Buyer's agent Mal James on house price bubble risks

Buyer's agent Mal James on house price bubble risks
Buyer's agent Mal James on house price bubble risks

Bubble Talk seems to have eased off (finally) as most headline avoiding commentators acknowledge we are not in a bubble, if a bubble is defined by illogical price increases and/or unsustainable longer term prices.

Yes we are in a run of price increases (beginning in the 1900’s – pushing along since the GFC 2009 recovery, accelerating further since October 2012 and the foot to the floor since Christmas); but the price increases have been largely due to deep overseas demand as the world says “Melbourne – you are an International Property Market we want to invest in”.

At some time the market will ease, it will have falls and that would more than likely be caused by changes in migration/population/overseas demand. That could be tomorrow and if it does, then prices will drop.

The government has begun to tinker around the edges trying to control this boom, by getting banks to alter interest rates for investors. As far as Inner Melbourne homes go, this should have minimal effect on the market, just as the stamp duty tinkerings of a few months ago, as predicted, have made zero difference to overseas investment.

We are not saying that trying to ease the boom is not a good a thing, its just the real driver of our current Inner Melbourne market boom is Asian investment combined with increasing wealthy migration / population, not local investor interest rates. All altering interest rates for locals will do, is make it easier for Asian investors to buy.

Understanding these concepts is critical for buyers – as acting or not acting based on fear, rather than reason usually means poorer decisions.

Example: For decades Western society as a whole has believed that fat is bad and fat makes you fat. Accordingly we have all made dietary decisions based on that assumption and as a society we have got fatter and fatter, despite not wanting to. “Bubble” headlines are very similar to “Fat” headlines if it means you as a buyer make poor decisions, based on false assumptions.

If/when a significant market change occurs, it will be due to a lessening of demand (it will be understandable); not due to a bursting of some artificial, unexplainable bubble. It is important to differentiate that there is no truth based on fact, that we are in an artificial or illogical price situation as far as Inner Melbourne houses go.

There are very real and logical reasons why prices are increasing and it’s called overseas demand and limited local supply.

Yes a boring headline, but a truthful one. It’s important for buyers to understand the current market, so as they can make informed decisions; not ones based on the more exciting, but less accurate headlines of Bubble, Bubble, Price Falls and Trouble.

Our advice to buyers is when the developing markets of India, China and others start to falter and the money flow to Australia changes and both Liberal and Labour espouse restrictive migration and population policies; then, as buyers we would be sitting up and taking notice re possible long term land value deflation; as we saw in Japan (no migration, no population increases). Until then, the more pressing problem is how are we going to secure our dream home in Inner Melbourne in the next year.

Word of warning: Please understand our comments are based on the Inner Melbourne Market, not the overall Melbourne market. Please do not assume prices will always increase and therefore stretch too far.

Yes treasury officials said there are risks right now, but there are risks in buying in any market. We feel you can best mitigate your homebuying risks by making well informed decisions, and that is true in any market. In our opinion a decision not to enter the market is not necessarily a well informed one if your longer term desired outcome is one of emotional and financial security through good home buying.

We feel the Inner Melbourne Market risks are not “bubble” related, they are demand and supply related. We cannot see any evidence that says the risk in buying a home now is more elevated than a year ago or anymore elevated than we perceive the risks might be in 2016. Please don’t think in the next six months that the market must fall or please don’t think the market cannot rise any further, because there are no facts to support either theory with certainty. 

The only certain thing in 2015 is, we are in a market.

Markets at times are flat and at times rise and fall.

Every property decision should be an informed individual one, with a sharp eye on mortgage payments/interest rates, as at some stage interest rates will go up and/or prices will fall; but balanced with the fact that getting in now, as in almost all cases over the last 30 years, has proven to be a good home buying decision (if the home was a good buy, meeting the individual’s shorter and longer term desired outcomes – with good PPP’s).

Summary: There are risks in individuals buying homes in any Inner Melbourne market (interest rate/employment/health changes) – the risks in 2015 do not appear to be elevated as implied by some Treasury officials. Homebuying risks are not mitigated by inaction, they are mitigated by making informed action decisions. In our opinion, unless there is a change in migration, Asian money flow and/or population policies, the real elevated risk maybe in not at least considering getting into the current Inner Melbourne market (with the right PPP’s and FFF’s of course).

Mal writes weekly auction reports, advice and in-depth market analysis on James' website.

Mal James

Mal James

Mal James is principal of James Buyer Advocates, which advocates on behalf of buyers of property over $1 million.

Melbourne Property Boom

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