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27-04-2016 THE WIDE GAP BETWEEN PROPERTY PERCEPTION & REALITY

27 April 2016-PROPERTY OBSERVER

Sydney boom over, Melbourne has momentum and avoid Brisbane: Terry Ryder

Sydney boom over, Melbourne has momentum and avoid Brisbane: Terry Ryder

There’s a chasm-sized gap between perception and reality in Australian real estate.

A recent survey of consumers by MLC found there’s a widespread belief that homes are beyond the grasp of first-time buyers and that future generations won’t be able to afford to buy. That’s the common perception and it comes as no surprise, given that mainstream media keeps banging on about an affordability crisis, amid claims that the dream is dead.

The reality is quite different. As I wrote last week, the latest Affordability Index from the HIA has found that affordability nationally is the best it’s been in over five years and that some parts of Australia have the best level of affordability since 2003. Clearly, Sydney is an exception, although there was improvement in the March Quarter.

Reinforcing that point is the actual activity of first-time buyers. The latest NAB Quarterly Australian Residential Property Survey indicates that 33.5% of sales of new dwellings in the March Quarter were to first-time buyers.

That suggests first-time buyers are the dominant buying force in new properties, having a greater market share than owner-occupiers (other than first-home buyers), Australian investors and foreign investors.

In addition, the NAB survey finds that 26 percent of established dwellings were sold to first-time buyers – also a strong market share, though less than owner-occupiers (other than first-home buyers), who make up 43 percent of the market for established homes.

There’s a stark contrast there is the results of two surveys. The MLC survey found most people think young buyers are being priced out of the market and that 58% believe the next generation will be forced to rent all their lives. But the NAB survey found first-time buyers are out there in force and, in the new-home sector, are dominating the market.

Why so different? It’s because the NAB report was based on a survey of property professionals who are at the coalface daily and know what’s going on. The MLC survey was based on consumers, whose perceptions about what’s going on are influenced by media sound bytes.

Media reportage of real estate is overwhelmingly negative and that’s reflected in the MLC survey results – which are interesting but ultimately worthless because they contradict reality.

Generally, the NAB survey found that industry sentiment improved in the March Quarter, after having fallen for the previous three quarters.

Sentiment was strongest in Victoria. This makes sense, because while the Sydney boom is over, Melbourne still has momentum.

Expectations for price growth are strongest in Victoria. Melbourne and Brisbane are expected to be the best price performers in 2016, while Perth (also not surprising) has the weakest expectations for prices among the capital cities.

The findings for the apartment markets also make sense. Unit prices are expected to fall in Perth (because of a weak economy) and Melbourne (because of oversupply).

The survey found foreign buyers were less of a force in the market – and have switched their focus from NSW and Victoria to Queensland, where foreigners account for 20 percent of sales of new properties.

This reflects the ramping up of marketing of high-rise units in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, two markets that smart investors will avoid.