The big property shift is fast heading to a sell recommendation: Robert Simeon

The big property shift is fast heading to a sell recommendation: Robert Simeon
The big property shift is fast heading to a sell recommendation: Robert Simeon

It was only a matter of time before some property punters would cash in simply because property data is now pointing to a significant price correction.

The latest Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) data has inflation adjusted wage growth sitting most uncomfortably around zero which spells disaster for households carrying excessively large mortgages. Time to cool the heels-cash in, and lock oneself into a lease for twenty-four months or so and watch what happens as there are some worrying signs out there, although some areas will see minimal change and others massive.

The RBA also announced this week that it was concerned how the financial system would handle a significant price correction in the apartment investment sector. Between now and June 30 there are a staggering 15,000 apartments settling so we are approximately 90 days away from knowing if the investment apartment sector is about to collapse.

With the clear majority of these sales to Chinese investors we will soon find out if they can raise the funds to settle without the assistance of the major banks who have walked away from overseas investors.

Li Ming, a co-director of Aussiehome, recently announced that “the off-the-plan apartment markets is now the worst I have seen in the last 10 years.” He then went on to say that almost 80 percent of Chinese buyers can’t settle on the Australian apartments they have purchased and now would prefer to walk away. In the clear majority of cases, these properties are now worth considerably less than when they were an artist’s impression on a glossy brochure.

Property is a confidence game so when we start reading negativity we also start seeing an immediate response in consumer sentiment. This would almost certainly explain why the RBA is now sounding clear warnings directed at the investment apartment markets. This usually only happens when their internal research is discovering anomalies in the markets so immediately they start sounding the fog-horns.

I well remember remarking back in December 2008 when Wayne “The World’s Best Treasurer” Swan strangely increased the off-the-plan ratio from 50 percent to 100 percent that this would not have a happy ending. Who knows I may well be wrong although I still stand by my predictions where nearly nine years on we are now starting to see the result.

This also coincides with Sydney house prices presently posting the highest annual growth in 14 years. We all know (well most anyway) that for property markets to change direction you need a trigger. Should Li Ming be correct about the apartment investment market this will have a significant impact on this newly created apartment investment market right across the eastern seaboard.

If this does happen our governments and banks need to play this intelligently by riding the storm out by becoming landlords. In the past, they have panicked (especially the banks) by engaging in massive sell offs which cause more problems. What should be happening now is the intelligent preparation of worst case scenarios where lenders should be looking at first home buyers to create lease and buy back packages.

Having said that the first problem with housing affordability is the rental markets despite governments going down the wrong track of building more homes. If rents are flat and even decreasing as was the case 15 years ago, then the pressure on tenants is removed as it then becomes cheaper to rent over owning. What we forget are the many solid arguments back then that clearly showed renting was a smarter option than buying – how quickly we forget.

Obviously with so many brand-new apartments set to hit the rental markets rents will fall – just imagine what would happen if the NSW government forced the 200,000 plus permanently vacant Sydney apartments onto the market?

The Victorian government has acted on this with the introduction of the Vacant Residential Property Tax (VRPT) which will address the permanently vacant properties across inner and middle suburbs of Melbourne. The VRPT will be levied at 1 percent, multiplied by the capital improved value of the taxable property. A property worth $650,000 would then be charged a VRPT of $6,500 which in my opinion is too low because the clear majority are wealthy which is why they are not interested in renting the property out in the first place.

The VRPT should be between 3 and 5 percent although the Victorian government knows only too well that a 1 percent VRPT won’t have a significant impact on overseas buyers which is why they introduced it.

On the flip side, the NSW government is looking to further increase stamp duty for foreign buyers which would be an absolute disaster – just ask the Canadian government who did precisely this and then managed to collapse their investment markets by upwards of 30 percent.

I don’t worry too much about the property markets, I worry more about how our elected politicians will respond to these challenges. Generation Rent should be watching these markets very closely.

ROBERT SIMEON is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. 

He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

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