Bridging the gap between buyer expectations and affordability: Peter Chittenden

Bridging the gap between buyer expectations and affordability: Peter Chittenden
Bridging the gap between buyer expectations and affordability: Peter Chittenden

The Property Council’s Outlook Series is designed to fuel an informed debate about what are the various social, economic and unavoidably political influences impacting the residential market as we well all settle into 2013. The format usually involves developers, planners and marketers and taking the focus of marketing I would like to share my views as recently presented and looking to the year ahead.

My theme was ‘Bridge The Gap’ by which I explore the gap between how buyers in the residential market anticipate what people want from their homes and how affordability impacts the reality of the marketplace. Fully aware of the reality that affordability is a fundamental issue, one that is made up of many factors, most of which as markets we have to either directly or indirectly address.

In 2013, firstly we need to consider a reality check that clearly tells us that ‘today’s teens consumer’ is a very complex demographic, having been markedly impacted by the GFC while mixed with the varied aspirations Generation X and Y combined with those of the Baby Boomers presents some very fascinating markets within the residential matrix.

While some quarters have started to argue that it is well and truly the time to look beyond the GFC it is not possible to dismiss many of the lingering influences that are now apparent across the residential market. From a marketing standpoint, where our message has to gain traction with the teens consumer the GFC has along with other demographic shifts re-cast how many consumers see home ownership.

Despite a variety of barriers people still want to own their own homes, there is still a society wide aspiration that anticipates that most of us will eventually do so and it’s a fact that every politician also understands. It’s a big part of the reason why infrastructure has climbed into such prominence and the aspiration to own a home is not limited to one set of demographics.

Family formation is still the central driver of demand, but when it comes to financing a home we are dealing with a more conservative market, consumers are more debit adverse than they have ever been, while house prices continue to rise as do rents we are still left in a market where future capital growth looks less robust. Taking on a higher level of debit with an eye to future ‘gains’ has lost much of its appeal.

The Financial Hard Yards

In the Sydney market we now have a median house price that is sitting very close to $650,000, median rents are $490-$500 per week and almost despite their location apartments have an average cost of $10,000 per sqm.

Looking at the apartment market in particular what this mix leads too is a fairly daunting financial hurdle that is now a constant when it comes to marketing any new project.

So it’s sobering to consider some current figures to illustrate my point. If we take the average sale price of new apartments now on the market at $518,000, then compare that to the average monthly household income of $7102 and assume a 6% mortgage rate over 25 years our buyers are looking at monthly repayments of $2670 and that’s 40% of their income.

It’s no wonder that first time buyers in the market are less active and this is also leading to a big impact on what type of apartments are in demand and also where buyers are concentrating their search.

To stress this point, as if any further emphasis was needed, last week it was reported that the federal government’s independent adviser on housing, the National Housing Supply Council warned that poor planning and high costs could be taking Australia towards being a nation of renters that would also influence the composition of our housing stock.

Poor Planning Too Long Neglected

Poor planning is a theme that is not new to anyone in our field and is a constant source of concern expressed in Project Agenda. The tone of many presentations at the Property Council’s Outlook Series made reference to the impact of poor planning and the lack of infrastructure and in marketing new projects these issues remain a constant problem.

It’s notable that comments made during the PCA function indicated that planning issues are now being tied more closely with restrictive regulations and planning delays at the state and local government level, while policy makers were keen to see solutions and real progress made, there were still concerns that grass roots implementation was proving more difficult to achieve.


Making The Connection

Against this background there is clearly a shift that has taken place in what type of apartments are in demand and in marketing projects where sales are strongest and who is buying. Both vital elements if a project is to be successfully sold.

As the above comments highlight it is finance and affordability that are the main factors influencing buyers, but there are also other key issues that we need to take into consideration in planning and in our marketing.

Did you know we now have in Australia an average of 2.7 persons per household? While the number of sole person households has been increasing for some decades. Across the apartment market as might be expected this has markedly influenced the type of product being sold and to whom and this shift is also having a material impact on what these same buyers see as priorities influencing where they buy.

These are all key points that must be considered in addressing the viability of any project that will profoundly impact the marketing.

How we work in this environment I feel requires a mix of marketing solutions that I can fully appreciate may at first appear to be a somewhat daunting tasks. Many factors like those we have already discussed here including planning, finance and a shift in consumer sentiment are well outside our control but non the less this is really nothing new as external factors have always driven the level of activity and this certainly includes residential property.

I do acknowledge that apartment markets because of the much higher numbers and density involved might well tend to concentrate some trends, but as I will go onto to explore in another post, with a full appreciation of market drivers there are clear solutions to consider as we seek to ‘bridge the gap.’

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

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