The preliminary auction clearance results are in from Domain. Looks like the volume of sales has fallen compared with last week (even though the clearance rate is higher) and last year – all subject to final results later of course. Melbourne is still hotter than Sydney, where our leading indicator research suggests appetite for property is cooling the fastest.
The latest and updated edition of our flagship report “The Property Imperative” is now available on request with data to mid October 2017.
This Property Imperative Report is a distillation of our research into the finance and property market, using data from our household surveys and other public data. Whilst we provide weekly updates via our blog, twice a year we publish this report. This is volume 9. It offers, in one place, a unique summary of the finance and property markets, from a household perspective.
Residential property, and the mortgage industry is currently under the microscope, as never before. Around two thirds of all households have interests in residential property, and about half of these have mortgages. More households are excluded completely and are forced to rent, or live with family or friends.
We believe we are at a significant inflection point and the market risks are rising. Many recent studies appear to support this view. There are a number of concerning trends. While household incomes are flat in real terms, the size of the average mortgage has grown significantly in the past few year, thanks to rising home prices (in some states), changed lending standards, and consumer appetite for debt. In fact, consumer debt has never been higher in Australia. As a result, households are getting loans later, holding mortgages for longer, even in to retirement, so household finances are being severely impacted, and more recent changes in underwriting standards are making finance less available to many.
Property Investors still make up a significant share of total borrowing, and experience around the world shows it is these households who are more fickle in a downturn. Many use interest only loans, which create risks downstream, and regulators have recently been applying pressure to lenders to curtail their growth.
Mortgage rates are now higher for Investors and those holding Interest Only loans, while low-risk customers with a Principal and Interest loan should be able to find some amazingly low rates. While mortgage underwriting standards are now tighter, there is an overhang of existing loans which would now fall outside existing underwriting standards. Interest Only loans are especially at risk, not least because rental incomes are being compressed.
We hold the view that home prices are set to ease in coming months, as already foreshadowed in Sydney. We think mortgage rates are more likely to rise than fall as we move on into 2018.
Finally, lenders have been able to repair their margins, under the umbrella of supervisory intervention, and their back book repricing has created a war chest to fund attractor offers.
We will continue to track market developments in our weekly Property Imperative weekly video blogs, and publish a further consolidated update in about six months’ time.
Here is the table of contents.
Request the free report [72 pages] using the form below. You should get confirmation your message was sent immediately and you will receive an email with the report attached after a short delay.
Note this will NOT automatically send you our ongoing research updates, for that register here.
There were 2,497 auctions held across the combined capital cities this week, up from 2,318 last week. So far, 2,007 results have been reported to CoreLogic, returning a preliminary clearance rate of 70.6 per cent, increasing from last week when the final clearance rate slipped to 64.4 per cent, the lowest clearance rate since January 2016. While we expect the clearance rate to revise over the next few days as the remaining results are collected, it will be interesting to see how the clearance rate holds up on Thursday when the final figures are released.
Over the corresponding week last year, auction volumes were similar, with 2,443 properties taken to auction, while the clearance rate was stronger (76.2 per cent). The highest preliminary clearance rate was recorded in Melbourne this week (74.8 per cent), followed closely by Canberra (74.5 per cent).
Another massive week of finance and property news, much of it centred on households and their finances, as the regulators home in on the risks in the mortgage market. But is it too little too late?
We start our review of this week’s finance and property news with the RBA’s Financial Stability report. This quarterly report, which ran to 62 pages said that International economic conditions, and local business confidence are on the improve while banks now hold more capital, have tightened lending standards, and shadow banking is under control. But, they say, Australian household balance sheets and the housing market remain a core area of interest, and from a financial stability perspective, this is the key risk. They showed that one third of mortgage holders have less than one months’ buffer, and their key concern is the negative impact on future growth as households hunker down; so nothing new really, apart from some new “Top Down” stress testing.
And nothing to answer the IMF’s downgraded Australian growth forecast. Given the first half result in 2017 was 1.2% a second half forecast at circa 1% is hardly stellar; and the sudden rebound to 3% next year, some might say, appears courageous. The IMF also revised up the unemployment rate, suggesting it will remain at 5.6%, rather than falling to 5.3% as estimated last time. This plus slow wage growth highlights the issues underlying the economy. They also warned about risks from high debt saying growth in household debt relative to GDP is associated with a greater probability of a banking crisis. And Australia is right up there!
On the same day, the ABS released their latest Housing and Occupancy Costs data. The average household with an owner occupied mortgage is paying around $450 a week, slightly lower than the peak a couple of years ago. This equates to around 16% of gross household income. But of course, the true story is interest rates have fallen to all-time lows, allowing people to borrow more, as prices rise. As a result, should interest rates start to bite, this will cause real pain. Plus, we have recent flat wage growth, in real terms, in the past couple of years. Finally, households have a bigger mortgage held for longer, which is great for the banks, but not helpful from a household perspective, as it erodes savings into retirement and means that more older Australians are still borrowing as they transition from the work force.
Earlier in the week, the ABS also released their latest housing finance data which showed that ADI lending rose 0.6% in trend terms in August, or 2.1% seasonally adjusted. Within that, lending for owner occupied housing rose 0.9%, or 2.1% seasonally adjusted and investor loans rose 0.2% in trend terms, or a massive 4.3% in seasonally adjusted terms. So lending growth is apparent, and signals more household debt ahead. First time buyers continue to extend their reach, despite the fact we are seeing “Peak Price” for property at the moment. In original terms, the number of first home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments rose to 17.2% in August 2017 from 16.6% in July.
AFG’s latest mortgage index, shows that property investor appetite is falling, while first time buyers, and property upgraders are more active. First time buyers are reacting to the recent incentives put in place in VIC and NSW, they said.
Citi published a 54-page report on the highly topical subject of interest only (IO) loans, and we provided data from our Core Market Model to assist their research. Even after recent regulatory tightening, they say that underwriting standards in Australia are still more generous than some other countries, at 5.3 times income, compared with 3.7 times in the UK, 4.4 times in Canada and 4.9 times in New Zealand. They conclude that there are vulnerabilities in the IO sector, both from property investors and owner occupied IO loan holders. Overall this is, we estimate, more than $680 billion of the $1.6 trillion mortgage book. They say that tighter lending criteria and rising house prices has meant investors increasingly face net negative cash flows and investors face a growing household cash flow gap and reducing capital gains expectations. The large levels of debt outstanding by borrowers aged in their 50’s and 60’s means many investors will need to sell property to discharge their debts. Owner Occupied IO borrowers are more susceptible to interest rate rises given higher average borrowing levels and higher average loan to value ratios. They concluded “Given the widespread use of IO finance and the reduced prospects of discharging debt via means other than liquidation of portfolio holdings, banks must face an increased risk of mis-selling claims in future years. Mining towns serve as a microcosm of this threat”.
ASIC updated their work on IO loans finding that Australia’s major banks have cut back their interest-only lending by $4.5 billion over the past year. However, other lenders have partially offset this decline by increasing their share of interest-only lending. They say that borrowers who used brokers were more likely to obtain an interest-only loan compared to those who went directly to a lender and borrowers approaching retirement age continue to be provided with a significant number of interest-only owner-occupier loans. Now ASIC will examine individual loan files to ensure that lenders are providing interest-only home loans in appropriate circumstances, to ensure that consumers are not paying for more expensive products that are unsuitable, under the responsible lending provisions.
In this light, it was interesting to listen to some of the Big Bank’s CEO’s in front of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics. Westpac CEO said half of his $400 billion mortgage portfolio was interest only. The other banks were closer to 40%. While both Westpac and ANZ said “we don’t lend to people who can’t pay it back. It doesn’t make sense for us to do so”, the underwriting standards are, we think, way too lose, as the recent regulatory tightening highlights, but it’s probably too late, especially for IO loans which now would fail even the current still generous standards. In an excellent The Conversation article, Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW rightly highlighted the “Spooky” parallels between our current situation, and the US mortgage market prior to the GFC. “Australia’s large proportion of five-year interest-only loans – turbocharged by an out-of-control negative-gearing regime – looks spookily similar. It’s one thing for borrowers to do silly things. When it becomes dangerous is when lenders not only facilitate that stupidity, but encourage it. That seems to be what has happened in Australia”.
Smaller lenders are still feeling the pressure, as illustrated by the Bank of Queensland results, which came out this week. While the headline profit was up, underlying growth was lower, and mortgage lending was the key. Net interest margin fell to 1.87%, but was better in 2H. Interest only loans were 40% in 2H16, and 39% in 1H17, but trending down, they say! 8% of loans are higher than 90% LVR on a portfolio basis, and 19% in the 81-90% band.
During their hearing, the big banks also confirmed they had repriced their mortgage back book, especially for interest only and investment loans, but weirdly denied this was to increase profitability. The quote of the week for me was one CEO saying that people should switch from IO loans to P&I loans “because they were cheaper” – which may be true from a headline interest rate perspective, but the monthly repayments when switching are significantly higher, so in reality, it is not cheaper in cash flow terms!
There was conflicting data relating to Foreign Property Investors, especially from China, with Credit Suisse saying they estimate, based on stamp duty records, that foreign buyers are acquiring the equivalent of 25% of new housing supply in NSW, 17% in Victoria and 8% in Queensland. If they are correct, this may put a floor on home prices, and they suggest that crackdowns on capital outflows by Chinese authorities appear not have slowed China’s appetite for Australian property.
On the other hand, while the NAB Residential Property Index rose 6 points in Q3, they highlighted lower foreign buying activity in new property markets, VIC saw the share fall to 14.4% (from 20.8% in Q2) and NSW down to 7.8% from 12% in Q2. In contrast, QLD saw a rise to 11.4%, up from 8.6% last quarter. NAB also revised its national house price forecasts, predicting an increase of 3.4% in 2018 (previously 4.3%) and easing to 2.5% in 2019. Unit prices are forecast to rise 0.5% in 2018 (-0.3% previously), with a modest fall expected in 2019.
Our data suggests that Chinese buyers are indeed still active, with a focus on certain postcodes where high-rise units are being built, and often offered direct to overseas buyers. We also see evidence of some high rollers buying larger houses. But overall this is not enough to support home prices into next year.
We published the September update of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Security Index, which underscored the growing gap between employment, which remains relatively strong, and the Financial Security of households. The Index fell from 98.6 in August to 97.5 in September. The state by state view highlights a fall in NSW, while VIC holds higher, and there was a rise in WA from February 2017 lows. This highlights the fact the households across the national are under different levels of pressure. Tracking by age bands we find younger households are significantly less confident, compared with those aged 50-60 years. But across the board, the general trend is lower.
Similar findings were contained in the latest AlphaWise survey conducted by Morgan Stanley. Income growth has not recovered, ‘cost of living’ inflation is re-accelerating and ‘macro-prudential’-related tightening of credit conditions is extending from housing into consumer finance. They say Australian households are in a vulnerable financial position, especially those who have taken out a mortgage. And in an era of weak incomes growth, soaring energy prices and high levels of indebtedness, with the prospect of higher interest rates on the way, many intend to cut discretionary spending in anticipation of even tighter household budgets. That’s bad news, not only Australia’s retail sector, but also the broader economy. They forecast discretionary consumption volumes will slow to just 0.2% in 2018, dragging overall consumption growth down to 1.1% and well below consensus of 2.5%.
So, in summary the evidence is building that we are entering a concerning episode where growth is likely to be lower, households will remain under pressure, and risks in the system are considerably higher than the RBA is willing to concede. The mystery though is why the regulators are still allowing mortgage lending to grow way faster than inflation, and wages. This surely must be slowed, and soon. Once again, too little too late.
So that’s the Property Imperative Weekly to 14th October. If you found this useful, do leave a comment below, subscribe to receive future updates and check back next week.
The preliminary auction results are in from Domain. The trend continues with lower volumes but still strong clearance rates in the main centres, and with Melbourne leading the charge.
Recent restrictions on interest-only lending have increased concerns around Australian housing stability, if investors are forced to start paying down principal in addition to the interest on their loan.
In a note titled “Cliff edge”, housing expert Pete Wargent said those stricter lending standards have led to speculation an increasing number of borrowers could topple over a “principal and interest cliff” when their interest-only loan expires and they’re unable to roll it over.
Most interest-only loans have a five-year term, at which point it’s rolled over or converts to principal & interest repayments.
“The repayments might be up to 40% or more higher when the principal payments kick in, so household cashflows need to be carefully managed,” Wargent said.
Interest-only lending peaked in 2015 before APRA’s first round of macro-prudential restrictions. In view of that, Wargent expects the highest number of interest-only loan terms will be due to roll over in 2020.
This chart shows Wargent’s estimate of the dollar value of interest-only loans for which borrowers will be forced to convert to principal & interest repayments:
As part of macro-prudential measures introduced in March to try and curb property market speculation, APRA put a cap on interest-only lending at 30% of all new loans.
Australian banks also offered no-cost switches into principal & interest repayment plans, and enforced stricter loan to value (LVR) requirements for interest-only borrowers.
Based on those changes, “it’s possible to make a rough assessment or estimate of the value of IO loans falling due approved under conditions that would likely fail today’s underwriting standards”, Wargent said.
The estimates suggest that around $40-55 billion in interest-only loans will come up for renewal between 2018 and 2020.
“By 2016, the share of new interest-only loans in the market had been pared back, and therefore the P&I cliff will also begin to taper off by 2021,” he added.
This chart from Citi provides a good measures of how rampant interest-only lending was in 2015, to borrowers now facing revised loan-terms in 2020.
In the March quarter of 2015, interest-only lending made up almost half of new loan flow:
In a research report released this morning, Citi also calculated that the total value of interest-only loans in Australia currently amounts to approximately $643 billion.
The bulk of interest-only loans are taken up by investment professional for tax benefits. However, Citi also reported a sharp rise in interest only loans taken out between 2011 and 2017 by the “suburban mainstream” — middle income workers and younger families.
Based on those figures, if income growth remains low a number of Australian households could be facing increased pressure from a sharp rise in mortgage costs over the next three years as interest-only loan terms expire.
Wargent expects the changes to suck some “hot air” out of Australia’s property market. “I don’t know if it’s a doomsday scenario, but it will most likely make property less attractive as an asset class”, he told Business Insider.
“In the wash-up, one can’t help but feel that investors that opted for quantity over quality of investment properties might be left staring down the barrel of some unenviable decisions.”
The latest 62 page edition of the RBA Financial Stability Review has been released, and it continues their line “of some risks, but no worries”. International economic conditions, and business confidence are, they say, on the improve while Australian household balance sheets and the housing market remain a core area of interest. The potential impact of rising rates and flat income are discussed, once again, but little new is added into the mix.
From a financial stability perspective, banks hold more capital, have tightened lending standards, and shadow banking is under control.
The key domestic risks in the Australian financial system continue to stem from household borrowing. Household indebtedness, most of which is mortgage borrowing, is high and gradually rising against a backdrop of low interest rates and weak income growth. While some households have taken advantage of low interest rates to make excess mortgage payments, others have increased their borrowing. Higher interest rates, or falls in income, could see some highly indebted households struggle to service their debt and so curtail their spending.
Prepayments are an important dynamic in the Australian mortgage market as they allow households to build a financial buffer to cushion mortgage rate rises or income falls. Aggregate mortgage buffers – balances in offset accounts and redraw facilities – remain around 17 per cent of outstanding loan balances, or over 2½ years of scheduled repayments at current interest rates.
These aggregates, however, mask substantial variation; about one-third of mortgages have less than one months’ buffer Not all of these are vulnerable given some borrowers have fixed rate mortgages that restrict prepayments, and some are investor mortgages where there are incentives to not pay down tax deductible debt. This leaves a smaller share of potentially vulnerable borrowers with new mortgages who have yet to accumulate prepayments, and borrowers who may not be able to afford prepayments. Partial data suggest that the share of households with only small buffers has declined in recent years, in part due to declines in mortgage rates. Households with small buffers also tend to be lower-income or lower-wealth households, which could make them more vulnerable to financial stress.
Household indebtedness is high and, against a backdrop of low interest rates and weak income growth, debt levels relative to income have continued to edge higher. Steps taken by regulators in the past few years to strengthen the resilience of balance sheets, including limiting the pace of growth of investor lending, discouraging loans with high loan-to-valuation ratios (LVRs) and strengthening serviceability metrics, have seen the growth in riskier types of lending moderate. The most recent focus has been on limiting interest-only lending, and banks have responded by further reducing lending with high LVRs for interest-only loans, increasing interest rates for some types of mortgages and significantly reducing interest-only lending.
The tightening of banks’ lending standards for property loans is constraining some households and developers but, in doing so, making the balance sheets of both borrowers and lenders more resilient. Conditions are relatively weak in the Brisbane apartment market, with a large increase in supply reflected in declines in prices and rents. There are, however, few signs of significant settlement difficulties to date. More generally, while housing market conditions vary across the country, there are signs of easing of late, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne where conditions have been strongest.
With the tightening of lending standards, there is a potential that riskier lending migrates into the non-bank sector. To date, non-bank financial institutions’ residential mortgage lending has remained small though their lending for property development has picked up recently. While the banking system has minimal exposure to the non-bank financial sector, growth in finance outside the regulated sector is an area to watch.
Here are some of the other nuggets:
Very low interest rates have also contributed to strong growth in property prices internationally as investors search for yield. To the extent that prices have moved beyond what their underlying determinants suggest, this increases the risk of sharp price falls if interest rates were to rise suddenly or if risk sentiment were to deteriorate.
While household debt levels are high, and rising, to date the impact on households’ ability to service their debt has been muted by falls in interest rates to historically low levels. Nonetheless, highly indebted households are more likely to struggle to repay their debts, or substantially reduce their consumption, in response to a negative shock, such as a rise in unemployment, an unexpectedly large increase in interest rates or a sharp fall in housing prices.
The distribution of debt is also important in identifying where risks lie as typically it is not the ‘average’ household that gets into financial In Canada and Sweden, for example, the risks from high household debt may be heightened since the debt is concentrated among younger and low‑to-middle-income households, who are likely to be more vulnerable
to negative shocks.
Further, interest-only (IO) lending has been identified as increasing risks in some jurisdictions.4 Households with IO loans remain more indebted throughout the life of the loan than if they had been paying down the loan principal, making them more vulnerable to higher interest rates, reduced income, or lower housing prices. Such households are also more vulnerable to ‘payment shock’ due to the increase in repayments following the end of the interest-only period of the loan.
Global experience is that the culture within banks can have a major bearing on how a wide range of risks are identified and managed. There have been a number of examples where the absence of strong positive culture has given rise to a deterioration in asset performance, misconduct and loss of public trust. In Australia, there have also been examples of weak internal controls causing difficulties for some banks. These include in the areas of life insurance, wealth management and, more recently, retail banking. In August, AUSTRAC (the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) initiated civil proceedings against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. In the current environment where investors still expect high rates of return, despite regulatory and other changes that have reduced bank ROE, banks need to be careful of taking on more risk to boost returns.
A central element to address this issue is to ensure that banks build strong risk cultures and governance frameworks. Regulators have therefore heightened their focus on culture and the industry is taking steps to improve in this area.
The latest NAB Residential Property Index is out, and it rose 6 points to +20 in Q3, with sentiment (based on current prices and rents) improving in all states except NSW (which edged down). Sentiment rose sharply in Victoria (up 27 to +63) and in Queensland (up 4 to +16). Whilst sentiment rises and confidence lifts among property experts in Q3, NAB expects prices to slow in 2018-19, but not a severe adjustment.
Australian housing market sentiment lifted over the third quarter of 2017, supported mainly by a large increase in the number of property experts reporting positive rental growth in the quarter and continued house price growth in most states.
“The NAB Residential Property Survey shows an improvement in market sentiment across most states last quarter, but we continue to see market conditions that vary across different locations. The momentum is clearly with Victoria, while NSW is experiencing something of a slowdown,” NAB Chief Economist Alan Oster said.
Confidence (based on forward expectations for prices and rents) lifted in all states, led by Victoria, and with WA the big improver. Despite weakening price growth in NSW, higher confidence is being supported by predictions for higher rents.
First home buyers continue emerging as key buyers in both new and established housing markets, accounting for over 36% of all sales in new housing markets and around 29% in established markets.
During Q3, the overall market share of foreign buyers in new property markets fell to a 5-year low of 9.5%, potentially due to lending restrictions on foreign buyers. Low foreign buying activity in new property markets was led by Victoria, where the share of sales to foreign buyers fell to 14.4% (20.8% in Q2).
For the first time, tight credit was identified as the biggest constraint on new developments in all states, while access to credit was the biggest barrier for buyers of established property. Price levels were the biggest concern in both Victoria and NSW. In WA and SA/NT, property experts said that employment security was the biggest barrier to buying an established home.
They also highlighted lower foreign buying activity in new property markets, with VIC saw the share fall to 14.4% (from 20.8% in Q2) and NSW down to 7.8% from 12% in Q2. In contrast, QLD saw a rise to 11.4%, up from 8.6% last quarter.
NAB’s forecasts on residential prices
NAB Group Economics has revised its national house price forecasts, predicting an increase of 3.4% in 2018 (previously 4.3%) and easing to 2.5% in 2019. Unit prices are forecast to rise 0.5% in 2018 (-0.3% previously), with a modest fall expected in 2019.
“More moderate market conditions reflect a combination of factors which vary across markets, including deteriorating affordability, rising supply of apartments, tighter credit conditions and rising interest rates in the second half of 2018” said Mr Oster.
“But still relatively low mortgage rates, a favourable housing supply-demand balance and strong population growth population growth should continue to provide support for prices going forward.”
“By capital city, house price growth is forecast to be moderate outside of Perth – where prices are flattening out – consistent with good business conditions and better employment growth.”
“Melbourne and Hobart are currently experiencing solid growth in prices; Sydney is cooling and we expect Brisbane and Adelaide will cool. Finally, we expect 2018 to mark the beginning of a gradual turnaround for Perth.”
About 300 property professionals participated in the Q3 2017 survey.
According to new analysis by Credit Suisse, demand for housing from Chinese buyers remains strong, especially the purchase of new developments, and this will put a floor under property especially in the main urban centres of Sydney and Melbourne.
As reported in Business Insider, new restrictions on foreign investors are unlikely to stop the flow of housing demand from China, according to Credit Suisse analysts Hasan Tevfik and Peter Liu.
And crackdowns on capital outflows by Chinese authorities appear not have slowed China’s appetite for Australian property, the pair say.
The latest numbers are based on state tax revenue data obtained by Tevfik and Liu in March through a Freedom of Information Request.
“We calculate foreign buyers are acquiring the equivalent of 25% of new housing supply in NSW, 17% in Victoria and 8% in Queensland. Almost all of this is from China,” the analysts said.
Updated to June, the figures show that foreign buyers are snapping up Australian property at an annualised rate of $10 billion per year across NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
That’s only a small percentage of Australia’s $6.7 trillion housing market, but importantly, it makes up a significant percentage of the demand for new housing supply.
Nearly a third of new housing stock being built in NSW is being bought by foreigners. Obviously not all of that is for new dwellings, but the vast majority would be.
And while much has been made of the crackdown on investor-funds leaving China, the Credit Suisse research shows the actual impact has been minimal.
Here are Tevfik and Liu’s comments :
In December 2016, the Chinese authorities introduced new and stronger capital controls to slow money flowing out of the middle kingdom. Our tax receipt data help measure how effective these controls have been — and it seems they haven’t been. In NSW, where we have three complete (and reliable) quarters of tax receipt data, we can see foreign demand for property has so far hovered around $1.4 to $1.6bn per quarter.
After concluding that China’s crackdown doesn’t appear to be stemming off-shore capital flows, Tevfik and Liu also noted that Chinese investors are cashed up and ready to spend.
There are currently 1.6 million US dollar millionaires in China, and that converts to shared wealth of a whopping $13 trillion – around twice the size of Australia’s housing market.
“As our property market becomes more global perhaps we should be concentrating less on Australian incomes as a measure of buying power and more on wealth creation in the Asian region,” the analysts said.
So, what factors could stem the seemingly invevitable flow of capital from Asian markets into Australian property?
Tevfik and Liu highlighted the potential impact of recent tax increases on foreign investors introduced by Australian states, as well as the impact from a devaluation of the Chinese currency.
In June, NSW announced that it would double stamp duty on foreign investors from 4% to 8% while land tax would increase to 2% from 0.75%, effective from July 1.
Victoria and Queensland also impose additional taxes on foreign investors of 7% and 3% respectively, calculated as a proportion of the purchase price.
However, they said that past examples from other international suggest the impact on house prices will be small.
“The introduction or increase of a tax on foreign buyers seems to slow demand to a point where property prices decelerate, but it does not cause housing values to contract,” Tevfik and Liu said.
This chart shows the impact on house prices in other international markets after the implementation of tax increases on foreign investors.
“Based on the experience of other cities around the world, we do not believe the recent increase in taxes by NSW will cause property prices to contract,” the pair said. Although they added that Chinese investors are an easy target for Australian state governments, and didn’t rule out further rate increases in the future.
A more likely scenario to reduced demand, the analysts said, would be a devaluation of China’s currency, the renminbi.
“From our many and various discussions with Chinese investors and companies, there is a consensus view that the renminbi is set to depreciate further from here. If and when it does the buying power of Chinese investors will diminish.”
Tevfik and Liu noted that the renminbi has been broadly depreciating since 2014. In that context, they added that Chinese policy-makers are focused on stability ahead of the 19th Communist Party Congress later this month, but said movements in the currency after that will be worth monitoring.
In summary, the two analysts dispute recent reports suggesting foreign investor demand will slow. On the contrary, “we forecast these flows to continue at a strong pace and will serve to cushion the downside in activity and prices”, they said.
“It’s different this time. While we acknowledge residential investment and house price inflation are set to moderate we don’t think there will be a collapse. The foreign buyer has never before been as an important driver of the Australian housing market as she is now.”
Auction activity across the combined capital cities increased this week after last week’s grand final and public holiday slowdown. 2,286 homes were taken to auction, returning a preliminary auction clearance rate of 68.1 per cent. The preliminary clearance was up from the 66.3 per cent last week when volumes dipped significantly across the capitals amidst the festivities of the grand finals and long weekend.
Melbourne was the only capital city to record a preliminary clearance rate above 70 per cent (72.1 %), while clearance rates across Sydney remained below 70 per cent for the eleventh consecutive week. Compared to one year ago, clearance rates continue to track lower with final results from the corresponding week last year recording a 76.4 per cent clearance rate, while volumes were a similar 2,290.