Sydney and Melbourne continue to show solid house price growth while Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth are much weaker.
Even within cities there is divergence, with oversupply in some apartment markets, while detached house markets lack supply.
We forecast national housing price growth to slow from 7 percent in 2016 to 2-5 percent in 2017; trends across and within cities to vary.
Still cooling, but with divergence across markets
It has always been a misconception to refer to Australia as having one housing market. After all, Australia's population is strewn across a whole continent and each region is affected by different forces. The cycles in Western Australia and Queensland have been driven by mining, while the south-eastern states have larger services sectors.
Being a currency union, there are clear unifying features, such as the common currency, interest rates and federal fiscal policy and free movement of labour, among other things. As a result, over recent decades, a key rule of thumb has been that mortgage rates drive the national housing price cycle. But this relationship has become more complicated recently, thanks to an unusually large cycle in commodity prices, persistent low global and local interest rates, rising foreign buyer activity, and increased use of prudential settings to tame the lending market.
A key driver of trends over the past five years has been the rebalancing of growth towards the housing and services sectors, supported by the lower interest rates and AUD following the end of the mining boom. This has driven a substantial ramp-up in housing prices in Sydney and Melbourne since mid-2012, up 66 percent and 49 percent, respectively. Over the same period, housing prices in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth have risen by only 19 percent, 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
The worrisome pace of Sydney and Melbourne price growth, particularly in 2014 and 2015, motivated a tightening in prudential settings, starting in late 2014, which has seen some moderation in loan growth. As a result, both cities saw housing price growth slow from double-digit growth last year to high single-digit rates this year. We expect low single-digit rates of housing price growth in these cities in 2017, although trends are expected to vary across the apartment and detached house markets.
A national apartment building boom, which has been part of the rebalancing act, is likely to deliver some oversupply in the Melbourne and Brisbane apartment markets, which is expected to see apartment price falls in these markets. Detached dwelling markets across the country are set to see further price growth, albeit moderating.
PAUL BLOXHAM IS CHIEF ECONOMIST (AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND) FOR HSBC.