Affordability at new low as Sydney and Melbourne prices surge

by | Sep 5, 2016 | property

This article was first published by Su-Lin Tan on 1st Sept 2016 via afr.com.au | Image: Year on year, Sydney price growth of 9.4 per cent, has surpassed 9 per cent, the higher end of price growths predicted by experts earlier on in the year. Melbourne is on 9.1 per cent. Supplied

Sydney and Melbourne house prices have surged again in August, driving housing affordability in the two cities to an all-time low.


Sydney prices were up 1.5 per cent, while Melbourne prices grew 1.4 per cent over the month. Overall, the combined capital market house prices rose 1.1 per cent, Corelogic August Home Value Index shows.


Year on year, Sydney’s price growth of 9.4 per cent has surpassed the 9 per cent higher end of price growths predicted by experts earlier on in the year. Melbourne is on 9.1 per cent.


The strong stimulus from low interest rates have seen capital flowing into markets like Hobart where dwelling prices have risen 6.5 per cent over the past 12 months.



Home value index results as at Aug 31, 2016

Home value index results as at Aug 31, 2016


Canberra has also risen 7.6 per cent in the same time. A year ago, it was posting a 0.9 per cent fall in prices.

“[The] RBA had a grand plan early in the piece and we have gone through a very smooth transition from mining to building boom. It has seen value growth stronger than what people have anticipated…a longer cycle,” Corelogic head of research Tim Lawless said.


“This is the really difficult situation…the household income to dwelling price ratio was 8.4 in Sydney and 7.2 in Melbourne, compared to 5.7 in Brisbane…you will start seeing social issues as people are being blocked out of the market.”


But the strength of the two markets is likely to peter out as bank lending gets tighter as seen in the slower rate of growth of housing prices compared with last year, Mr Lawless added.


Sydney has halved from a recent 18.4 per cent peak to the current annual rate of 9.4 per cent. It was the same in Melbourne, Corelogic said.


“If I am wrong about that, and see the interest rates continue to propel 1 per cent growth in house prices each month, there could be social fallouts, and negative consequences,” Mr Lawless said.


SQM Research’s Louis Christopher has a lower yearly price growth of 6 to 7 per cent for Sydney. But he said price growth will reach 9 per cent  –  the higher end of his prediction – by the end of the year. 


Asking prices, except in the eastern suburbs, have remained relatively steady, unlike the same time last year when sellers were demanding much more, Dr Christopher said. 


“I agree with the RBA that prices to the end of June have picked up but but Sydney is no longer the tearaway market like it was in June last year,” he said. 


“It’s been a moderated rise.” 


That said, the eastern suburbs posted a 33 per cent rise in asking prices for houses and 10.8 per cent for units in the past 12 months, SQM Research said. Compare this to the west, where asking prices only rose 3.7 per cent for houses and 1.1 per cent for units. 


“It’s a tale of two cities. It matters what happens in places like Parramatta from now on,” Mr Christopher said. 


“There’s more upward momentum…expect acceleration in the inner and outer ring [of Sydney].”


CommSec Chief Economist Craig James agreed “there is no single ‘Australian’ housing market” and it was important to watch areas with lower-priced homes such as Sydney’s outer ring. 

“Lower-priced properties have been outperforming higher-priced properties for the past five months. The lower quartile of properties by value have shown price increases of 9.8 per cent over the past year while the upper quartile of properties by value are up just 6.2 per cent.


If the housing markets races away from this point on, it could warrant an APRA intervention to curb price rises, Mr Christopher added. 


“The odds are they will get banks to be more reinvigorating with LVRs,” he said. “Perhaps we need lower LVRs in the eastern suburbs.”


And as places like Sydney pushes housing affordability to an all time low, Mr Lawless said better strategies would be needed to connect up cheaper new housing into the CBD and create more jobs in other more affordable cities. 


“If we get a housing minister appointed, it would help. We simply don’t have a minister for housing on the federal level,” Mr Lawless added.


The rise of social housing projects is also likely to start trending, Mr Lawless said.


Macquarie Capital and Mission Australia has already teamed up to propose a social housing project in Redfern in inner city Sydney.


Perth and Darwin house prices continue to struggle and are the only capital cities to record a fall in dwelling values over the most recent twelve months declining by 4.2 per cent in both cities. 


But this could give rise to opportunities, Mr Lawless said.


“They are buyers’ markets. Buyers who are looking for a long term commitment, there could be opportunities there.”


Interestingly, the August index shows a substantial difference between the performance of house and unit values nationally. 


At a combined capitals level, house values rose by 7.2 per cent over the past twelve months, compared with a 5.5 per cent rise in unit values, Corelogic said. 


“With a lot of apartments being built across the country, the gap between house and apartment prices is likely to widen,” Mr James said. 


“The housing market remains generally healthy. The key concern is what happens to prices over the next year as more new homes are completed.”