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No bubble, fundamentals mean that market remains attractive for buyers: Peter Chittenden

No bubble, fundamentals mean that market remains attractive for buyers: Peter Chittenden
No bubble, fundamentals mean that market remains attractive for buyers: Peter Chittenden

Over the last few months and in particular over the weeks since the federal election there has been a great deal of chatter about a so-called residential property bubble.

This has been fueled by a few factors that have, to my view, been overly magnified. Yes we have seen some good, even record auction results, strong demand for new mainly off-the-plan projects and land releases, and improving house prices led mainly by Sydney and Perth. But these do not alone create a ‘bubble’.

There are much deeper aspects of the market that go well beyond what has been suggested as a possibly reckless rush of buyers on the back of low interest rates and still in some areas a well acknowledged lack of immediate supply. Both of these are ongoing influences but I do not see evidence of recklessness.

What may at first appear surprising is how quickly the market has become so active. Currently, there is strong demand and buyers are very lively, and this has caught some sectors by surprise. I stress ‘surprise’ with no foundation for any sort of alarm, in fact the activity should be welcome.

Only six months ago there were alarm bells ringing about the continued flatness in the housing market and the lag in construction. Now with strong buyer interest there will be an incentive for more building and development at a time when the economy is adjusting from a slowdown of the mining boom.

Location remains key

As always demographics are playing a big part in the market and the appeal of inner city living is currently on an upward trend that has been evident now for at least a decade. The only difference is that it is no longer a trend but an everyday reality that we have yet to satisfy. You only have to look at the pressures on many of Sydney’s inner city schools as they try to accommodate an increase of 20-25% in class enrolments. Although we do need to ask: "didn’t anyone see this coming?"

There has also been a big increase in single person households and this is creating an additional layer of demand, as people are anxious to live near services and facilities. But it is not only the inner city where demand is strong, in Sydney’s south-west and north-west new housing stock is in demand and here the promise of improved infrastructure and a strong lifestyle offering are helping to drive demand.

Interest rates

The current low interest rates may well not last forever, but in the current market I believe that low rates are acting as a comfort factor, making loans more affordable. But I also suggest that as first time buyers remain conservative and investors are still looking for a solid return, again there is no run away mentality among borrowers, who remain cautious. Still the gap between today’s interest rates and what be seen as a high number between 7-8% can well be seen as an opportunity for many buyers, and if rates rise they are capable of managing that.

Along with interest rates, recent falls in the Aussie dollar have helped to fuel an already strong inflow of buyers from Asia and in particular China, and this is a reality of our market that is not going to change. Offshore buyers will always be attracted to Australian property; they are attracted by the lifestyle here that can be measured in simple terms of space, a good natural environment and freedom to move.

By 2014, Indonesia and China are expected to have more millionaires than the USA and even if only a small fraction of these wealthy buyers look to Australia to buy a home or investment then that demand will be long-term, and in many respects is nothing new.

A faster pace backed-up by the fundamentals

I think that we need to keep in mind that some markets have been tough over the past 12 months and the long lead up to the federal election may have depressed activity. Also some properties are being taken to market for a second go as confidence builds, however given the size of our market the sales inventory is still modest.

We still have a long-term shortage of housing, and as developers meet market expectations with quality, and as rents stay high and vacancy rates are low for investors the market is attractive, so they will act. Owner occupiers are attracted by lower rates, but weaker employment may well temper demand, but these same buyers realize that in five years’ time today’s values will not prevail and today’s prices will look attractive as major centres attract more residents.

Developers in particular need to concentrate on the fundamentals, and not take the market for granted, sticking to the best locations and delivering quality, and while this might now all be at a much faster pace, that does not create a bubble; it creates a strong market that will remain attractive for both local and offshore buyers not forgetting our continued population growth.

The improved market activity of the last few months needs to take all of these factors into consideration and not simply see stronger sales as somehow being over-inflated.


Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

 


Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

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