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.


Final auction clearance rate surges to 6-year high

CoreLogic has released its final auction clearance results for last weekend, which reveals that the nation’s clearance rate hit a 6-year high of 79.3%: Sydney’s final clearance rate was a red hot 84.4%, whereas Melbourne’s was also strong at 76.0%. Even the smaller capitals, which don’t run many auctions, reported strong results: The number of


China bans BBC

The Anglosphere is at war with the CCP: In an apparent tit for tat move, BBC World News has been banned from airing in China, according to a statement from China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) on Thursday. The announcement comes one week after Ofcom, the British media regulator, said it had withdrawn a


Aussies reject apartment ‘battery chook’ living

One of the biggest side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian property market is that it has reversed the trend towards apartment living. There are several drivers behind this trend. First, the collapse in immigration and international student numbers has dampened apartment demand in inner-cities. This is reflected by the sharp fall in


As the property bubble is nationalised, it only gets worse

In Australia’s scab grab political economy, history (even recent history ) plays no role. It’s a shame because there are, in fact, three distinct phases of the development in the great Australian property bubble. If we understood each then we might end it. So ignorance must be manufactured such that vested interests can continue their


Rental market red hot outside of Melbourne and Sydney

CoreLogic’s Housing Market Update Report for February includes interesting data on Australia’s rental market, which is rebounding strongly from the soft conditions evident between 2018 and 2020. As illustrated in the next chart, rental growth nationally rebounded to 2.5% in the year to January 2021: Rental markets are tightening across most areas of Australia –


Mortgage stress hits one-in-five borrowers

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Gottiboff: Will nobody think of the landlords!?

Robert Gottliebsen claims that Australia faces a “landlord crisis” and escalating rents once the moratoriums that allowed residential tenants to defer their rent obligations for most of 2020 expire in late March. According to Gottliebsen, many landlords will either decide to sell their rental property or leave it vacant, and this will make the current


Don’t buy a Sydney or Melbourne apartment

While the Australian property market as whole is on a tear, reporting strong growth across all major markets and regional areas, there are pockets where rents are going backwards and present great risks to budding property investors. In particular, high-rise apartments across Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from a strong supply response that has run


Auction market turns white hot

CoreLogic released its preliminary report for the weekend’s auctions, which reported more strong results. In particular, both Sydney and Melbourne reported preliminary clearance rates above 80%, which portends further price rises for both cities: This was off auction volumes that were slightly above the same weekend in 2019. As shown in the next chart, Australia’s


Is QE blowing Australian bubbles?

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Real estate parasites demand tax deductible mortgages

For the rent-seekers in the property industry, no amount of taxpayer subsidies or interest rate cuts are ever enough. Despite the Australian property market defying the COVID-19 downturn thanks to massive taxpayer stimulus and RBA intervention in the mortgage market, which has driven first home buyer (FHB) demand to new highs: The Real Estate Institute


Captain Lowe greenlights house prices to the moon!

Via the good Captain today in Parliament: The RBA does not – and should not – target housing prices. Instead our focus is on the lending that is used to purchase housing. There are many moving parts here at present: record low interest rates; a shift in preferences towards houses and regional locations; large government


Property lobby begs for migrants to fill empty homes

As expected, the Housing Industry Association (HIA) has used its pre-Budget submission to lobby for a return to mass immigration. The lobby group warns that the closure of Australia’s international borders will result in reduced demand for housing, which is in turn likely to see residential construction activity fall sharply in 2022. Master Builders Australia


As house construction booms, apartment construction busts

Yesterday’s dwelling approvals data for December, released by the ABS, revealed that detached house approvals surged to their highest level in the series’ 38-year history: At the same time, however, unit & apartment approvals have retraced to around 2010 levels: The Housing Industry Association (HIA) explains this divergence as follows: “There is a divergence in


Mortgage stress falls

Via Martin North: The latest results from our household surveys reveals that by the end of January 2021, overall levels of mortgage stress dropped below 40%, to 39.5% – still well above the level prior to the virus hitting. This is a consequence of lower mortgage rates following the RBA cash rate cuts, liquidity support