The Great Australian Dream is not dead: Terry Ryder

The Great Australian Dream is not dead: Terry Ryder
The Great Australian Dream is not dead: Terry Ryder

The most interesting fact revealed by a St George Bank survey of first-home buyers was buried in the small print of the media statement.

The survey of 1,000 first-home buyers across Australia indicated that 26 percent of respondents said they had to make compromises to buy their first homes. Half of those had to compromise on location while 46 percent had to compromise on price.

I was amazed that only a quarter of FHBs felt they had to make compromises to achieve home ownership. I would have expected it to be close to 100 percent.

When I bought my first home over 30 years ago, I had to make a range of compromises, especially on location and the quality of the house I was buying. But it seems most first-home buyers today don’t feel they had to make concessions on location or price, according to this survey at least.

Media would have us believe that the Great Australian Dream is near dead. Journalists continue to support that notion by quoting the discredited ABS data on borrowers identified as first-home buyers, even though the ABS has issued statements admitting it is under-counting them.

This is because only borrowers with a government grant are identified as first-home buyers and grants are no longer available to first-time buyers of existing homes, which severely reduces the numbers identified as first-home buyers.

The figures also ignore first-time buyers who buy an investment property as a first purchase while continuing to rent their homes – the so-called rentvestors, who are a rising force in Australian real estate.

Other more credible research sources, such as the NAB quarterly Residential Property Survey, indicate that a third of sales of new properties across Australia, and 27% of sales of established properties, are made to first-time buyers (some of which are buying investment properties, rather than a home, as a first purchase).

The 27 buyers of buyers of established homes who are first-timers aren’t counted in the ABS figures, but media regularly quotes the bureau’s figures as an indication that first-home buyers are priced out of the market.

Housing affordability and home ownership have become so politically charged in Australia that it’s impossible to have a calm and rational debate about it.

Even the so-called research is tainted by political objectives, so that almost nothing published is believable. The annual Demographia report clearly sets out to achieve a pre-determined result – that all of Australia is deemed unaffordable – and achieves this by arbitrarily setting the “median multiple” bar ridiculously low, so that a house costing $305,000 is described as unaffordable to someone earning $100,000 a year.

The recent HILDA report was a biased document which had its headline written before the research was conducted. The reported claim by Professor Roger Wilkins that “a whole generation of adults would never own a home” was over the top and not supported by the evidence in the report. 

We continue to have high home ownership rates by world standards, although they are lower than they were 15 years ago, according to this report. Home ownership rates include almost 70 percent in Western Australia, 68 percent in South Australia and 66 percent in Victoria – although given the political tone of the report and its publicity campaign, I’m don’t feel confident believing any of its figures.

Other reports are tainted by suspect data. The longstanding HIA’s quarterly Affordability Report, which has a long track record of telling it like it is, found affordability (as an average across the nation) improved in the March Quarter but deteriorated in the June Quarter. 

The weakness in this report is that it relies on CoreLogic for its price data, which recorded a significant rebound in Sydney prices in the June Quarter – a result that has been starkly contradicted by figures from other major sources, including Domain and SQM Research.

But, taking the latest Affordability Report at face value, it found there had been a worsening of affordability quarter-on-quarter in some jurisdictions (including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide) but improvements in affordability in others (such as Perth, Hobart, Tasmania, regional NSW, regional Victoria, regional South Australia and regional WA).

Taking a longer-term view, affordability is the best it’s been in regional Australia at any time in the past five years. We can say the same thing about many individual areas of the nation (including Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory), though clearly not about Sydney or Melbourne.

The current affordability level in Sydney and NSW is better than it was five years ago, but not as good as it was four years ago before the Sydney boom got under way. In Victoria, affordability in the March Quarter was the best it’s been in five years, but then it dropped in June Quarter, caused by the reliance on CoreLogic figures, which differ from several other sources.

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.

Tags: 
First Home Buyers Residential Sales

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