Why is Melbourne property leading the downswing? CoreLogic's Eliza Owen

Why is Melbourne property leading the downswing? CoreLogic's Eliza Owen
Why is Melbourne property leading the downswing? CoreLogic's Eliza Owen


The July CoreLogic index results show the Melbourne property market is the worst capital city performer since the onset of COVID-19. June marked the third consecutive month of value falls across the city. This sees values down -2.3% from the previous quarter, when the market hit a record high. 

The results may be surprising, particularly when considering that the Sydney growth rate, which often moves quite closely with Melbourne property, was less than half this rate in the same period (at -0.8%). Several factors may explain why Melbourne in particular has experienced a more rapid decline.

Melbourne has sometimes ‘led’ cycles, and has often been more volatile

Data suggests that the Melbourne market has experienced a turn in its market before others. This was evident in the most recent upswing, where Sydney and Melbourne saw peak growth rates around November 2019, while other capital cities continued to see a more moderate but accelerating growth rate.

A longer-term view suggests it is not uncommon for Melbourne to outpace capital growth in Sydney, or to see deeper rates of decline.

The divergence is particularly evident through the 2010-2012 downturn, following a substantial over-performance from Melbourne during the post-GFC stimulus fuelled growth phase.

The most recent upswing before COVID-19 also saw Melbourne growth rates peak higher than in Sydney. The Melbourne quarterly growth rate peaked at 6.4%, compared with 6.2% across Sydney.

Cyclically then, it is not unreasonable to see Melbourne values slip at a greater rate than other capital cities.

Research also suggests that property markets where incomes are higher, households are more indebted and investor activity is higher can also be more sensitive to changes in economic conditions. This has been consistently evident in the upper quartile of values across the Melbourne market, which had the strongest value increases amid the last upswing, and are currently showing the largest falls.

High levels of investment are also evident in the Melbourne market, which may be contributing to volatility, though this is present in Sydney too.

ABS finance data shows investor lending has comprised an average 32.3% of total mortgage lending across Victoria for the past 5 years.

This is higher than most other states and territories.

Given that Melbourne has also experienced higher growth rates before the onset of COVID, and may be approaching a trough more quickly, Melbourne may not be the ‘worst performer’ over the entire cycle, but just based on a snapshot view of the past couple of months.

However, there are some key structural factors creating added downward pressure on Melbourne property prices.

ELIZA OWEN is the Head of Research Australia at CoreLogic

Eliza Owen

Eliza Owen

Property market analyst. I hold a first class honours degree in economics from the University of Sydney. I have been a regular economic commentator on FBI Radio, and have been a guest speaker on Triple J’s Hack, 702 ABC Radio, Sky News and at TEDxYouth Sydney. I have provided comment for various media outlets including The Guardian Australia, the Australian Financial Review, Pedestrian TV, the Daily Telegraph and more.

Melbourne Housing Downturn

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