A warning to Australian investors and home buyers: Terry Ryder

A warning to Australian investors and home buyers: Terry Ryder
A warning to Australian investors and home buyers: Terry Ryder

Success in real estate belongs to the independent thinkers. And that means the select few.

The most predictable market intelligence of the past few weeks is that consumer sentiment about real estate has weakened.

Given the herd mentality in Australian real estate, and the absence of independent thought and action, I would expect sentiment to mirror media reporting trends. If media keeps reporting that “the Australian property boom” is over, I would expect a survey of public sentiment to reflect that.

And, lately, it has. According to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment, public opinion about whether it’s a good time to buy, and about price expectations, has weakened. This apparent dissipation of confidence has coincided with mainstream media deciding that the new core storyline is that the so-called national property boom is over.

What they really mean is that the Sydney boom is over and that is reflected in the generalised national figures much beloved by lazy journalists.

This new and recurrent theme in mainstream media is now being mirrored in responses to surveys about real estate.

It tells us that the average citizen struggles with independent thought. Most are pack animals and more likely to take action because everyone else is than because it makes sense. 

Sometimes it feels like all Australians are connected to a central brain – and not a particularly smart one, either.

Another recent poll that fits this theme is the NAB’s quarterly Australian Residential Property Survey. The generalised results are that sentiment has weakened and people expect price growth to be less spectacular than the past couple of years.

Significant? Not at all. It’s people parroting what they read in newspapers. Will those expectations be marched by outcomes? No it will not - growth won’t stop, but the focus of growth will switch from Sydney to other areas.

While media focused on this downturn in overall generalised simplified public expectations, without segmenting for local differences of which there are many, there are many other things in the NAB quarterly report that are far more significant. 

These are matters of fact, rather than impressions, expectations or predictions.

The NAB report is one of the few that realistically quantifies buying activity by first-timers. It finds that this market segment has increased recently - 26.2% of sales of established properties are made to first-time buyers, compared to 23.7% in the June Quarter. And 28.9% of sales of new properties are being made to first-time buyers.

The NAB report, unlike other less credible sources like the ABS, takes into account that not all first-timers buy homes. A rising number buy investment properties as a first purchase. According to NAB, 15.7% of established properties and 16.4% of new properties are being sold to first-timers as home-buyers. In addition, 10.5% of established properties and 12.5% of new properties are being sold to first-time buyers as investors.

They’re a big chunk of the market, but for many media outlets it’s an inconvenient truth because it contradicts the beloved storyline about the Great Australian Dream being dead because youngsters are priced out of the market. 

As an aside, research from Mortgage Choice has found that most first-home buyers are comfortable with their mortgages, with almost two-thirds saying they could accommodate interest rate rises of at least two percentage points (a quarter of them could cope with a rise of four points).

The NAB report also provides a good snapshot of the activity of foreign investors. It shows that overall they remain quite insignificant as a share of the overall market. They are most active in buying new property, where they account for 16% of sales.

They are most prominent, and this tells its own tale, in the apartment market, especially in Victoria (which means inner-city Melbourne). In Victoria, foreign buyers account for almost a third of all new unit sales. 

It confirms that developers are flooding inner-city apartment markets with new product because they believe they can sell any surplus stock overseas (which means Asia, especially China and Hong Kong). 

Some developers are not bothering to market locally but heading directly overseas to sell their off-the-plan stock.

As time goes by and more projects flood this market, I would expect the foreign purchase component to rise. It’s a warning to Australian investors and home-buyers to steer clear.


Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au. You can email him or follow him on Twitter.



Terry Ryder

Terry Ryder

Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au.

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