Commercial approvals at record highs, apartment approvals volatile: CommSec

Joel RobinsonMarch 5, 20180 min read

Guest Observer

Dwelling approvals rose by 17.1 per cent in January after declining by a downwardly revised 20.6 per cent in December (previously -20.0 per cent).

It was the strongest monthly increase in over four years. The annual value of commercial building approvals stands at record highs of $47.4 billion.

What does it all mean?

Commercial building approvals reached record highs in dollar terms at $47.4 billion in January. Strong growth in tourism and high occupancy rates are likely encouraging activity in the CBD hotels sector. High demand for warehousing from growing online retailing may also be supporting industrial commercial developments. Office sentiment also remains elevated according to the latest NAB commercial property survey.

Apartment approvals remain volatile, especially in Melbourne. This is to be expected during the summer ‘low’ season. Victorian dwelling approvals are up by 22.5 per cent over the year, reflecting the underlying strength of the economy and nation-leading population growth.

But it’s Queensland that leads the nation in total building approvals with an annual growth rate of 24.5 per cent. Much has been made of a potential apartment supply glut in Brisbane. Apartment approvals have rebounded, almost doubling over the year to January.

Overall dwelling investment may have peaked, but detached house building activity remains healthy. House approvals are up by 5.9 per cent over the year to January, despite some seasonal weakness, especially in Queensland

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The housing market is continuing to rebalance across the country. Prices are cooling in Sydney and Melbourne and investor demand has subsided in the face of lending restrictions.

Commercial property building has reached record highs. This could provide support for building commencements, especially with residential construction softening from record high levels. Of course, approvals need to translate into starts, though commercial property building activity sentiment is positive.

Apartment supply remains in focus. Seasonal volatility makes it difficult to get a read on council approvals – especially in Sydney and Melbourne. Nevertheless, concerns still persist about a supply glut of inner Brisbane (i.e. West End) and suburban (i.e. Chermside) high rise unit blocks. Still, Queensland is leading the country in jobs growth and interstate migration is strengthening.

Ryan Felsman is a senior economist at CommSec.


Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and the economics and finance behind buying and selling real estate.
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