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.


Melbourne’s auction market goes into hibernation

The nation’s auction market tanked last weekend on the back of a huge fall in Melbourne’s clearance rate. CoreLogic recorded a final national clearance rate of 58.0%, down from the prior weekend’s 64.3%. Sydney’s final clearance rate remained strong at 80.2% versus 78.5% the prior weekend, whereas Melbourne’s collapsed further to just 35.9% from 49.1%


CoreLogic: Property market withstanding lockdowns

CoreLogic’s head of research, Eliza Owen, has released data showing that property transaction activity is holding up well despite hard lockdowns across Sydney and Melbourne: Initial stage 2 restrictions in 2020 coincided with a drop in sales volumes nationally through April of -33.9%. This included a fall in Sydney sales of -36.7%, and -40.3% across


CoreLogic weekly house price update: What lockdowns?

In the week ended 2 September, the CoreLogic daily dwelling values index increased another 0.33%: All major markets recorded rising values. Note, Perth’s daily index has been suspended while CoreLogic investigates anomalies: Quarterly price growth remains turbo-charged at 5.09% across the five major capitals. Sydney (6.47%) continues to lead the way, followed by Brisbane (6.21%),


Construction mortgages bust, renos boom

Today’s lending indicators data for July from the ABS shows that construction mortgages have collapsed following the ending of the HomeBuilder subsidy in March: Construction mortgages have fallen 48% from February’s peak. That said, tradies should be kept busy by the home renovation boom, as evidenced by loans for alterations & additions surging to new


The Great Australian housing divide

CoreLogic’s August Housing Chart Pack showed that the total value of Australia’s housing stock had risen to a whopping $8.8 trillion dollars: This dwarfs other asset classes, with real estate valued at more than Australia’s total superannuation wealth ($3.1 trillion), listed stocks ($2.8 trillion) and commercial real estate ($978 billion) combined. New CoreLogic data reveals


Australian mortgage demand still red hot

The Australian mortgage market rose in July despite lockdowns, according to new data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The total value of new mortgage commitments rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in July 2021 to be up 68.2% year-on-year: As shown above, owner-occupiers have driven mortgage demand this cycle, whereas investor


Lack of supply supporting property values during lockdowns

Following SQM Research’s data showing property listings hitting their lowest level on record in August, CoreLogic has released similar data showing listings running 29.4% below average: At the same time, property sales are running around 30% above average: Accordingly, CoreLogic believes the lack of stock will support property values during lockdowns: “Although there has recently


August property listings hit record low

SQM Research’s August stock on market report reveals that for sale listings hit a fresh all-time low, plummeting by 9.6% to 215,911 from 238,834 in July 2021: This represents the lowest count of listings recorded by SQM Research since it begun its series in January 2010. The largest monthly falls in property listings in August


Australian mortgage growth accelerates

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has released its private sector credit aggregates data for the month of July. Quarterly mortgage credit growth continued to firm, rising for the 12th consecutive month to 1.9% – the highest rate of growth since 2015: Owner-occupiers continue to drive mortgage growth, rising by 2.5% over the quarter versus


Saul Eslake shreds fake housing affordability inquiry

As we know, the Morrison Government has launched another housing affordability inquiry – this time examining ‘supply-side impediments’. Independent economist Saul Eslake has lodged a submission to the inquiry shredding the “crocodile tears” displayed by politicians pretending to care about housing affordability [my emphasis]: As a multiple of average household disposable income per person aged


Regional property losing its affordability advantage

The Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) Affordability Index is calculated for each of the eight Australian capital cities and regional areas on a quarterly basis and takes into account the latest dwelling prices, mortgage interest rates and wage developments. The latest report to June 2021 shows that affordability across Australia’s regional property markets has deteriorated at


Morrison Government supports property money laundering

Fifteen years ago, the Australian Government agreed to implement the Tranche 2 global AML rules for lawyers, accountants and real estate agents in a bid to prevent laundering of illicit funds, especially into Australian property. However, these reforms have been continually postponed amid fierce lobbying by shadowy “vested interests” negatively impacted by the reforms. This


Melbourne’s auction market collapses deeper into abyss

The nation’s auction market collapsed into a deeper hole over the weekend on the back of another massive fall in Melbourne’s clearance rate. CoreLogic recorded a preliminary national clearance rate of 55.4%, down from the prior weekend’s 63.3%. Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate remained rock solid at 82.7% versus 81.7% the prior weekend, whereas Melbourne’s collapsed


Auction market dented by lockdowns

The nation’s auction market dived over the weekend on the back of a huge fall in Melbourne’s clearance rate. CoreLogic recorded a final national clearance rate of 64.3%, down from the prior weekend’s 70.0%. Sydney’s final clearance rate remained strong at 78.5% versus 81.3% the prior weekend, whereas Melbourne’s collapsed to just 49.1% from 59.9%


CoreLogic weekly house price update: slowing

In the week ended 26 August, the CoreLogic daily dwelling values index increased another 0.29% – the equal slowest growth since early February: All major markets recorded rising values. Note, Perth’s daily index has been suspended while CoreLogic investigates anomalies: So far in August, values have risen by 1.27%, with all major capitals recording rises:


Sydney and Melbourne lead slowing Aussie property market

Price growth across Australia’s two biggest and most expensive property markets is slowing much more quickly than its smaller capital city peers, according to CoreLogic’s daily dwelling values index: As shown above: Sydney’s quarterly price growth peaked at 9.6% in mid-May but has slowed to 6.9% as at 25 August. Melbourne’s quarterly price growth peaked


Westpac: Lockdowns to hit property turnover not prices

Westpac has released its Housing Pulse for August, which examines the impacts of lockdowns on the property market. Westpac believes that recent hard lockdowns across Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere will impact property turnover rather than prices: On balance, we expect the situation to see a temporary loss of momentum rather than a correction – even


Property lobby begs for migrants to fill empty homes

According to the Housing Industry Association (HIA), 2021 will mark a record year of detached house construction: However, HIA Economist Angela Lillicrap has called on the federal government to reboot pre-COVID levels of extreme immigration to ensure that housing demand remains strong: “Australia is experiencing a building boom with a record level of detached homes


Melbourne’s auction market collapses on lockdown

The nation’s auction market dived over the weekend on the back of a massive fall in Melbourne’s clearance rate. CoreLogic recorded a preliminary national clearance rate of 63.3%, down from the prior weekend’s 72.3%. Sydney’s preliminary clearance rate remained rock solid at 81.7% versus 82.9% the prior weekend, whereas Melbourne’s collapsed to just 48.6% from