Canberra “a quiet achiever” among East Coast housing markets


Dwelling price gains in the city are keeping pace with those of Sydney and Melbourne.

Investors in Canberra are racking up gains at par with the growth achieved in Sydney amid the pandemic.

McGrath Estate Agents executive director John McGrath said Canberra’s house price growth over the past year at 29% was just a pinch away from Sydney’s 30.4%, making it a “quiet achiever” amongst the East Coast capitals.

“It’s had a pretty steady ride through the pandemic due to its stable local economy, unique job security being a government town, comparatively low infection rates, fewer restrictions and plenty of stimulus like everywhere else,” Mr McGrath said.

What makes Canberra viable?

The McGrath Report 2022 dubbed Canberra as the “Bush Capital”, with its small population of 431,500 enjoying low density living amid wide open spaces.

“These attributes, which have become vastly more appreciated during the pandemic, along with a celebrated cultural calendar, blossoming food scene and world class education options, have all contributed to Canberra’s progressively rising home values,” Mr McGrath said.

Investor activity ramped up in Canberra over the past year.

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed that around $236m investment loans were recorded in June 2021, a significantly higher figure than the $84m achieved during the same period last year.

The low supply of new land and the strong demand from upgraders taking advantage of both ultra-low interest rates and reduced stamp duty.

Furthermore, there is a substantial activity from first-home buyers. In fact, Canberra recorded the highest take-up of new first-home buyer loans over the June quarter.

Homebuyers also took advantage of government stimulus in the form of stamp duty waivers and concessions.

The ACT has been at the forefront of stamp duty reforms — it has a 20-year commitment to abolish the tax.

“Thousands of young buyers have participated in the Home Buyer Concession Scheme, which for the past two years has waived stamp duty on both new and established homes at any price level,” Mr McGrath said, adding that this support scheme created a lot of extra demand for houses over apartments.

The ACT’s COVID-19 Economic Survival Package included stamp duty waivers and discounts on residential blocks and off-the plan apartments in FY 2021.

Mr McGrath said this contributed to a 13% increase in the city’s apartment median over the past 12 months to $547,484.

This was similar to the 13.6% growth achieved in Sydney’s apartment market.

“Whether you’d invested in a house in Canberra or a house in Sydney 12 months ago, either way you would have achieved a 30% return on investment, based on capital gains alone,” Mr McGrath said.

“The big difference is the Canberra house would have been about $300,000 cheaper to buy.”

Mr McGrath believes that should this trajectory continues, Canberra could potentially join Sydney and Melbourne as a decoupled market, with property values significantly higher than the other smaller capitals.

Photo by Prakash Khanal on Unsplash.

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