The best measure of the data on residential prices, RPData-Rismark Hedonic Index, shows that Australian house prices fell just 0.2% last month. This equates to an actual drop of $1,200 against a median dwelling value of about $525,000. Even on a quarterly basis, the drop is just 0.9% or $4,700.
This effectively means no change, which is amazing, really, given the low-level of confidence, the high level of advertised stock for resale and the persistent warnings of a real estate Black Friday. The year-on-year result is a fall of just 2% or $10,600. Even Brisbane, with the impact of the recent flood weighing down its property market, has fallen just 2.6% or by $11,600 since January. The Australian sharemarket can fall more than this in a single day.
RPData's index suggests that maybe the worst is behind us, with the monthly and quarterly results starting to trend upwards. This recovery, however, is likely to be slower than those in the past, as many markets are now priced over $500,000, which presents an affordability barrier to many households and especially investors and first home buyers. It will take some time before wages grow enough to start pushing dwelling prices.
Recent research, also by Rismark, shows that just one in 14 resales across Australia over the last decade made a loss. Importantly, close to half of the sellers since early 2000 made an annual gain of over 10% per annum. Keep in mind that capital growth can be deceptive as most measures exclude inflation, costs, taxes and charges. But still, such a positive result is encouraging.
Yet the negative news abounds – the latest being from national valuation firm, Herron Todd White (HTW). HTW's bearish August post has, as one would expect, received lots of airplay via a range of economic websites whose authors are proud of their track record of forecasting around ten of the last two recessions.
Now, HTW's work is correct, in that it is a buyer's market and sellers need to meet the market in order to make sales, and yes, ""most markets in SEQ have seen a 5% to 10% fall in prices over the past six to twelve months""....but that doesn't mean that the sellers have made a loss; they may have had to accept less for their property than they would have achieved a year or so ago.
Several Brisbane suburbs were used as examples in the latest HTW release –Gordon Park, Inala, Redbank Plains, Paddington and North Lakes. I am quite familiar with two of these suburbs and have confined my reply to Redbank Plains and Paddington.
True, HTW, sellers need to seriously cut their asking price in order to make a sale. My wife and I have just sold two properties in Redbank Plains for about 10% less than we think we could have achieved a year or so ago. But we still made about 25% on what we paid for both properties about five years ago. Not one of our finest investment decisions, true, but we made money, albeit not that much.
Now, let's look at Paddington. I lived in Paddington for close to ten years and it is a market I still know very well. We concur with HTW's general comment that if you are looking for a safe investment, then a good bet is an inner city traditional cottage, and whilst you can still pick up such for around $600,000, this doesn't mean that those who are selling cottages for these prices are taking a loss.
Over the last six months, the median annual gain made by sellers across Paddington was 7.6%, with just one in ten properties selling for a slight loss. This analysis excludes those properties which have undergone a serious renovation.
Also, sales around the $600,000 price point are becoming much scarcer than HTW's comments would have a reader believe. For example, during 2007, 55 houses sold for between $550,000 and $650,000 across Paddington. In 2008, 36 similar sales took place. In 2009 it dropped to 28; then in 2010 it rose to 31 and so far this year just seven (7) sales have settled in this price range.
For mine, now is the right time to buy. But you must be able to comfortably service a mortgage at least 1% higher than today's rates. Also, you need a long timeframe; the buying power to afford property close to infrastructure; and a property which can be shared by tenants in order to maximise your rental return.
HTW's work, again, highlights that it is a buyer's market and if you are not prepared to meet the market, then it may be best not to sell right now. Sadly, any bearish commentary on the housing market is picked up very quickly these days in the blogosphere and it soon loses its original meaning and context.
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