The April Herron Todd White property clock has been released, and let us say: it’s looking up! We’re approaching the halfway point for 2020, and it’s certainly been a year of ups and downs.
As you’ll notice, a number of markets are beginning their recoveries (or well on their way), which is a very positive sign. The national apartment markets seem to be a bit behind the house markets, but it doesn’t seem to be cause for concern: they’ll catch up soon.
It’s important to note that the property market (value speaking) is a lag indicator, so changes in value due to the COVID-19 pandemic are still too early to call, however to get some indication of where things are tracking, the best evidence to look at is:
The last month has still seen prices remain fairly stable overall, however as discussed previously, there are some localities and price points seeing some discounting according to HTW. HTW believe that this is mainly due to the number of new listings remaining subdued, meaning that supply and demand are staying relatively in balance. The concern is what will happen later in the year when government stimulus and mortgage repayment pauses end. There potentially could be a significant increase in new listings, some under distressed circumstances, which could have a large impact on prices heading into 2021.
In the rental market HTW report a continued increase in vacancy rates and a fall in asking rents. Houses, somewhat surprisingly, have experienced a quicker fall than units over the past two months. With restrictions around travel within the state and within Australia likely to be eased in the coming weeks and months, short-term holiday rentals that have been transferred to the long-term rental market may start to transfer back to the holiday market, easing vacancy rates.
Areas that rely heavily on tourists, like Byron Bay, are beginning to see an uptick in both renters and buyers alike. This could be a long term trend driven by the Covid-19 event. Renowned futurist Bernard Salt recently commented that he believes that one of the lasting effects of Covid-19 will be a renewed interest in a sea change or bush change, and perhaps this interest in Byron Bay is the first indications of this occurring.
Across the board, Queensland is seeing property prices slowly increase. This is mainly linked to the volume of stock on the market: as Herron Todd White report “there is a still a wait-and-see approach being taken by owners, so buyers don’t have a heap to choose from”. Prices are certainly softer than they would have been without COVID-19, but they haven’t fallen as some have predicted. Of course, as HTW note: “[T]his is an evolving situation. As we move through the machinations of the economy over the next six months – with politics, employment, finance, immigration and trade all playing their parts – things could be turned on their head”.
There is a fair degree of variability in how specific markets are growing. Brisbane, for example, is seeing a lot of growth in upper-price inner-city holdings. This is being driven by a number of renovation projects beginning and ending. The Gold Coast is seeing renovations on owner-occupier homes throughout the central and North Gold Coast areas. Prices are fairly stagnant across the Gold Coast, which is likely to see prices fall a little further and then bounce back. On the Sunshine Coast, prices are down, but so are stock levels, which means prices are likely to come back up quickly as buyers move to secure properties that allow them to qualify for grants like HomeBuilder. Rockhampton, Bundaberg, and Gladstone are still reporting almost no change at all in the number of properties being listed and bought, which is fantastic news. In particular, some areas are see increasing prices: modern, well presented homes on the Capricorn Coast. Emerald and Mackay are seeing the number of properties listed increase, although prices have yet to move up or down in any significant way.
Victoria has been experiencing the major brunt of Australia’s COVID-19 issues over the past month or so, particularly recently. The number of property transactions in the state have dropped significantly, according to HTW, although there are definitely still buyers out and about. Recent crackdowns on the amount of people congregating or attending open homes (due to an increasing number of active COVID-19 cases in the state) are expected to hamper sales a little more, although HTW believe that a high number of listings will come onto the market as we move closer to spring.
In terms of price growth, Melbourne has seen the quickest rebound in the country apart from Sydney. As more properties come onto the market – especially those that are considered “fixer-uppers” – prices will increase further as people look for properties suitable for the HomeBuilder grant. In the inner and outer North Melbourne suburbs, Herron Todd White believe that many people will be looking to use the new HomeBuilder grant to add ‘pop up’ extensions to existing heritage facades. This is likely to increase these properties values even further. East Melbourne is expected to continue its recent renovation boom, with HTW reporting that renovation valuations have increased in Kilsyth, Blackburn, Doncaster and Wantirna.
More regional areas of Victoria are in a great position relative to the Melbourne marketright now. According to the report, most experts are considering these areas “untouched” by COVID-19 issues to date, which means that there haven’t been any significant falls or increases in house prices over the last three or so months. While they acknowledge that a lot of this is related to the fact that sales volumes have decreased, it does bode well for the next few months if these locales (Geelong, Shepparton and Mildura, among others) can remain mostly COVID-19-free.
While properties are sitting on the market for a little longer than usual in South Australia, everything else seems to be ticking over nicely. Dwelling values have been resilient in the state, recording a 0.4% increase over the month of April. According to Herron Todd White, agents are reporting that this is linked to low stock. In more regional areas like Mount Gambier, there have been no clear indications at all that COVID-19 has had an impact on the market. The market has certainly softened due to government restrictions, but across the state the market is bouncing back well as these restrictions are being lifted.
Agents, sellers and buyers alike are slowly regaining confidence in the Western Australia property market. Corelogic is reporting a 0.2% increase in house prices in Perth throughout April, which is positive news. The number of listing is down, but that seems to be the case throughout Australia, and isn’t anything to worry about in our opinion. Honestly, positive outlook in the state is a great indicator of how it will react long-term: with the number of sales increasing even with pretty strict COVID-19 restrictions, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that this positive outlook will only grow as restrictions are eased, potentially leading the state into the property boom it has been waiting for. If you’re a first home buyer, now’s the time to be looking in WA – with all of the grants and schemes available, some first home buyers are eligible for $55,000 to put towards their home!
In short, we are seeing a reduction in sales volumes, combined with a reduction in listings. The March 2020 quarter saw volumes fall by 27%, however as this data is captured pre-COVID-19, so the June quarter will show a clearer picture as to the full effects of the virus and its impact. According to Herron Todd White, “commentary in the market is echoing last month’s view of a wait and see approach as we wade through the pandemic”. Many believe that there will be an increase in sales as restrictions ease further.
HTW believe that the Canberra market has “held its ground” since late March, with prices remaining constant with pre-COVID-19 levels. There are some concerns in the market that going forward there will be a ‘groundhog day’ situation, where prices remain where they are and growth very much negated by the fact that confident market sentiment is no longer there.
It is likely we will see a spike in renovations throughout the ACT as the HomeBuilder scheme is rolled out. With no significant FHB grants or schemes, a most home owners in the territory well onto their second or third property, this is a significant boost for the area. HTW are advising home owners to renovate their kitchens and bathrooms if they’re looking to add value to their property. The report continued that “in current circumstances, it is those who bought five plus years ago who are in the best position to do this, drawing on the growth in their equity of their property from good capital growth to pay for renovations to invest back into their property”.
With it likely to be a while longer before the island state is open to tourists, property is still remaining slightly subdued in Tasmania, particularly investor product. Of course, this makes it the ideal time to do those upgrades to your investment property, and a number of grants are available to help make this a cheaper process.
The state is also working to increase its attractiveness to external buyers. There is a general positive feeling with the easing of restrictions that the island with its natural ‘ocean barrier protection’ is well positioned to attract buyers looking for holiday homes that they could potentially weather another COVID-19 resurgence in, if it ever came to that. The state is also looking to reach buyers through its clean/green image, potentially encouraging further migration from the mainland states and territories.
*The report says that it is for June, but the data actually looks back over the month previous (in this case, May).