Further growth for Melbourne property prices in early 2016: Wakelin's Paul Nugent

Further growth for Melbourne property prices in early 2016: Wakelin's Paul Nugent
Further growth for Melbourne property prices in early 2016: Wakelin's Paul Nugent


Property prices will rise next year, despite some plateauing in recent weeks.

The late 2015 Melbourne property market has been a remarkably balanced affair in terms of the relative power of buyers and sellers. Supply has been strong, with a record number of 1000-plus auction weekends. But there has also been enough buyers out there to soak up the supply. Only just though, as evidenced by the lack of price movement since the end of winter.

After the strength of the market over the preceding three years, it is tempting to extrapolate this result as the turning point downwards for the market. But I suspect there is some more capital growth to come off the back of residual momentum.

Come late February 2016, when the property auction market reopens, I expect buyers will once again outnumber sellers.  This is a common seasonal characteristic of the early autumn market, just as there tends to be a glut of sellers in the late spring market. 

Buyers are typically ‘ready and keen’ to buy sooner in the calendar year after the long summer holidays than sellers.

There are of course headwinds for the market: a strong pipeline of new properties, especially apartments, adding to supply; tighter prudential lending rules making borrowing slightly more expensive and scarce; overseas buyer demand is moderating after a strengthening of foreign investment rules; falling rental yields; and, not least, the impact of three years’ capital growth on affordability.

On the other hand, interest rates remain at a historically low level and an interest rate rise is a distant likelihood. Even with softer rental yields, prospective investors enjoy an unusually small ‘funding gap’ – the difference between their borrowing costs and the net rental return.

Allied to this, participation in the market is likely to be supported by the relatively benign economic conditions: stable unemployment, low inflation and reasonable consumer confidence.”

Winter Blues?

The outlook becomes more uncertain in the second half of 2016.

By June 2016, it will be 15 quarters, or just under four years, since the start of the latest upswing in Melbourne property prices. That’s an impressive run. It is almost inevitable that there will be a pause or even a downturn at some point in the not too distant future. 

However, should it turn out that we are not at the bottom of the Reserve Bank’s cash rate interest rate reduction phase – which may be the case given that few of us would have predicted even a year ago that the cash rate would go as low as today’s 2% – then price growth may persist, albeit modestly, across 2016.”

Where will prices be in 2026?

Although fun to crystal ball gaze into 2016, thinking about where prices will be in ten years’ time – in 2026 – is more worthwhile.

Ultimately, if you’re planning to invest in property next year, it should be with the intention to stick with that asset for at least seven years and ideally ten.  Over that longer time frame, prices are far less volatile and more predictable than they are year-to-year.  Choose a great asset and I can’t tell you whether it will rise or fall in value next year, but I’m very certain it will double in value after 10 years.

By great assets I mean established one- and two-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom period-style houses on quiet, attractive residential streets in inner suburban Melbourne that are proximate to transport, village-type shopping strips, schools and health facilities. Select older-style architecture and all units should have dedicated off-street parking and be in blocks containing no more than around 20 apartments.

What to avoid in 2016

Whilst it is difficult to call when the market will turn, there are certain parts that should be avoided in 2016.

The Federal Government has been vigorous over recent months in putting in place and policing measures that address widespread non-compliant property purchases by non-residents. Whilst a small proportion of buyers overall, overseas buyers were sufficiently concentrated in some school-belt Melbourne eastern suburbs to push prices beyond fair value.  We anticipate that there may be a pullback in prices in suburbs such as Balwyn, Box Hill and Mont Albert in 2016, as these markets adapt to a fall in demand.

The high rise multi-apartment sector in our CBD and surrounds will almost certainly struggle under the weight of a massive pipeline of new properties expected to flow into the market over the next 12 months. It’s hard to have a good word to say about a sector where so many buyers are marketed a dream and sold a nightmare.

But let me try: If making money is not your goal and you want to be in the city, then you may be able to buy an affordable high rise apartment in 2016. But make sure you buy it second hand.  You’ll probably secure a 20%-plus discount on the price of new apartments because you’re not paying for a developer’s marketing costs and you’re dealing with a vendor who cannot sell it to overseas buyers because it isn’t new.

Paul Nugent is a director of Wakelin Property Advisory, an independent firm specialising in acquiring residential property for investors.

Property Prices Residential Market


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