The end of the buyers' market drawing near, with Australian property prices set to rise in 2013

The end of the buyers' market drawing near, with Australian property prices set to rise in 2013
The end of the buyers' market drawing near, with Australian property prices set to rise in 2013

I’m expecting a more buoyant market in both Sydney and Brisbane in 2013, especially with the latest official interest rate cut taking rates to the historical low benchmark of 3%. This is the same interest rate as during the GFC, and many in the financial markets predict more to come next year.

Interest rates have a profound effect on property markets, although the impact of a collective 1.25-percentage-point cut in official rates this year has been tempered by the banks not passing them on in full.

As the holidays draw near, I suggest spending some of your spare time considering how you can leverage current market conditions to build wealth for the future. I feel we’re in the final stages of a buyers’ market and prices are only going to rise (not dramatically, but in a reasonable fashion) from here.

With home loan rates, especially fixed rates, in the low 5% bracket, you don’t need a sky-high yield to make your next investment property pretty much pay for itself. There’s also the opportunity to upgrade your home at a time when the higher up you go on the price scale, the better the savings.

It’s worth noting, however, that falling interest rates indicate a flat economy. Generally speaking, retail spending is down as more people focus on saving and reducing debt. Plus, we have a very high dollar and the global economic outlook is still of concern. Overall though, Australia is still strong.

If you’re worried about the economy, have a read of the latest monetary policy decision on the Reserve Bank’s website at It should put your mind at ease as it clearly explains why the RBA is cutting rates – and it’s certainly not because the economy is falling into a hole!

If you’re personally in a good financial position with a secure job, then don’t let the economy hold you back from buying property. 

The latest RP Data-Rismark survey shows property values in Sydney and Brisbane are up 0.6% and 0.8% for September-November. Year-on-year, they’re up 1.3% and 0.3% respectively.

These are small gains, but they represent a change in the market. On a national level, capital city prices are still -5.6% off their historical peak in November 2010 but they’re up 2% from their historical low in May this year – indicating we’ve left the bottom of this particular property cycle.

During September-November, weekend clearance rates in Sydney remained above 60% for nine consecutive weeks. This is a significant development. After breaking down McGrath’s clearance rates for the last four Saturdays in Sydney, it becomes clear that the under-$750,000 market is still strongest, with our company averaging a 69% clearance rate in this bracket, followed by 65% for the $750,000 to $1.5 million sector.



Australia’s largest mortgage broker, AFG, reports November as the biggest month for new loans all year. In its latest report released this month, 7,831 new loans were sold in November – almost 1,000 more than in the first month of the spring selling season (September). For a long time now, people have been sitting on the sidelines watching what happens. I think more people are coming off the bench now as interest rates become too good to resist.

In NSW, 41% of new loans in November went to investors, and 33% in Queensland. Among today’s investors are many people using self-managed super funds to buy residential real estate. This has been a strong trend, particularly in Sydney, in 2012 and it will only continue as more people get comfortable with the relatively new idea of managing their own super.

Investors won’t have much competition from first home buyers in NSW and Queensland in 2013 following the abolition of government incentives. In November, AFG arranged 96 home loans for first timers in Queensland, compared with 265 in October. In NSW, AFG organised 219 home loans in September for first-home buyers but in October and November combined, this number dropped by more than half.

Looking ahead, there is no doubt the Brisbane property market is well positioned for a new cycle of growth. More than a quarter of Australia’s population growth over the next 25 years is expected to be in the region from Noosa to Coolangatta, which will push Brisbane ahead of Melbourne as the country’s second biggest city. If supply remains below demand, this sort of population growth will have a big impact on property prices.

Sydney remains the BHP of Australian real estate – the big blue-chip market that generally outperforms the rest, particularly in the recovery period of a national market cycle. In 2013, I’m predicting a 2 to 5% price rise in the under-$750,000 market and a 5 to 8% rise in the $750,000 to $1.5 million bracket. I also think rents will continue their northward march, probably by 4 to 5%.

John McGrath is CEO of McGrath Estate Agents.

This article originally appeared on John McGrath's blog.


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