Early signs of a boost to property market confidence

Early signs of a boost to property market confidence

Trent Wiltshire

Big economic and political changes in the past few weeks have contributed to early signs of a turnaround in property market confidence.

First, the Coalition’s unexpected victory in the federal election means there will be no changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount. Labor’s proposed changes to these had weighed on prices, and were likely to see prices fall a bit further.

Second, the Reserve Bank has strongly hinted that it will be cutting rates on June 4, with a second cut in 2019 also very likely. If the RBA cuts rates twice, this will bring home loan rates below 3.5 per cent for many borrowers.

Third, the banking regulator, APRA,  is planning to remove the requirement for banks to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a loan at a mortgage rate of at least 7 per cent. Instead, banks will be required to use an assessment rate of 2.5 percentage points above the offered rate, which will effectively mean the maximum amount an applicant will be able to borrow will increase by about 10 per cent (and even more if the RBA cuts interest rates).

Another proposed change is the government’s first home loan deposit scheme, which will enable first-home buyers with a small deposit to buy a home earlier, should also provide a boost to the lower-end of the market.

There are some tentative signs of rising buyer interest

There is some early evidence that potential buyers have responded to these changes almost immediately.

According to data from Domain Group’s Homepass, an app which allows people attending open for inspections to check-in automatically, the average number of Homepass check-ins per listing Australia-wide jumped 11 per cent in the week beginning May 20 (the first week after the federal election) compared to the average of the previous four weeks (see table). The increases were most significant in NSW (up 18 per cent) and Western Australia (up 17 per cent).

More people are attending open for inspections
STATE % change in avg no. of Homepass ‘check-ins’ *
NSW 18%
VIC 9%
Qld 9%
WA 17%
SA 1%
ACT 2%
TAS 7%
National 11%
* % change between week beginning May 20 and previous four weeks. Source: Domain Group’s Homepass

Domain’s preliminary auction clearance rate figures for Saturday, May 25 also indicated signs of a turnaround. In Sydney, the preliminary clearance rate was 62 per cent. While this is likely to be revised down to 55-58 per cent as more auction results are collected, this will be around the highest result in 2019.

In Melbourne, the preliminary clearance rate was 60 per cent, which is likely to be revised down to around 55 per cent, which will also be one of the strongest results in 2019. And this result occurred on the Saturday with the second-highest number of listed auctions for 2019 with 885 scheduled in Melbourne.
Other indicators also point to a turnaround in buyer interest. On Tuesday the Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn stated that loan applications last week were the highest in six months, and agents also reported a jump in buyer interest.

More people may be considering selling

On the other side of the market, the big changes over the past few weeks may influence more people to put their properties on the market.

Data from Domain Group’s PriceFinder product shows that the number of people seeking a property appraisal (an appraisal is when a prospective seller asks a real estate agent for their property to be evaluated and for an estimated selling price) jumped by 10 per cent in the week beginning May 20, compared to the average of the past four weeks (see table). The biggest increases were in Tasmania and Queensland.

As prices have fallen, property sales have fallen to their lowest level in two decades. People are more likely to sell when prices are rising.

There are early signs more people are thinking about selling
STATE
% change in appraisals week beginning 20 May *
NSW 2%
VIC 12%
QLD 14%
WA 12%
SA 2%
ACT 6%
TAS 34%
National 10%
* compared to average of previous four weeks. Source: Domain Group’s PriceFinder

But remember, these are only early signs

While a few early indicators point to renewed buyer interest and more seller activity, these signs should be interpreted with caution. Property prices are still falling, consumers still think prices have further to fall, lending conditions remain tight, housing affordability is still a problem, and the RBA is only thinking about cutting interest rates because of a weakening economy.

While the big changes over the past few weeks suggest a bottoming-out of the market in 2019 is now more likely, it’s no guarantee.

Stay up to date on developments in Australia’s property markets at domain.com.au/research.


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