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Temporary buyer window opens in slowing Sydney luxury market

Price growth in Sydney’s luxury property market has started to slow, opening up a “temporary window” to buy, according to an expert.

Worldwide, luxury markets are facing a year likely to be driven by election uncertainty and interest rates, however, there are signs many markets are turning around after a mixed 2023.

CoreLogic Chief Economist Tim Lawless said despite luxury real estate seeing strong growth in 2023, buyers were starting to hold back.

He said slower growth conditions across Sydney’s upper quartile – the top 25 per cent of housing values, around $2.1 million and higher – have recorded the lowest rate of growth on a monthly and rolling quarterly basis.

“That upper quartile tends to lead the cycle, and we’re clearly seeing that again,” Mr Lawless told Mansion Global.

“There was an inflection point where value growth in that sector was leading Sydney’s upswing from early 2023, but it’s now showing the most noticeable slowdown across both houses and units. 

“Sydney’s upper-quartile house values rose by 4.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter over the three months ending in July. 

“That’s now slowed to 3 per cent.”

Mr Lawless said traditionally, the summer quarter sets the scene for the calendar year ahead, signalling a slower start to 2024 than 2023 for luxury homes.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a further diminishment in growth, maybe even moving to some level of decline in price,” he said.

“What happens in the market… will be dependent on interest rates,” Mr Lawless explained. 

“Potentially, we’ll see interest rates coming down through the second half of 2024.

“Although the timing of that is still highly uncertain because it’ll depend on inflation numbers.”

With grow slowing down or even falling across Sydney, Mr Lawless said a temporary window for buyers could be about to open.

“There’ll probably be more opportunities if luxury values dip below this most recent flurry of growth,” he said. 

“If I’m right about rates coming down late this year, that might mean the best opportunities to buy would be in the first half of the year to take advantage of less competition.”

Across the rest of the world, uncertainty around upcoming elections and interest rates are likely to be the driving focus behind luxury property sales.

New York

Brown Harris Stevens, Chief Executive Officer, Bess Freedman said New York mortgage rates were expected to “inspire more buyers and more sellers” to get into the market.

She said this year there would “probably” be a cut in interest rates.

“That would be a positive,” she said.

Ms Freedman said at the very top end, even in more challenging times, large sales still occurred, there were just fewer of them.

“People are just a bit more risk-averse,” she said 

“I would say 2024 is going to continue to be a bit austere.”

San Francisco

Despite San Francisco seeing a dramatic drop in sales in 2023, Joel Goodrich, director of the estates division of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, is “neutral to bullish” in his outlook for the city in 2024. 

“The Bay Area remains the tech and AI capital of the world, with the vast majority of top AI companies in the world located right here,” Mr Goodrich said. 

“I believe this could lead to another big boom in the second part of the decade. 

“The question is, how soon will it start?”

Miami

Miami was the only US city in the quarterly index to see luxury home prices rise year-over-year.

Ivan Chorney of the Ivan and Mike Team at Compass said “Miami is just on fire”.

He said demand remained strong, and many buyers were looking to buy off-the-plan to get the right unit. 

“If it wasn’t for pre-construction, we’d have very little to sell,” Mr Chorney said. 

Los Angeles

President of Hilton & Hyland/Luxury Portfolio International, David Kramer, said he saw increased activity toward the end of 2023 across Los Angeles, after what was a “bumpy” 12 months.

“There have been some strong sales over the last few months, especially in the upper end,” Mr Kramer said. 

He said some buyers had indicated they wanted to buy “before the market starts the upward turn”.

Prices were down nearly 2 per cent year-over-year in the third quarter, but started to rebound in the second half of the year—up 6.7 per cent in the six months ending in September 2023.

London

Knight Frank Head of UK Residential Research, Tom Bill, said in London, the biggest risks to the prime market were likely to be political rather than economic.

“If the election occurs in the latter half of 2024, then we may see an uptick in prime sales,” Mr Bill said.

“Prime buyers are less reliant on mortgages, but they are influenced by uncertainty.”

Dubai

Luxhabitat CEO, Oriol Font, said the strong market conditions across Dubai were likely to start slowing down in 2024 or 2025, however, the city will remain a key luxury market.

“We expect to see a further consolidation of Dubai as one of the more relevant destinations for high-net-worth individuals,” Font said. 

“In the past, most of the residents were moving to Dubai for work or tax reasons. 

Nowadays, those are not the only reasons as a significant and growing number of high-net-worth individuals move to Dubai because of the lifestyle the city offers, which doesn’t have any comparable, especially in the region.”

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Rowan Crosby

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