Australia’s housing market proved remarkably resilient last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts say the outlook for this year is positive, with prices expected to keep rising as supply remains low.
Real Estate Institute of Australia president Adrian Kelly said 2020’s price growth was across most of the nation, both in terms of sales and rental returns.
The buoyancy of the market during such a tough year had surprised everyone, Mr Kelly said, tipping a 10-15 per cent further increase in values in 2021 across most regions, assuming the virus is kept under control.
Country areas stole the show last year, and that trend looks set to continue.
“There’s no sign of that slowing down at all,” Mr Kelly told NCA NewsWire.
CoreLogic data for December showed the combined regional dwelling market rose by 6.9 per cent in value over the year – a growth rate more than three times the rate of the combined capital cities.
Looking at 10-year annualised growth rates, some “secondary cities” performed just as well as if not better than their capital city counterparts, particularly across the eastern seaboard.
In NSW, 5 per cent growth across Illawarra compares with an average of 5.1 per cent across the Sydney sub-markets and an average of just 2.1 per cent across the rest of regional NSW.
In Victoria, Geelong’s long-term annualised growth rate of 4.1 per cent is closer to the average of the capital cities (3.7 per cent) than the rest of regional Victoria (2.7 per cent).
Mr Kelly said other strong performers were Wollongong in the Illawarra region, Mt Gambier in South Australia and the whole of Tasmania, where a home could be sold “10 to 15 times over”.
Major coastal markets have performed well in the past decade, with population growth a major driver in places like the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
While the “sea change” trend is nothing new, the deadly pandemic may have exacerbated the desirability of regional Australia.
“There was a move out of the larger cities to the regions happening before COVID,” Mr Kelly said.
“Now COVID has proven that it’s possible to work from home and we didn’t break the NBN, so that’s taken off like a bit of a rocket, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in 2021.
“It’s going to cause some issues in terms of supply, properties to buy and properties to rent, and that will have some flow-over for locals who already live in those areas.
“Everyone is wanting to move to the regions because of affordability and sustainability, healthy lifestyle, larger pieces of land for kids to play on, views, local lifestyle – all of that sort of thing instead of living in a one or two bedroom apartment in the middle of a city somewhere.”
Another factor that could be in play in regions like Illawarra is being within a “commutable distance” to capital cities, enabling a regional lifestyle with the benefit of maintaining access to job opportunities and amenities of the capitals.
CoreLogic also suggests that as capital cities become less affordable, nearby coastal markets may rise in value, creating a “spill over’” of demand as people are priced out of cities.
The group also says it believes the outlook for the Australian housing market in 2021 is positive, with regional areas potentially continuing to rise in value.
“The best long-term returns are not always found in the capital city dwelling markets,” CoreLogic says.
ANZ Research’s most recent price forecasts for 2020, released in November, are for gains of around 9 per cent across the capital cities, with Perth leading at 12 per cent, followed by Brisbane (+9.5 per cent) and Hobart (+9.4 per cent).
Sydney prices are expected to rise close to the national average (+8.8 per cent), while Melbourne prices are forecast to lag a little (+7.8 per cent).
ANZ Research expects Adelaide will have the lowest growth at +6 per cent.
Jumping In To The Market
The rate of people entering Australia’s housing market hit an all-time high last month as they took advantage of record low interest rates.
“I think the first-home buyers have realised that if they’ve still got secure employment, they might as well go for it now because the interest rate environment is still so low and likely to stay there,” Mr Kelly said.
“Plus first-home buyers can pick up all sorts of incentives and grants at the moment from both federal and state governments.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released earlier this month showed both the total value of new loan commitments for housing and the value of owner-occupier home loan commitments reached record highs in November – respectively jumping 23.7 per cent and 31.4 per cent compared with the same month in 2019.
There’s just not enough housing supply. Picture: Brett Wortman/Sunshine Coast Daily
There’s just not enough housing supply. Picture: Brett Wortman/Sunshine Coast DailySource:News Regional Media
Mortgages for existing dwellings rose more than loan commitments for new builds, but the latter jumped 75 per cent since July thanks to the commonwealth’s HomeBuilder grant.
However, there’s still just not enough supply, and that will keep prices high, Mr Kelly says.
“Even though tourism has been impacted, even though we don’t have overseas students – although that only really impacts apartments in Melbourne and Sydney – and net migration hasn’t occurred either,” he said.
“But the good thing about that is we haven’t had the properties anyway to sell these people.
“We haven’t been building enough homes for a decade or two, and local councils have a role to play in this, freeing up more land for developments and making the process easier.
“Building a new home will take at least six to 12 months before you even put a shovel in the ground.”
All those home loan applications last year put massive pressure on lenders to keep up with demand, blowing out average processing times in the March and June quarters, data from home loan platform Lendi suggests.
The company predicts that will continue this year.
Lendi had a 33 per cent year-on-year increase in the value of unconditional loan approvals processed during December, and the number of loan submissions in January has already jumped 41 per cent compared with the same period in 2020.
“Traditionally, we would expect a seasonal slowdown in December; however, like so many things, that was not the case in 2020,” co-founder and chief executive David Hyman said.
Sydney’s median house price continues to be the highest among the capital cities – 49.2 per centhigher than the national average.
Sydney’s median house price continues to be the highest among the capital cities – 49.2 per centhigher than the national average.Source:istock
“With January also looking strong in terms of loan submissions, there will be continued pressure on lenders to avoid the blowouts we saw in application and settlement processing last year.”
Mr Kelly said the trend was apparent pre-COVID, with the banks still licking their wounds from the royal commission and putting an end to quick lending.
“Probably rightly so and probably went a bit too far, more than what they needed to particularly for a bog-standard residential loan,” he said.
“I think the banks are actually doing a pretty good job at the moment – their workloads have gone through the roof.”
Mr Kelly also said REIA was closely watching non-eviction periods for rental properties coming to an end soon, which would have to be carefully managed, and the substantial number of mortgages that were paused last year and have yet to be restarted.
“While the number isn’t as large as what we thought it was going to be, it’s still a pretty big number – a good 200,000-250,000 mortgages,” he said.
“We won’t see forced fire sales as we used to know them because the market will support soft landings.
“There will be people who will need to sell – that’s just reality.
“The silver lining is there will be some extra supply to be soaked up.”
According to S&P Global Ratings, Australian prime home-loan arrears increased in November and will likely continue to rise in coming months as fiscal stimulus measures taper off and mortgage-relief periods expire.
But this will be tempered by historically low interest rates, improving jobs growth and higher property prices, which will enhance borrowers’ refinancing prospects – a common way to manage their way out of financial stress
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