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.


Study: Apartment living bad for children’s health

With Australia’s mass immigration policy forcing people to live in high density apartments rather than traditional houses, a new study by the University of Queensland has found that the loss of backyards is harming children’s health: The steadily shrinking backyard in Australia could be having an effect on how much exercise children get, new research


Banker: HEM appeal will slow credit

Good. Via Investor Daily: A former Macquarie banker says hazy guidelines around lending will cause problems for the next six months following the Westpac case, predicting the big four banks will corner ASIC and demand clearer standards. During a panel discussion at The REAL Future of Advice Conference in Vietnam this week, former Macquarie head


Australia’s housing valuation bottoms-out

The ABS on Tuesday released its property price data for the June quarter, which valued Australia’s dwelling stock owned by households at $6.31 trillion, whereas the total housing stock was valued at $6.61 trillion. As shown below, the total value of Australia’s dwelling stock owned by households was 6.93 times employee incomes as at June,


UDIA: Victorian housing shortage worsens as population soars

New dwelling approvals in Victoria in the year to June were at 59,719, according to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), which compares to 75,613 in the previous year. With the UDIA estimating that 78% of approvals become completed homes, this would mean completed dwellings fell from 58,978 to 46,581. UDIA Victoria CEO Danni


Perth’s rental market enters “strong recovery phase”

After spending years in the doldrums, whereby rental prices fell by 22% peak-to-trough: SQM Research claims that Perth rents are “in a strong recovery phase”: After an extended housing downturn, it appears that Perth’s rental market is in a strong recovery phase. While rental vacancy rates are elevated at 2.9% the trend has been down


Sydney rental vacancies to hit 4% by year’s end

SQM Researchhas released its rental vacancy series for August, which revealed a small decrease in the national vacancy rate to 2.2% from 2.3% last month; although it was up 0.1% over the year: Over the year, decreases in vacancies were recorded in Brisbane (-0.3%), Perth (-0.8%), Adelaide (-0.2%), and Darwin (-0.6%), whereas increases were recorded


Sydney’s stark East-West housing divide

I has been dubbed the “latte line” – the divide between poorer disadvantaged Sydney residents living in the West and their wealthy counterparts in living in the East. Christopher Brown, Chairman of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue (WSLD), explained the “latte line” recently: “As much as we are strong advocates of western Sydney, we need


ABS: Property prices fell 0.7% in Q2

The ABS has released its property price index – incorporating both detached houses and units – which registered another 0.7% decline in home values nationally over the June quarter and a 7.4% decline over the year: Sydney (-0.5%), Melbourne (-0.8%), Brisbane (-0.7%), Perth (-1.4%), Adelaide (-0.6%), and Darwin (-1.8%) all recorded quarterly declines in values,


Ralan collapse torches Chinese investor millions

As we know, developer Ralan has collapsed owing creditors at least half a billion dollars. Included among them are hundreds of buyers who bought apartments off-the-plan who are facing deposit losses of up to $70,000 or more. Many of these buyers were Chinese, who were targeted in an elaborate ponzi scheme: “It’s a quasi Ponzi


Mortgage arrears remain pressured

Via S&P: Australian prime home-loan arrears fell in July. The Standard & Poor’s Performance Index (SPIN) for Australian prime mortgages dropped to 1.49% in July from 1.51% a month earlier. That’s according to S&P Global Ratings’ recently published “RMBS Arrears Statistics: Australia” report. The trend is seasonal; arrears typically fall at this point in the


Defect crisis slams apartment sales

Why would anyone buy an apartment today? Via the AFR: Buyer fears about high-rise apartment fires and construction risks are causing sale times to blow out by more than 60 per cent compared with a year ago, creating bottlenecks for sellers. Lenders are also making it tougher for borrowers to buy apartments by blacklisting some


Flammable cladding buildings kept secret

The New South Wales Government has instructed councils to keep flammable cladding locations secret in order to thwart potential terrorists from setting these buildings alight, as well as to protect apartment values. From The Guardian: In NSW, a taskforce has spent two years auditing 185,000 building records to understand how widespread flammable cladding is. Laws have been


Corrupt APRA warns on housing speculation, eggs it on

The corrupt Wayne Byers and his disgraced APRA have undertaken a new round of arse covering, from a speech Friday: APRA recently issued its four-year Corporate Plan for 2019-2023. In it, we called out four key outcomes we will be seeking to deliver for the Australian community: maintaining financial stability and resilience within the financial


Auction clearances remain strong

Auction clearance rates remained strong over the weekend, with the preliminary rate nationally coming in at 75.7%, down slightly from 77.0% last weekend: Auction clearances were also way above the 51.8% recorded in the same weekend last year: Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate was 80.3%, down from 83.1% last weekend, but way above the 48.6% recorded


UBS: House prices entering pointless “mini-boom”

Via the excellent George Tharenou at UBS: …we expect RBA rate cuts & APRA credit easing to trigger a ‘mini-boom’ for home prices (5-10% y/y) & home loans (15-20% y/y). Nonetheless, ‘this cycle will be different’…we expect much of the typical multiplier from strong house prices, to the ‘real’ economy, to be unusually muted in


Melbourne land bubble deflates

Last year it became apparent that Melbourne’s house and land market had become an giant bubble after the median price for a housing lot hit $339,000 – up 21% in only 12 months – with steeper rises in the cost per square metre: In August 2018, the panic began to set in with land speculators rushing for the exits.


Australian property sales crash to fresh 23-year lows

Below are the latest charts, derived from CoreLogic data, plotting annual sales volumes across Australia’s capital cities to May 2019: Sydney (-48%), Melbourne (-38%), Brisbane (-41%), and Perth (-37%) are all down massively from their most recent peaks, whereas across the combined capitals sales are down 36%. In fact, the last time annual sales volumes


ScoMo’s sub-prime FHB guarantee rises

Via Ian Rogers at Banking Day: The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme will kick in from 1 January 2020, allowing up to 10,000 borrowers a year to benefit from guarantees for lenders from the Australian government. The National Housing Finance and Investment Corp will administer the scheme, with a bill to enable this policy introduced


Professors: Property bubble has engulfed society

Via Domain: Forget blue or white collar workers – our society is now broken down by the size of our investment housing portfolio. New research by academics at the University of Sydney suggests the office room debate about property prices and Australians’ intimate understanding of negative gearing points to how we have become an “asset


CoreLogic weekly Australian house price update: rocket man

In the week ended 12 September 2019, the CoreLogic 5-city daily dwelling price index, which covers the five major capital city markets, surged another 0.35%: The rise in values was again driven by Sydney and Melbourne, where values rocketed: Quarterly dwelling values are now rising solidly, again driven by Sydney and Melbourne: However, annual losses


Strong mortgage rebound driven by Sydney and Melbourne

CoreLogic’s research analyst, Cameron Kusher, has released some interesting analysis of last week’s ABS housing finance data, showing that NSW (Sydney) and VIC (Melbourne) are leading the strong rebound, which is reflected by their rising dwelling values: The ABS results confirmed that housing finance commitments data has shown a sharp rise with the uplift in


Gottiboff parties as the bubble is back!

Via Gottiboff today: Last Friday three massive Sydney apartment complexes were given the approval go-ahead and Harry Triguboff’s Meriton will immediately proceed with developing all three in a $3 billion project – the biggest apartment building operation in Australia’s history. …But bank market share of the boom funding has been decimated. Meriton reports that 50


Litigants pass the buck for flammable cladding debacle

Back in March, the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled that those who consulted to builder LU Simon on Melbourne’s Lacrosse Building were responsible for the flammable cladding that caused a potentially fatal fire in 2014. LU Simon was also ordered to pay apartment owners $5.75 million in damages arising from the fire, but


Final auction clearance rates strengthen

Last weekend, CoreLogic released its preliminary auction clearance rates, which revealed the following results: Today, CoreLogic has released its final auction results, which reported a 4.7% decline in the final national auction clearance rate to 72.3% – well above the same weekend last year (55.3%) and also above last week’s 70.0%: As you can see,


Tiny home mania born from housing policy failures

Last week, we reported that the New Zealand Government had effectively abandoned its “Kiwibuild” program to build 100,000 public houses after it fell way behind target, replacing it instead with a range of demand-side policies that would actually lift dwelling prices and make housing less affordable. Now, the NZ Government has sought changes to council