Loss-making resales jump across Sydney and Melbourne

The share of loss-making home sales across the country has jumped, led by both Sydney and Melbourne, which saw homeowners selling at a loss at the highest rate in four years.

CoreLogic’s Pain and Gain report found that falling home values across the country and hesitant sellers are translating into longer holder periods and rapidly declining profits for short-term sellers.

Loss-making sales in Melbourne saw the sharpest increase, jumping 1.3 per cent to 8 per cent, led by the rise in unit sales that were sold at a loss.

Across Sydney, loss-making sales increased 1 per cent to 9.9 per cent again driven by the unit sector, where 14.8 per cent of sales make a loss.

While Perth had a loss-making sales rate of 13.2 per cent, which was the second highest of the capital cities behind Darwin (25.5 per cent).

Perth once again had the highest volume of loss-making resales, accounting for almost 20 per cent nationally, while Adelaide had the highest portion of houses sold for a gain at 99 per cent.

Nationally, 6.9 per cent of sellers ended up taking a loss on the sale of their home, up from 6.6 per cent in the September quarter.

Source: CoreLogic

CoreLogic Head of Research and report author Eliza Owen said despite the increased portion of loss-making resales in the December quarter, they are still below the previous decade average of 9.6 per cent. 

“With 93.1 per cent of resales making a nominal gain, the vast majority of Australian homeowners who sold a property in the quarter did so with a gross profit,” Ms Owen said.

“The decline in the volume of property sold in the final three months of 2022 reflects the reduced appetite for property purchases in the period, as well as fewer vendors being willing to sell in a weaker market. 

“The proportion of vendors selling for a loss remains relatively low, despite a rapid decline in home values in many markets. 

“Though the underlying cash rate target increased 300 basis points between April and December 2022, homeowners increasingly opted not to sell in the current downswing.” 

Nationally, the median gain from a resale was $256,000 in the December quarter, down from $290,000 in the previous quarter, while the median loss was $40,500, up slightly from $40,000 in the September quarter. 

While, the median hold period for resales increased to 9.9 years nationally, compared to 9.2 years in the September quarter.

Ms Owen said the opportunity for very short-term gains in the property market have notably shifted from the windfalls of early 2022.

“One in 10 loss-making resales nationally were on properties owned for two years or less,” she said. 

“For those who resold for a profit within two years of purchase, the nominal gains were $94,000. 

“That’s still a strong result but it’s a significant decline from the $170,000 gains being achieved in the March 2022 quarter from properties purchased amid the onset of COVID-19.”

Houses outperforming units

Ms Owen said that the difference between house and unit loss-making resales recorded a 10.35 percentage point gap, one of the largest discrepancies on record. 

She said not only did houses have a much greater incidence of making a nominal gain, but median gains were more than twice that of units, at $350,000 compared with $145,000. 

“Since the start of the current cycle in late 2020 through to December 2022, national house values were 20.9 per cent higher, and unit values only 10.1 per cent higher,” she said.

“After a turbulent cycle, houses ended up with higher value gains, which helps to explain why the rate of loss-making house sales is so much lower than what’s occurring across the unit segment.”

Regional market losses increase

Recent regional market value falls are starting to translate to an increase in the rate of loss-making sales in some lifestyle markets of Australia, albeit off very low incidences of loss. 

Across the combined ‘sea change’ markets, the rate of loss-making sales increased by less than 1 per cent in the quarter across the Mid-North Coast, Newcastle, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. 

The rate of loss-making sales increased by around 100 basis points across Richmond-Tweed, while profit-making sales rates increased across Bunbury, Cairns, Geelong and the Illawarra. 

Across each of these markets, the rate of profit-making sales remained above 90 per cent, and the rate of profit-making sales across Geelong, the Sunshine Coast and Illawarra was 99 per cent in the quarter. 

Ms Owen said it was too soon to say whether the housing market downturn had bottomed out, but a slowdown in the pace of housing value declines usually also corresponds with a slowdown in the rate of loss-making sales. 

“While the rate of loss-making sales may show an increase in the coming quarters, the jump may not be as substantial as the 30 basis point increase over the December quarter,” she said. 

“An improvement in housing market conditions is broadly expected in the second half of 2023 and into 2024 on the presumption the RBA will have finished lifting rates by this time. If that occurs, the market may give way to a rise in housing demand amid improved consumer confidence and the strong return of overseas migration. 

“Any upward pressure on home values would broadly increase the chance of making a nominal gain from resales. This could also see the housing market cycle move through the largest national downswing on record, without hitting record levels of loss-making sales.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.