2014 Review (Download PDF)
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“When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large scientific method in most cases fails. One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible.”
– Albert Einstein
Urbanisation. We’ve said it once, we’ve said it twice and we would not be able to provide an accurate end of year review without mentioning it again. The top performers for 2014 were in suburbs that were flush up against the CBD highlighting the increasing value of proximity to home buyers and investors.
We also take a look at what we can expect from 2015. This section of the report aims to study the underlying momentum in Melbourne’s inner regions, without all the noise associated with average house prices.
2014 has been a buoyant year for housing in general. Interest rates did not move a whisker with Australia embarking on some of the most accommodative financing conditions in its history. Will this continue is the big question. Advanced economies have all seen very low interest rates stay, as part of their central bank policies. This effort appears directed at fighting deflationary conditions, since the 2008 crisis ripped through world economies.
The role of expanding credit growth is directly linked to momentum in housing prices. The big question next year will be what happens if interest rates drop a further 0.25-0.5% and how will this impact on the property market. The reserve bank is cautious about stimulating the housing market too much, however may be forced to do so with further rate cuts. Australia’s deteriorating terms of trade and the desire to further devalue the Australian currency may force the RBA’s hand.
The business community seems to be engaging in further investment with higher credit growth starting to emerge again after the long de-leveraging period between 2008 and 2013. This will be good for the economy however the impacts might not be felt for a further few years after this investment has had time to produce fruits. Housing which had also been de-leveraging has showed a bounce back as we’ve seen with market conditions overall quite solid.
Most capital cities have started to see stalling growth with the exception of Sydney. Its growth curve now resembles a hockey stick which will also be worrying the RBA.
Low interest rates are most likely needed to help support regional areas and Australia’s smaller cities. However, Sydney looks to be getting to a danger point of blowing up if this trajectory keeps running its course. The RBA may introduce controls, such as have been done in New Zealand, which would force prospective property buyers to not be able to use the same amount of leverage to purchase a property. This way they can cool the market without cooling the economy which would be a symptom of higher interest rates.
The fastest growing section of the market in 2014 was the investor purchaser. Investors have caught up with owner occupiers for mortgage approvals. Also on the rise has been the foreign investor who is even better placed thanks to a lower Australian dollar. The importance cannot be stressed enough of the value of Australian property to many overseas. The safety in the asset is so highly prized that many investors have looked at Australia as simply a place to store wealth, rather than to create wealth.
The Chinese economy will be the most important economy to watch for Australia in 2015. China continues to get more important to Australia when it comes to exports. It’s hard to believe that in 2008 Australia captured more value in exporting to Japan than it did to China.
The economy of Australia is at a cross roads. Unemployment seems to be on an up trend and average hours worked is decreasing. This is a function of a winding down of the mining industry and technology allowing firms to be increasingly efficient.
The headwinds are a still very uncertain world economy and a slowing Australian economy.
Within the inner city areas of Melbourne the market continued to show strong demand. Houses were the strongest performer and have isolated themselves from the abundance of apartments that have been prevalent in the market. Houses grew in all the four regions we tracked – the inner East, West, South and North. The rush for homes within close proximity to the CBD is being fuelled by downsizers and young families looking to capitalize on the strong ranking state schools that have started to flourish over the past few years.
On the other hand, apartments have actually gone backwards this year thanks to an oversupply of new apartments with proximity rich positions. This hasn’t affected the classic Art Deco apartment market however it has had a noticeable drag on buildings that are less than 20 years old and are starting to show wear. The explosion of new construction in the CBD has also created a drag on rents with generally no rental growth over 2014. We expect much of the same in 2015.
The interesting observation is that the top performers for 2014 were in suburbs that were flush up against the CBD highlighting the increasing value of proximity to home buyers and investors.
We hope that you enjoy this reflection on the year that has passed and we look forward to providing you with many more exciting stories as 2015 progresses.