Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC
Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

The cooling of the property market was expected, but the price falls have been larger than previously forecast, according to HSBC's Paul Bloxham.

He suggests the cooling has been due to a reversal of factors that drove the boom in the first place.

These included: housing undersupply during the mining boom (2004-2012), which has been worked down by a building boom; falling interest rates, that have since stabilised; strong foreign demand, which has weakened, due to constraints on foreign buyers; strong growth in lending to investors, which has been constrained by tighter prudential settings; and, expectations of capital gains, which drove investor activity, but have eased.

Bloxham noted the cooling is not unlike developments elsewhere, such as in London, New York and Vancouver, suggesting some common global factors.

"So far, the cooling has been orderly, with very few forced sales.

"This partly reflects that the key fundamentals that support housing demand remain in place − strong population and jobs growth and low interest rates.

"In addition, although housing supply has been boosted, the market does not appear to be oversupplied.

"Our central case is for a soft landing, supported by these fundamentals.

"A harder landing is a risk and could occur if economic growth were to slow sharply and the unemployment rate rose.

"High household debt also makes Australias economy more vulnerable.

"A further credit tightening, perhaps as the result of policy changes resulting from the Royal Commission, is a risk.

"Possible changes to the tax treatment of investment properties present a risk, but we see the likely effect as small."

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

While the housing market correction remains orderly and jobs growth remains solid, Bloxham expects it to have a limited impact on consumption growth/

"There was little evidence of a positive wealth effect during the boom, and consumer spending has held up well recently, despite the housing market cooling.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

National housing prices rose by 46% from the trough in mid-2012 to the peak in mid-2017, which delivered a compounded annual growth rate of 8% over that period (Chart 1). Since mid- 2017, nation-wide housing prices have fallen by 5% (peak-to-current level).

However, the nation-wide average hides considerable variation across the country (Chart 2).

He noted much of the ramp-up was in the Sydney and Melbourne markets, where prices rose by 75% and 58%, trough-to-peak, respectively. Over the same period, housing prices rose by smaller amounts in Adelaide (20%), Brisbane (20%), Canberra (22%) and Hobart (40%). In Perth, where the end of the mining boom had its largest effect, housing prices rose in 2012 and 2013, but then fell, to now be lower than in 2012 (Perth prices are the same as they were in 2009).

National housing prices began to fall in mid-to-late 2017, and since their peaks, Sydney and Melbourne prices are down 8% and 5%, respectively. Prices have continued to rise in the other cities, except for Perth. So far the cooling has orderly, "with little evidence of forced selling."

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

For Sydney, the rise and fall in prices occurred to similar degrees for both houses and apartments and prices rose by similar amounts across the price distribution.

So far, the price declines have been more pronounced at the top end of the market, although prices at the bottom end are also falling.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

For Melbourne, the trends are similar, although apartment prices rose by far less than detached house prices, due to a strong boost to apartment supply in recent years.

The differential between house and apartment price trends in Melbourne provides evidence that the supply and demand of dwellings (not just availability of finance and interest rates) have been key drivers of the price trends.

A large boost to Melbourne apartment supply ensured that unit prices rose by less than detached house prices.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

During the housing price boom, Sydney and Melbourne were favoured over the other cities for a number of reasons.

They had much less exposure to the drag in incomes from the end of the mining boom and, as a result, had much stronger jobs and population growth

Both markets were more undersupplied, as housing construction had been weak during the mining boom; and, they are Australia's most global cities, so they attracted the most foreign investment and migrants.

Many of these forces are now acting as a drag on housing prices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

The rise in housing prices since 2012 has been much more gradual outside of Sydney and Melbourne.

In Brisbane, housing prices have risen by 20% since the trough in 2012, with a significant differential between detached house and apartment prices, reflecting the effect of an apartment building boom in the central business district in recent years.

In Perth, housing prices rose in 2013 and 2014, as the fall in interest rates supported activity, but the combination of a sharp slowing in population growth at the end of the mining boom, and a boost to housing supply, has seen prices falling since then.

For the other smaller cities, prices have generally risen, given less exposure to the end of the mining boom and support from lower interest rates, among other region-specific factors.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

Bloxham noted what has been unusual about the recent housing market cooling, compared with history, has been that it has occurred without the RBA lifting its cash rate, or a significant rise in mortgage rates.

"Instead, housing supply has increased to meet demand, and help clear the market, and a range of other factors (outside of the RBA’s cash rate setting) have helped to constrain demand, including constraints on foreign purchases and tightened prudential settings.

"Because the housing market is cooling while economic growth is strong and the labour market is tightening, the cooling has, so far, been orderly. There are few signs of forced sales, aside from pockets of the off-the-plan’ apartment market," he said.

Soft landing coming as Australian housing market continues to cool: HSBC

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