Property market could already be close to its peak: Alan Oster

Property market could already be close to its peak: Alan Oster
Property market could already be close to its peak: Alan Oster

GUEST OBSERVER

It is yet too soon to gauge the true impact of recent macro-prudential measures on the housing market, but recent reads on prices suggest the market could already be close to its peak.

According to CoreLogic’s hedonic price measure, property prices fell in May, including in the major boom cities of Sydney and Melbourne – prices fell for both detached houses and units, although the latter fell by more. Declines were not uniform, however, with dwelling prices rising in both Brisbane and Adelaide.

Mortgage lending has cooled only slightly, but is expected to be weighed down as lenders look to stem the flow of interest only loans (with the biggest impact likely to be seen in investor credit). Mortgage credit rose by a steady (albeit subdued) 0.5% m/m in April, as investor credit actually outpaced owner-occupied credit modestly.

Looming headwinds from prudential tightening, combined with rising housing supply, affordability constraints and modest wages growth (which looks set to continue), validate our expectation for the housing market to cool from here.

That said, while the risks have certainly compounded, we continue to expect an orderly conclusion to the long-running housing boom in major markets, with the profile also helped by additional policy announcements of late to support first home buyers.

Our national forecasts for houses in 2017 are 7.2 percent in 2017 and 4.3 percent in 2018. Unit prices are forecast to rise 6.8 percent in 2017, but will fall modestly in 2018 (-0.4 percent).

Forecasts for 2017 anticipate additional modest growth in coming months, suggesting a degree of downside risk.

Dwelling investment dropped by a greater than expected 4.4 percent in Q4, occurring despite a pipeline of construction projects that is close to record levels – although weather related disruptions may have contributed to the result.

However, it is possible that supply is being constrained by other factors, including deliberate delays by developers in response to rising settlement concerns. Capacity constraints and tighter credit availability are other possible explanations.

Declines were seen across both new and used dwellings (down 4 percent) and alterations & additions (renovations, down 5.2 percent). Growth in dwelling investment over the year was also soft at -2.5 percent y/y.

New building approvals have come off from their highs, but have held steady at higher than expected levels in recent months.

That might suggest the housing construction boom has a little further to run (despite recent declines in dwelling investment), although our economic modelling still points to significant downside risks to the outlook. Overall, dwelling investment is expected to be flat in 2017 (revised down due to very weak Q1 outcome), before turning modestly negative (-0.4 percent and -2.5 percent in 2018 and 2019 respectively). 

Hints that housing prices are starting to peak will be welcome by the Reserve Bank who remain concerned about elevated household debt. While it is early days, this is consistent with our view that housing prices will slow from here, particularly given further tightening in credit growth as banks are forced to cut back on interest only loans. No rate hikes are likely however until mid- 2019.  

Alan Oster is group chief economist, National Australia Bank, and can be contacted here.

 

Tags: 
Property Prices Housing Market

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