No dent to our market - and we've heard it all before from Harry

No dent to our market - and we've heard it all before from Harry
No dent to our market - and we've heard it all before from Harry

Harry Dent, the boldly bearish US economist, is in Sydney this Thursday some two years after last peddling his contrarian forecasts.

His insights alway capture the headlines.

His last seminars advising that Australia’s ‘property bubble’ would burst with a 50 percent price decline actually mimiced his prior forecast from 2011.

The doomsday US commentator sees the world - and most of Australia's multi-dimensional property market - through the prism of his 2011 book, The Great Crash Ahead. There is now a new book to sell.

His 2011 remarks on David Koch’s Sunrise program, saw Dent implore major capital city viewers to sell their homes before the 50% crash in prices arrived on our doorsteps.

Dent’s argument appeared based mostly on the claim that Australian dwelling values were 9.5 times family incomes, and ought in his view, be about half this level. 

Not long after a chart released by the RBA showed the Australian house price-to-income ratio was actually around four or five times, ie half Dent’s claims.

Dent refined the 2011 outlook with his colourful analogy that the Australian property market would be like popcorn popping - different markets would be bursting at different times.

Last time Dent was here I asked him on his hit and miss success rate.

"I am likely to get 30 or 40% of forecasts wrong in the timing," he advised.

Dent says he studies bubbles.

"When everyone is in a bubble, most can't see it, when the markets are at their lows, they can't see the recovery...and that's when there is money to be made," he said.

Harry is the founder and senior editor at Dent Research, where he seeks to identify and study demographic, technological, consumer spending and geopolitical trends to forecast economic booms and busts well ahead of the mainstream.

The forecast he his most proud of was when Dent tipped that Japan, then on top of the economic world, would suffer a slowdown lasting more than a decade.

Japan is still pretty much in a coma, he says after its 1991 peak when most economists envisaged Japan overtaking the US in world economic dominance.

Saying it often can be just one piece of information that provides the clue, his late 1980s Japanese forecast was based on his premise that people slow in spending way ahead of retirement, from 46 years onwards.

I asked how much understanding the pysche of the population of a city or country was helpful in understanding property market movement, and he agreed with the concept.

"You are right, yes markets do go up and down together, but to different degrees."

As with many economist naysayers, Dent may get Sydney right sooner or later, but it is best to take the forecasts with a certain level of cynicism or else cop the cost of lost opportunity.

Afterall Sydney's house price median was at $560,000 and Sydney’s unit median at $458,500 around the time of his 2011 forecast.

By 2014 it was $765,000 for Sydney houses and $550,500 for units.

It now sits at $890,000 for houses and $680,000 for units, according to CoreLogic.

It's not to say Sydney won't be spooked sometime, but for most of us it will be a question of holding one's nerve in the face of the herd mentality.

That's more her-like panic likely to come from investors, rather than home owners.

This article was first published in the Saturday Daily Telegraph.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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