The property doomsday is running late: DPN's Sam Khalil

The property doomsday is running late: DPN's Sam Khalil
The property doomsday is running late: DPN's Sam Khalil


Every year the spring market attracts massive attention. September is seen as a litmus test for the rest of the year and a stern assessment of how resilient the property market really is. It’s the AFL Grand Finals of real estate – which, oddly enough, is on at the same time.

This year’s been no different. After a very strong winter, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, the pressure on the September markets has been huge. This has been exacerbated by the stringent restrictions brought in on investment loans by the major banks. Also, cautionary warnings of apartment oversupply have meant that investors are studying the market with high-beamed intensity.

But how much can we really read into September? Is it really just a snapshot in time or is it indicative of long-term market trends?

Let’s start with the clearance rates. Sydney’s clearance rates have slightly dropped as have Melbourne’s. Last year Sydney was hitting the 80% clearance mark regularly, whereas this year it’s been around the mid 70s. The so called “Super Saturday”, the last Saturday of September saw clearance rates in Sydney slip a fraction below 70 percent for the first time this year.  Melbourne has also lost a few points, from around the high 70s to mid 70s this month. However, it’s crucial to remember two important things: this year has seen a record number of properties come onto the market. This has been because such a buoyant winter has caused many owners to try and cash in quickly. So the market has been absorbing a flood of properties and the increased competition has led to a slight drop in clearances. A result in the 70% region for September is still very strong.

The second thing worth noting is that while clearance rates have dropped, prices really haven’t. So while various media outlets have been quick to prophesy doom and gloom there’s absolutely no evidence of falling prices. In the same article in Sydney Morning Herald’s Domain about the drop in clearance rates there was news of a Darling Point property going for almost $3 million above reserve. Auction results generally have shown that sales prices are still strong. The market is robust enough to cope.

There is a clear confidence in the local markets as shown by the numbers of investors going to auction. The markets have themselves repaid this confidence with still strong auction results and relatively short turnarounds.

To get a handle on the national figures you need to delve deeper. There is a clear disparity between cities like Sydney and Melbourne which have been relentlessly driving the property markets upward and that of cities like Darwin, Perth and Canberra which are all experiencing negative growth and sliding clearance rates. This then averages out the national sales figures. 

The media has also been a big factor. Every week there’s been warnings of an imminent burst in the property bubble or a collapse in prices. This can cause a flow on panic factor, with investors rushing to sell before doomsday arrives. So far doomsday is still running late.

It’s important to remember that since 2009 Sydney has recorded a phenomenal growth of 76 percent according to Core Data figures. If you bought a property back then, on average, you would have seen this jump by around $300K in the last six years. Sydney and Melbourne remain highly desirable cities to live in. They’ve shown their resilience and ability to absorb wild property price swings in the past. They’re both international cities highly attractive to overseas investors. Whilst an oversupply of apartments in both cities may slow down parts of the market in the short term - it will inevitably catch up again. 

Beyond the two big cities, outlying regional centers such as Wollongong in NSW and Geelong in Victoria have been experiencing record property price booms as investors start to look outwards.  In the Illawarra region, for instance, auction clearances are going over 80%, a truly remarkable outcome.

To understand the clearance rates each city has to be broken down into its geographic areas. These can wildly differ. For example, Sydney’s North Shore has been having very good clearance rates and the eastern suburb properties are firing yet the south western suburbs are identifiably weaker. In fact clearance rates in the south west have fallen in the last year from around 69.8% to 54.9%. This is a pretty dramatic drop. But does it speak for the rest of the heated Sydney market? Probably not.

So ultimately it comes down to picking the right long term growth suburb and choosing the ideal property type. A good long-term investment property will not be affected by the vagaries of the spring market. This is why it’s always an excellent idea to chat to a professional who can offer solid research and help create a strategy that bypasses the flurry of the market.

SAM KHALIL is founder and director of Direct Property Network.

Investment Property market

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