March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

March quarter strongest for house sales in five years
March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

For the first three months of 2014 there were 82,051 house sales and 30,417 unit sales recorded. Sales over the first quarter of this year were much softer than over the last quarter of 2013.

 Regardless, March 2014 managed to record the strongest first quarter for house sales since 2009, and the strongest for units since 2010. House sales were 7.9% higher and unit sales are 4.0% higher than for the same quarter in 2013.

 March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

Sales volumes are generally lower over the first quarter of any year compared to the remaining quarters which is largely due to a slowing in housing market activity throughout most of January and often well into February.

Given this, it’s not necessarily best to compare sales between quarters because the housing market acts very differently in each period however, comparing to the same quarter in previous years does provide insight into the comparative performance of the market.

Across individual capital city markets, the annual change in sales is quite varied and dependent upon where each city is within the property cycle.

 March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

In the more subdued capital city markets of Brisbane and Adelaide where value growth has been limited, these two cities managed to record the greatest annual rise in sales; up 21.1% and 10.8% respectively. Perth and Canberra on the other hand, have recorded falls in sales over the year, down -8.2% and -4.2% respectively.

By way of the variation between houses and units the pick-up in sales activity year-on-year has been greater for houses (7.9%) than it has been for units (1.2%). Over the first three months of this year, house sales were higher than in the same period last year across each city except for Perth (-5.9%) and Darwin (-6.0%). Focussing on unit sales, sales are lower over the first quarter in Sydney (-1.7%), Perth (-17.6%) and Canberra (-23.9%).

 March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

Historically there has always been a strong correlation between sales volumes and property values. If demand is greater and more homes are selling, the likelihood is that values will rise. Alternatively, if fewer buyers are active in the market selling conditions become tougher and values fall,” he said.

When the number of homes sales across Australia’s capital cities edge below 80,000 on a quarterly basis, values are typically rising by a quarterly rate of less than 2.0%. However, when quarterly sales fall to 70,000, this has generally been a trigger point for values to start falling.

While our March sales volumes data indicates that although sales are higher than they were a year ago, monthly sales activity isn’t as strong as it was at the end of 2013.

With the quarterly rate of home value growth having most recently peaked in September 2013 and quarterly sales having peaked shortly thereafter in November, it will be interesting to watch what happens to sales and values from here.

 March quarter strongest for house sales in five years

The May RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index results released earlier this week confirmed that capital city home values fell by -1.9% in May 2014. Although this is likely the result of a seasonal influence on the reading, I question that with quarterly value growth peaking and sales volumes tapering, will volumes continue to ease and value growth continue to moderate? Alternatively, will the second half of the year see a rebound in both sales and values much like occurred over the second half of 2013?

While as yet we don’t know the answer to this question, we do know is that last year values rose by 3.0% over the first six months of 2013 followed by a 6.6% capital gain over the second half. With interest rates set to remain low, it may provide enough stimuli to see values start climbing more rapidly once more. We believe that the strong growth in late 2013 and early 2014 has peaked and although values are likely to keep rising, they will most likely do so at a more moderate pace.

This is largely due to affordability constraints becoming more prevalent in the market and both lower returns and capital growth potential for the investors that have been so active in the market. Adding to this is consumer sentiment, which has been trending lower since September last year.

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at CoreLogic RP Data.

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Cameron Kusher

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