Only Sydney house prices to fall in 2018 and 2019: NAB

Joel RobinsonApril 10, 20180 min read


Housing market conditions continue to soften with most capital city housing markets seeing price falls or slower growth, and transaction numbers remain lower than year ago levels. Auction clearance rates, while they have picked up from their late 2017 levels, remain below where they were a year ago.

Melbourne house prices are also now also weakening and there are early signs of this occurring in Adelaide as well. Brisbane dwelling prices have been broadly flat in recent months while Perth, after a long period of falling prices, appears to have stabilised.

NAB recently suggested housing sentiment rose in Q1, however its WA and QLD that are dragging the softening Victoria and NSW.


The Melbourne and Sydney housing markets have been affected by falling overseas demand. The NAB Residential Property Survey indicates that the foreign share of new property purchases reached a six year low at the end of 2017, although there was a small increase in foreign interest in the March 2018 quarter.

In addition to lower foreign demand, policy changes have affected the investor market. This can be seen in housing finance approvals data; the value of investor finance approvals in January was down 12% on the same time last year. The weakening in investor finance was offset for a while by rising approvals for owner-occupiers, but even this has turned negative recently.

As a result, in January 2018 the number of housing finance approvals (owner-occupier, ex refinancing) was almost the same as a year ago, after showing double digit growth in mid- 2017.


We have slightly lowered our house price forecasts for 2018 and now expect a small fall in house prices (now - 0.8% was +0.7%), largely due to continuing weakness in the Sydney market and a softer Melbourne market.

For 2019, the house price forecasts remain broadly unchanged at +0.8% with only Sydney expected to fall (albeit modestly).

Apartment forecasts are broadly unchanged (-0.8% in 2018 & -1.8% in 2019) reflecting large stock additions and a soft outlook for foreign demand. More details are available in the NAB Residential Property Survey.

Dwelling investment has been trending down since Q3 2016. This can be seen in building approvals data, particularly for ‘other dwellings’ (principally apartments but also semi-detached dwellings). However, while building approvals remain off their peaks, there is little sign at this stage of further downwards momentum, and they remain relatively high by historical standards. Still strong population growth means that even as a large stock of apartments come onto the market over the next few years, we are unlikely to see a major correction.

Nevertheless, we still see further small declines in dwelling investment in 2018 and 2019 before stabilising in 2020.

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

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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