HTW Property Clock March 2020: How has COVID-19 affected the market?

Herron Todd White (HTW) have released their monthly property clock report. This month’s report — which looks back on March — is one of the first in-depth reports on how COVID-19 has affected the property markets in Australia. The report also differs in the fact that it is only reporting on the last two weeks of March (compared to the usual full month) as to properly represent the data and the analysis. As you will see on the property clocks below, despite the hits the property market has taken — no in-person auctions, two-person limits throughout many states, etc. — March was not as bad of a month for property as you may have initially thought.

HTW March 2020 Apartments
HTW March 2020 Apartments
HTW March 2020 Houses
HTW March 2020 Houses
HTW March 2020 Apartments
HTW March 2020 Houses


Auction clearance rates had remained high in the weeks leading up to the onsite auction ban which was enacted on March 25th. According to CoreLogic, there were 749 auctions in the wider Sydney region for the week ending 15 March, down 28% from the 1045 auctions held in the week ending 1 March. They also reported that the preliminary auction clearance rate has dropped from 82.6% to 74.6% over those two weeks. Despite this, median prices have continued to increase throughout this period, which was a very promising factor, highlighting that the market was still rising despite the novel coronavirus.

It is becoming clear that many potential sellers will hold off listing their properties in the next few months as Australia goes through an increase and (hopefully) peak in COVID-19 cases. This lack of new stock on the market will contribute in helping hold up property prices in April and May even as waning consumer confidence brought on from the Covid-10 continues.


Drivers impacting the Melbourne residential property market are also quickly changing in light of the recent events this year, namely, the Australian bushfires and the global pandemic of COVID-19. Cuts to the interest rate by the Reserve Bank of Australia to a historic low of 0.25% and economic stimulus packages announced with the aim of boosting the economy and easing the financial fallout of these events are quickly changing the landscape. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 crisis, with the recent announcement of a lowered cash rate, there may be an increased interest for those seeking to buy their first home. Historical low rates will make property increasingly attractive to first home buyers who have job security. Equally so low rates have been driving strong demand in mortgage refinancing.

In the last year, the wider Melbourne property market has been showing significant signs of growth, prosperity and high clearance rates at auctions, especially in the last quarter of 2019 and early in 2020.

Similarly to Sydney, we should expect April and May to be more difficult months, despite the relative success of March. The limited availability in supply of houses and apartments will be more apparent in the coming months, limiting the opportunity for new home buyers and investors to purchase property.


We’ve seen the Brisbane market on the rise over the past few months. It is our view that Brisbane is long overdue for a upswing in the property cycle, so there was quite a lot of hope and excitement in the market that this cycle was underway. Recent isolation and quarantine changes have rather abruptly put a shadow over the market’s prospects — but it’s not all bad news. As is evident in the property clocks above, the Brisbane market is still in a position to begin to prosper and it is simply a question of time until this upward cycle in price will occur. In fact the reduction in supply of both existing and new housing in the market brought about by the Covid-19 shock will in our view drive a very strong property market for Brisbane in the near future.

HTW are expecting three types of property to become hot commodities once the market begins to return to normal: high-end apartments, inner-city townhouses and traditional house and land. We hear you: isn’t that normal? Yes, it is normal, but the extent to which HTW are predicting these properties will be sought after will be a lot more significant than has been traditional over the last five or so years. In the context of these troubling times, there are some positive outlooks for the Brisbane market.


There are two major drivers in the South Australian property market: interest rate movements, and politics. After a tough couple of months, the South Australia market had looked poised for a comeback — infact you can see HTW have placed Adelaide in the ‘Start of Recovery’ phase on both the apartment and housing property clocks above.

Overall the HTW March Report paints a perhaps surprisingly positive picture of the property market. In reflection however, this should not be surprising. The fundamentals are the fundamentals after all. The core factors that drive large markets such as property do not change overnight. Interstate migration, affordability, relative affordability between markets and low interest rates are all key drivers of the property market. The fundamentals that were driving markets will return once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. As a long term investment, a property purchase should not be viewed within the window of 6 months or even 1 year. If you look at your property investment with a 5 or even 10 year window, the COVID-19 crisis looks like a bump in the road.

Of course the other key factor that affects property markets is of course consumer confidence. That is what has been affected by COVID-19. Until consumer confidence comes back, we won’t see any booming property markets. That, on the other hand, doesn’t change the fundamentals!

If you would like to read the full HTW March Report, please click here.

Written: 9 April 2020

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