rolling back consumer protection is a no-go zone.” …Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff said he would consider whether “additional safeguards” were

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How China uses subnational diplomacy to exert influence over Australia

Associate Professor Salvatore Babones has released a new report at the Centre for Independent Studies entitled “A House Divided: The AFRB and China’s Subnational Diplomacy in Australia”, which explains how China uses subnational diplomacy to exert influence over Australia. Below is the Executive Summary: Australia is an open society awash in Chinese foreign influence operations,

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Australia’s mortgage cliff continues to shrink

At the beginning of this month, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) released data revealing that the number of mortgage deferrals had shrunk by around one-third, from a peak of 488,249 mortgages in May to 324,894 mortgages in September. Yesterday, CBA updated the market on its loan deferral program, which showed that the number of

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Mortgage victims slam scrapping of responsible lending laws

Victim witnesses of the Hayne banking royal commission and consumer groups have united to oppose the Morrison Government’s announced axing of responsible lending laws: The Consumer Action Law Centre, which helped many commission witnesses through the gruelling process, says changing responsible lending laws could lead to trouble. “The Treasurer’s proposals are a real slap in

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Myth busted: Australia’s houses are not the world’s largest

CommSec has released its annual Home Size Trends Report, which claims that Australia’s houses are now the world’s largest: Australia is again building the biggest houses in the world. Data commissioned by CommSec from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows the average new house built in 2019/20 was 235.8 square metres, up 2.9 per cent

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Sydney dominates nation’s auction market

CoreLogic’s preliminary auction clearance rate softened this weekend, with 73.2% of reported auctions cleared versus 77.0% last weekend: Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate remained strong with 78.6% of reported auctions cleared versus 79.6% last weekend. Melbourne’s preliminary auction clearance rate softened to 71.8% versus 75.8% last weekend. According to CoreLogic: There were 1,758 homes taken to

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Has COVID-19 really spurred a regional property boom?

CoreLogic’s head of research, Eliza Owen, has published the below interesting research questioning the notion that COVID-19 has spured a regional housing boom: There has been a high level of interest as to whether the pandemic has spurred housing demand in regional markets of Australia. Housing market data is partially suggestive of this, especially across

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Get ready for a fixed rate mortgage boom

Fixed-rate loans dominate the UK mortgage market, accounting for around 90% of home loans. By comparison, 70% to 90% of property borrowers in Australia opt for variable interest rates. However, National Australia Bank CEO Ross McEwan believes that the trend toward fixed-rate loans will continue to gather pace and they may soon account for about

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CBD office occupancy rises as workers trickle back

CBD office occupancy rates are slowly rising back toward pre-COVID norms as restrictions ease and workers return: The rates are compiled by the Property Council of Australia based on responses from 102 office landlords, who collectively own or manage the majority of central business district office buildings. “The shift is on and more CBD workers

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Final auction clearance rate booms

CoreLogic has released its final auction clearance results for last weekend, which reveals that the final national clearance rate surged to 71.0% from 66.9% the prior week: Sydney’s auction clearance strengthened to 73.1% from 70.4% the prior week, whereas Melbourne’s rose to 70.1% from 63.52%. As noted by CoreLogic: Last week, the combined capital city

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Bipartisan agreement at last as developer bribes liberalised

Yes, our pollies have come together to tackle the crucial issue of our time, at The Converastion: While Australians were distracted last week by Melbourne’s lockdown ending and the final days of the Queensland and United States elections, both major parties joined forces in federal parliament to weaken political donations laws. This will make it easier for federal

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Charting Australia’s housing construction glut

With last week’s release of population growth data for the September quarter, it is once again time to examine how Australia’s dwelling supply is tracking against population growth, as projected in the 2020 federal budget. The below charts track the above population projections against the latest available quarterly dwelling construction data, specifically: Dwelling approvals to

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Fiscal cliff delivers all-time high for household financial stress

Via Martin North: The results from our latest household surveys reveals that despite the return to work as the lock down is eased, the reduction in JobSeeker, JobKeeper and the need to renew mortgage payments are all offsetting the better job news, in a low income growth, high cost environment. We also updated our property

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CBA kicks mortgage cliff to Q3 2021

With repayments on $133 billion worth of mortgages from 325,000 borrowers still deferred, according to APRA, Australia’s largest bank – CBA – has extended a moratorium on forced sales until September 2021: In an email between CBA and Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) obtained by News Corp, the bank confirmed customers still impacted by the health

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Aussies are shunning debt. Unless it’s for a new home

Yesterday’s Lending Indicators data for September from the ABS revealed that Aussie households continue to shun consumer borrowings, with personal finance commitments falling to their lowest level on record: As shown above, annual new personal finance commitments fell by 13% year-on-year and were 41% below the long-term average. This followed Friday’s private credit data from