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Property market resilience to be tested in 2024

After bouncing back in 2023, the resilience of the property market is set to be tested, according to the latest Herron Todd White (HTW) Month in Review.

HTW Head of Group Risk and Compliance, Kevin Brogan, said that while the main issue for buyers has been rising interest rates, tight supply has been another key driver of higher prices in 2023.

“The residential property market overall has experienced significantly reduced transaction activity,” Mr Brogan said.

“In many markets, properties have simply not come onto the market and the demand for homes has outstripped the supply of dwellings, causing prices to continue to rise, despite the total 1.25 per cent increase in mortgage rates during 2023.”

He said the strong growth in Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide had been hiding weakness in other capital cities.

“As is often the case, the headline figures can mask significant diversity between market segments defined by geographical area and price level, however one characteristic is shared by most markets and that is resilience in the face of escalating serviceability challenges due to interest rate increases,” he said.

According to Mr Brogan, some of the stronger markets have been urban fringe or regional locations, with lifestyle areas still seeing strong demand.

He said one of the key drivers this year has been surging immigration.

“The lifting of international travel restrictions after Covid has resulted in a catch-up phase for overseas migration that has added to demand for residential property and fuelled significant rental growth,” he said.

He said higher construction costs are also hurting supply levels along with the expectation of more rate hikes ahead.

However, the outlook remains mixed.

“Listings are starting to increase and there are signs that this increase in supply is not being matched by buyer activity,” Mr Brogan said.

Source: HTW

Sydney

HTW Director, Shaun Thomas, said Sydney’s residential property market defied all predictions and bottomed out in the first quarter, before enjoying a period of good growth throughout the year. 

“As at the end of October, Sydney dwelling values were just 2.2 per cent below the previous peak in January 2022 according to CoreLogic, with almost all of the 2022 declines expected to be recovered by the end of the year,” Mr Thomas said.

“During the first half of the year, new listings remained constrained compared to previous years, which put upward pressure on prices. 

“Spring has seen the rate of growth decline however, as increased listings have provided buyers with more choice.”

He said high immigration levels will continue to pressure the market.

“With immigration levels to remain high over the next few years and new dwelling and new unit approvals at 10-year lows and continuing to soften, there is likely to be a continued shortfall of supply of housing which will continue to put upward pressure on prices and rents,” he said.

Melbourne

HTW Director, Perron King said following a series of interest rate rises that started in May 2022, we have observed varying reactions at each level of the market. 

“The more affordable end of the market appears to have taken the greatest hit from the rate rises, with many city-fringe greenfield suburbs such as Melton, Werribee and Pakenham experiencing an overall decline in property values over the past 12 months,” Mr King said.

“In many cases, we have also seen a decline in the value of vacant land parcels in these areas, which can be partly attributed to sustained insecurity in the building industry, driven by collapsing builders and high construction costs. 

“At the top end of the market, buyers appear in many cases unfazed by interest rates, with a number of record breaking sales throughout the year.

“This is partly a result of cash purchases and the return of internationally-based buyers.”

Brisbane

HTW Director, David Notley, said Brisbane property proved price resilient in 2023 as rates kept rising.

“Among the most resilient of the asset classes this year was detached housing within inner and mid-ring suburbs,” Mr Notley said.

“These areas are characterised by limited available stock and very firm underlying demand from a wide range of buyers. 

Some of this inner-city strength was fuelled by those moving back to the city from regional areas in the wake of the pandemic.

He said properties within five kilometres of the city centre, have held up well in 2023.

“Think detached homes in areas like Paddington, Ascot, East Brisbane and West End,” he said.

“While not cheap, their ability to hold their value – regardless of price point – is hard to deny. 

“Similarly, mid-ring suburbs held up well when it came to detached housing.”

Adelaide

HTW Valuer, Nick Smerdon said the 2022 decline extended into 2023, however it was short-lived. 

“In the year to October 2023, dwelling values within metropolitan Adelaide had increased 6.5 per cent with the metropolitan median dwelling price reaching a record high of $712,000 in the September quarter,” Mr Smerdon said.

“The rental vacancy rate continued to track at historical lows throughout 2023. 

“The most recent data suggests Adelaide and Perth have the nation’s lowest vacancy rates at 0.4 per cent.”

He said with affordable price points and popularity with the broad market, the outer ring performed strongly in 2023.

Perth

HTW Director, Chris Hinchliffe said affordability underpinned the strength of the Western Australian market, as overseas and interstate migrators and scores of investors turned their sights to WA.

“With the population of Western Australia rising, our vacancy rate has slumped lower, with an average of 0.44 per cent across the metro region, forcing would-be tenants to consider purchasing established or building new if their financial situation could accommodate it,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“Contributing to the persistent demand in an incredibly tight market where we have less than 5000 properties on the market, far below the 13,000 equilibrium level and the circa 17,000 properties available in 2017 when it was a buyer’s market to be sure!”

Darwin

HTW Assistant Valuer, Louis Cox said from the start, 2023 was set to be a challenging year for the Greater Darwin residential market with key themes from the back end of 2022 carrying on throughout the year. 

“Interest rates and construction costs remained the talking points of the year and were the driving forces behind the softening market conditions,” Mr Cox said.

“The lack of supply of new land the uncertainty around rising construction costs and notably a lack of government build bonuses have seen buyers in the new home space shift into the existing home market.”

Canberra

HTW Assistant Valuer, Michael Qu said after four consecutive quarters of decline, Canberra’s housing market is on the rise, ending the steepest downturn the market has ever seen.

“The feeling on the frontline is that the Canberra market is plateauing as opposed to rising, with inner suburbs performing better than outer suburbs,” Mr Qu said.

“Compared to this time last year, there is more certainty in the market thanks to more stability around interest rates. 

He said with a bit of stability, there is more confidence from buyers that they know what they can afford. 

“Sellers are a bit more confident on their pricing and are definitely more realistic in their pricing from the peak,” he said.

“There’s always a hangover after a market peak where sellers’ expectations are back in a higher market, but this is starting to settle.”

Hobart

HTW Valuer, Mark Davies said prices have fallen due to the ever-increasing interest rate environment, while listings have increased significantly, and buyer activity has reduced.

“The most active market in the area, regardless of the location, appeared to be properties under the $600,000 price point where first home buyers or builders could take advantage of the numerous government grants,” Mr Davies said.

“Local agents are having great difficulty selling vacant land due to holding and construction costs. 

“Buyers appear to be opting for established houses with the option to renovate when the funds are available.”

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Rowan Crosby

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