Housing matters a lot in Australia. Having a house on a quarter acre block is part of the “Aussie dream”. Housing is a popular investment destination. And the housing cycle is a key component of the economic cycle and closely connected to interest rate movements. But in the last 15 years or so it has taken on a darker side as a surge in house prices that started in the late 1990s has led to poor affordability and gone hand in hand with surging household debt. Reflecting this, predictions of an imminent property crash bringing down the Australian economy have been repeated ad nauseam since 2003. This note looks at the risks of a property crash, particularly given the rising supply of units, implications from the property cycle for economic growth and how investors should view it.
- Expensive housing and high household debt leave Australian housing vulnerable. But without a recession or much higher interest rates a property crash is unlikely.
- However, the surging supply of apartments and the continuing strength of the Sydney and Melbourne property markets pose an increasing risk. Average dwelling prices in these cities are likely to see another cyclical 5-10% price downswing around 2018, with unit prices in oversupplied areas likely to decline 15-20%.
- The combination of high house prices, huge gains in Sydney and Melbourne, low rental yields and a coming surge in the supply of apartments mean property investors need to be careful. Best to focus on undersupplied, less loved parts of the property market.
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