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Simon Pressley: Going against the grain

He’s a three-time REIA Buyer’s Agent of the Year and Australian Real Estate Hall of Fame inductee, and as Managing Director of Propertyology, Simon Pressley has built a well-earned reputation as one of the nation’s most astute property analysts.

Simon is renowned for challenging conventional wisdom and has correctly forecast some of the biggest market trends that others in the industry have failed to, including the current post-COVID property boom.

As he tells Samantha McLean in an interview that will be featured on a forthcoming episode of Elite Agent’s Elevate podcast, that particular prediction was greeted with scepticism – to say the least – when he first made it a year ago.

“I don’t think I’ve been criticised any more than that period of time in my life,” Simon recalls. 

“Every single bank in Australia and probably 95 per cent of Australia’s economists all said (it was going to be) not just a downturn, but according to most of them it was going to be the biggest downturn in the history of our country.”

“I said, ‘it’s going to be a boom – and a bloody big one’ – and everyone called me an idiot. But anyway, here we are today.”

It’s not the first time Simon has made predictions that go against the grain, nor is it the first time he’s been ridiculed for doing so.

“I don’t know what it is, but we don’t seek to be different,” he says. “But almost always, what we forecast is the opposite to whatever the consensus is saying.”

A case in point is a bold call he made in 2014, tipping that Hobart’s market would become the best performing out of all the capitals in Australia.

“People laughed at us,” he recalls.

The team at Propertyology were also derided for suggesting property values in large swathes of regional Australia would outperform their capital city counterparts, a prediction that also came to pass.

“So anyway, keep piling on the criticism is all I say,” he laughs.

As Simon explains, on a day-to-day basis, his primary role at Propertyology is forecasting property markets to advise buyer’s agents on the best locations for their clients to invest in.

So, what made Simon so sure the market was going to boom after the pandemic?

“We followed exactly the same process when COVID arrived as what we do all day, every day,” he says.

“I always describe the property market of an individual town or city as like one big jigsaw puzzle and there are lots and lots of pieces to that jigsaw puzzle.

“We need to get all those pieces and bring them together and it shapes a picture, and the picture’s either going to have lots of blue sky, or some clouds coming in or could be really, really dark. So we followed that same process when COVID arrived.”

One piece of the puzzle that others may have neglected to properly acknowledge is that property is more than a financial investment. 

“Property is not a dot on a computer screen or a number in a spreadsheet, it is shelter, and coronavirus is a virus, it’s something in the air, it’s not a property market,” Simon says. 

“While it caused all this enormous disruption, stuff that none of us had ever seen before, we were still bunkering down in shelter, we still needed shelter. 

“This time 12 months ago, Australia had an all-time record low number of properties listed for sale, and an all-time record low number of properties listed for rent. 

“That was something that I placed enormous value on when we forecast how Australian property markets would respond, is that we’re still going to live somewhere.”

Put simply, as Simon says, it made sense that people would still be wanting to transact in property, but due to the low volume of available stock, they were going to have fewer properties to choose from.

Where are we at the moment?

Simon believes the nation’s property market is currently “12 months into the second-biggest boom in Australia’s history”.

“Officially, the biggest boom in our history was the five years ending 2005,” he explains.

What happened in that five-year period of time is there were 128 individual Australian towns and cities where the median house price more than doubled in five years.

“To put some perspective around that, the last big boom that Sydney and Melbourne had, which ended in 2017, their median house prices increased by about 65 per cent. 

“That was a pretty big boom, (but during) the five-year period that I’m talking about, 128 individual towns and cities had more than 100 per cent increases in property price growth – some locations saw a 120 or a 140 per cent rise in just five years.

“The boom that we’re in now, I don’t think it will reach those levels, but I do think it will be the next biggest boom that Australia’s ever seen.” 

Where do we go from here?

Simon says at the beginning of each year,Propertyology releases its annual property market outlook report, explaining that in this year’s report, he predicted that at least five of Australia’s eight capital cities would produce double digit growth

“I see no reasons, three months on, to change that forecast,” he says. “But we also said that in excess of 40 regional locations would have 20 per cent or more capital growth in this calendar year and I certainly see no reason to change that.”

Simon says there will come a time for every location in the country when the volume of properties listed for sale returns to more “normal” levels.

“There’s not a location anywhere in Australia that does not have significantly low volumes of properties listed for sale,” he says. 

“I think Sydney and Melbourne might be among the first to get back to more normal levels. I can’t tell me what date that might be but potentially in the back end of this year.

“But in other parts of Australia, the volume of properties listed for sale may be at these really low levels for some years yet.”

The interview covers a lot of ground, but one salient piece of advice Simon gives that’s applicable to everyone is to take advantage of the current market conditions while the going is good.

“Make the most of it because you may never see these conditions again in your life,” he says.

To hear to the full interview, listen to the Simon Pressley episode of the Elevate podcast on Saturday.

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