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The property market’s fastest upswing on record, accompanied by a rapid increase in housing credit and highly elevated sales volumes has significantly supported Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
National dwelling values rose 22.2%, comprised of a 25.2% lift across regional Australia and a 21.3% rise in combined capital city dwelling values in the 12 months to November 2021.
As a result, housing has been an integral part of economic recovery from COVID-19 and forms a higher than average concentration of household wealth in Australia, with the latest RBA figures putting housing at 55.4% of total household wealth.
Over the last year there were an estimated 614,635 dwelling sales across the country, which is the highest annual sales volume since December 2003.
Strong housing market activity has been supported by a combination of factors, including low-interest rates and relatively subdued levels of available stock.
Housing-related government support such as the First Home Loan Deposit and HomeBuilder schemes and non-housing fiscal stimulus, such as JobKeeper, helped many Australians service housing costs such as rents and mortgage repayments.
Alongside home loan repayment deferrals, these household support measures stabilised the supply-side of housing through 2020 by preventing distressed sales, and these repayment deferrals were reintroduced amid lockdowns in 2021.
The fastest upswing out of the gate
The current upswing has brought about the fastest rise in the home value index on record for a relatively short period of time.
This is evident in the following chart which compares Australian housing market upswings dating back to 1983.
The current upswing has lasted 14 months, and through that period to see national dwellings rise 23.7%.
The growth rate in rents has also seen a strong uplift at the national level, increasing 9.4% over the 12 months to November, which is the highest rate of annual appreciation sis January 2008.
This follows a decade average growth of 2%.
Even in rental markets that have shown greater we push through the pandemic, such as Melbourne units, a recovery trend has been recorded, with Melbourne unit rents now 1.7% higher in 12 months to November
Australia’s household savings rate also increased to 23.6% through to June 2020 against a then decade average of 6.9% on the back of strict pandemic lockdowns and inhibited short-term consumption spending.
It is probable that lower mortgage rates, and an observed economic and housing market recovery from the end of 2020, contributed to buoyant housing demand, particularly in those cities impacted by lockdowns in 2021,” Ms. Owen said.
However, the nature of restrictions also affected housing dynamics, with sales volumes falling far more dramatically in areas where physical inspections of property were prohibited.”
Australian rent values have also seen a strong uplift at the national level, increasing 9.4% in the 12 months to November 2021, which is the highest rate of annual appreciation since January 2008.
The market is slowing
There is evidence of growth rates easing in the Australian housing market and the broad-based upswing of early 2021 was no longer applicable due to the variation in dynamics across the states and territories.
Momentum in the housing market is slowing quickly in Sydney and Melbourne, which is likely due to a relatively high number of listings now on the market and severe affordability constraints.
Across Melbourne, demand appears to be shifting to more affordable areas of the city, with lower-value dwelling markets seeing a pick-up in quarterly growth rates.
Similarly, value gains are accelerating across regional NSW, while affordability weighs on dwelling demand across Sydney.
In Brisbane and Adelaide, value growth rates have reached the highest levels seen in more than a decade and are continuing to accelerate.
In the ACT, the concentration of housing demand has shifted to the unit sector as the median house value closes in on the $1 million benchmark and investor participation rises.
The high-value growth and above-average rates of housing turnover recorded in 2021 are unsustainable, particularly with forecast headwinds such as recent changes to mortgage lending conditions and signs of interest rate increases, both of which are likely to slow housing demand.
Listings levels are normalising across Sydney and Melbourne, and affordability constraints are worsening across most housing markets
As a result, it is expected that 2022 will see far milder rates of appreciation in Australian dwelling values.
Key findings by State and Territory
The NSW property market has been in an upswing since October 2020, with state-wide dwelling values increasing 26.5% in the 12 months to November 2021.
This is the second-highest uplift of the states and territories (behind Tasmania, where dwelling values increased 28.6%).
The highest annual growth rates have occurred in premium lifestyle markets including the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (36.6%), Sydney’s Northern Beaches (36.4%), the Central Coast (34.1%), and Sydney’s Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury region (33.2%).
Victoria has seen the greatest divide in dwelling market performance between its regional and metropolitan areas.
Greater Melbourne dwelling values have increased 16.3% in the 12 months to November (the second-weakest result of the capital cities), while regional Victorian dwelling values are 24.0% higher over the year.
Australia’s international migration restrictions and Melbourne’s extended lockdowns in both 2020 and 2021 were the two major headwinds to have impacted the city’s migration levels, economic output, and housing demand across the city.
The Queensland housing market has seen highly diverse property performance outcomes.
Lifestyle markets in the state’s South East have shown the highest rate of growth in the past year, while Brisbane (and Adelaide) has a rolling quarterly growth rate that continues to trend higher.
This can be attributed to several factors including historically low listings and a median house value of $757,194, which is -23.3% less than Melbourne’s median house value and -44.3% less than Sydney’s median house value.
Queensland also recorded Australia’s highest net interstate migration figure in the year to March 2021, with interstate migration increasing 28.2% over the year.
As of November, the quarterly growth in dwelling values across Adelaide was 6.5%, the second-highest of the capital city dwelling markets and its highest quarterly growth rate for the past 20 years.
The Adelaide housing market has seen sustained, high levels of quarterly growth in part attributable to persistently low levels of housing supply and relative affordability.
Adelaide’s median dwelling value of $558,179 makes it the third most affordable city behind Perth and Darwin.
WA’s dwelling values have been increasing since November 2019, placing them 22.1% higher than when they bottomed out in October 2019, yet still -3.4% below the record high of June 2014.
The recovery in WA dwelling values has been more robust across Perth, where values are -2.4% below the June 2014 record, while dwelling values across regional WA remain -20.7% below their peak of January 2008.
The upward trend in property prices has followed several cash rate reductions, more positive trends in internal migration, and an uptick in employment, particularly across the mining sector.
Tasmanian dwellings continued to dominate growth performance across the states and territories through to November, with dwelling values rising almost 30% in the past 12 months, taking the state’s five-year annualised growth rate to 11.8% per annum.
Hobart’s median dwelling value has gone from the lowest of all capital cities at $359,088 to the fourth highest of the capital cities at $676,595 in the past five years.
Over the same period, median rent values have risen from $345 per week to $495 on the back of a robust economic and demographic position in the lead up to the pandemic.
Low-interest rates, first home buyer incentives, government assistance packages through COVID-19, and improving economic conditions have supported dwelling values across the NT, which increased 15.6% in the 12 months to November.
Strict border restrictions since the onset of COVID-19 partially stemmed the flow of people away from the Territory and despite Darwin dwelling values rising 25.9% since bottoming out in March 2020, the latest home value index results show Darwin’s dwelling values remain -15.3% below the peak in May 2014.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT’s housing market has surged consistently throughout 2021 with median house value across the nation’s capital $245 short of reaching $1 million in November, having increased 27.2% in the past 12 months.
The ACT overtook Melbourne’s median house value in October 2021 and is second only behind Sydney.
Despite the sustained growth, Canberra’s housing affordability has held up relatively well due to higher than average wages and low unemployment rates.
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