The housing market faces its moment of truth in 2015.
Everyone has an opinion.
At one extreme, academic economist Steve Keen – formerly of the University of Western Sydney but now at Kingston University in London – has long insisted the market is in a bubble.
At the other is RBA assistant governor Malcolm Edey who in October said there had been a one-off rise in prices – caused by financial deregulation and the shift to low inflation – largely completed over 10 years ago and followed by a period of stability in prices relative to incomes.
In any case, one thing that’s widely agreed is that prices are relatively high, especially in pockets of Sydney and Melbourne. But a run down the list of key supply and demand factors suggests not all will be positive for the market this year.
INTEREST RATES: Neutral. The RBA has repeatedly flagged a “period of stability” for rates but, despite speculation about possible cuts, the falling Australian dollar should boost the economy enough to prevent cuts and bring rate rises back onto the agenda later this year.
FOREIGN INVESTORS: Possible negative. An unknown quantity, with no reliable data. But if prices stall, they may easily turn tail.
POPULATION: Positive. At 1.6 per cent a year, population growth is above the 1.4 per cent average of the preceding 20 years.
EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES: Double negative. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates the trend in employment growth is less than half the average of the past two decades, while average wage and salary earnings are only just above half-pace.
CONFIDENCE: Negative. Both business confidence, using the NAB survey, and consumer confidence, according to the Westpac/Melbourne Institute survey, at are at low ebbs.
REGULATION: Negative. The RBA and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) have signalled an intention to use their regulatory powers to choke the flow of funds to investors.
MOMENTUM: Possibly turning negative. Price rises over the key selling season of spring and early summer were noticeably slower in 2014 than in 2013, with Adelaide and Hobart the only capitals to record annual price growth faster in 2014 than in 2013. As any investor knows, momentum is contagious, and that applies when momentum is slowing as well as when it’s building.
ANNUAL PRICE RISES
Sydney 2013: 14.5pct 2014: 12.4pct
Melbourne: 2013 8.5pct, 2014 7.6pct
Brisbane: 2013 5.1pct, 2014 4.8pct
Adelaide: 2013 2.8pct, 2014 4.3pct
Perth: 2013 9.9pct, 2014 2.1pct
Hobart: 2013 2.2pct, 2014 3.5pct
Darwin: 2013 3.3pct, 2014 1.6pct
Canberra: 2013 +3.5pct, 2014 -0.6pct
8 capitals: 2013 9.8pct, 2014 7.9pct
Rest of state*: 2013 2.2pct, 2014 2.9pct * Rest of state change in values are for houses only and, for 2014, to end of November.
SOURCE: CoreLogic RP Data