PPA News and Blog

What will COVID-19 do to house prices?

Our view is that the current downturn will be a lot shorter than some previous recessions, as it is productivity driven, rather than financially driven, which was the case for the 2007 GFC.

The unemployment rate will have an impact on certain areas of the property market, however not all will be affected and there will be opportunities within these markets.

The national residential market is very much segmented and it is important to note that some markets will do better than others.

Our internal strategy is to make sure clients are managing their cashflow and cash buffers effectively.

Investors with properties on the short-term accommodation market such as Airbnb, will see much higher vacancies and if they cannot convert these to longer lease terms, we will start to see significant price reductions. This will certainly be the case in NSW where Airbnb has now been banned.

Australia continues to have a housing shortage issue and with the construction and development slowing, this will create an undersupplied market along the East Coast of Australia over the next 24 months. Our national vacancy rate for residential is currently sitting at just above 2%

Developers who were already finding it challenging to get funding pre-COVID-19, may see some of the restrictions ease.

We are seeing many positives with State and Federal Governments taking a more unified approach, and banks willing to work with property investors, business owners and clients who have been affected by COVID-19.

Clients and small-to-medium business owners are freezing their loan repayments for deferral periods of 3-6 months, or are seeking more attractive business loan terms.

Credit has never been cheaper, so it is a good time to have a conversation with your broker or bank to see what is available to you. Mortgage Interest is 20%-40% cheaper for a homeowner than it was 18 months ago.

It will be interesting to see what happens when freezing or deferral periods come to an end. Banks have been a lot more prudent with their lending standards as a result of the recent Royal Commission.

In Melbourne, we haven’t seen serious price reductions or evidence of panic selling in Bayside or the Eastern suburbs sub $2m. We see value in opportunities over $3m in Brighton and the Eastern Suburbs. Inner North stock at sub-$1.5m is selling but at the lower end of the range.

Stock numbers have reduced nationally, and we are seeing an increase of ‘days on market’ for inferior or compromised stock. Off market transactions are becoming more popular and we have been active in this space.

We are seeing evidence of heavier discounting in Sydney. In Brisbane, owner occupier activity has slowed for stock above $1m, however, we are seeing increased activity in the quality, established investment housing priced at sub-$1m. Canberra is heavily backed by the Government industry and we therefore expect it to remain stable. Adelaide has been very consistent given the recent infrastructure announcements. Hobart may see some price reductions due to a decrease in tourism and Perth appears to be performing well due to mining.

What industries are you seeing most affected?
Each particular capital city is different however hospitality, tourism, retail, entertainment and export education, especially here in Melbourne, are the main industries affected by COVID-19.

There may be further restrictions placed on individuals and business owners trying to access loans if they work in hospitality, tourism or retail.

Healthcare, Education and Government based roles are stable and increasing. Mining in WA is currently improving.

Have you seen a lot of push back from tenants not paying their rent due to rising unemployment?
We currently manage in excess of 1,000 residential and commercial properties across Australia. The introduction of the Job Keeper allowance will enable many residential tenants to get through this difficult period. Our property managers are looking at facilitating a fair outcome between the tenant and landlord. Last week we had 80 requests for rent relief from tenants across the portfolio, however this is down to less than 20 following the release of Government payments.

We expect retail to struggle and therefore higher vacancies will occur over the coming months. Investors with commercial properties will need to adjust their rents and be willing to negotiate lease terms.

In addition, State Governments are contributing with NSW announcing a $440 million rent relief package through land tax waivers for landlords, to be split between commercial and residential sectors.

The QLD government has announced a $400m land tax relief package which includes a 25% land tax waiver of deferred payments of 3 months for next year.

The Victorian Government has announced a $500m rent relief package to landlords and tenants including $420m for land tax reductions for landlords and $80m for tenants in rental stress

Should I be buying, holding or selling?
This depends on your circumstances. Every client is different and it is therefore important to set a strategy suited to your individual requirements.

Our view is not to sell in this market. We are advising clients who have the capacity to upgrade their home (PPOR) to do so in these markets, especially in Melbourne and Sydney, although these clients do need to be commercially minded about the two transactions!

Eased affordability across the country will provide better opportunities to buy on a national level;

Adelaide = 33% – lowest since 2003
Brisbane = 29% – lowest since 2003
Melbourne = 38% – lowest since 2004
Sydney = 44% – lowest since 2002 (except 2009 at 41%)
Perth = 23% – lowest since 2001
Ballarat = 20% – lowest since 2002
Bendigo = 19% – lowest since 2001
PPA’s Gross Affordability Index (AI) is a measure of the average mortgage repayments versus the average income. The AI is calculated using the median price, average wage (before tax), assumes a 20% deposit, the current variable interest rate and Principle & Interest repayments over a 30-year loan term. The futures market forecast for a 25bp fall has been factored into the forecasted 2020 AI and assumes no price movement and 3% wage growth.

Our internal investment model is (partly) to buy only good quality, established houses that are supported by strong data and good long-term fundamentals. By following this model, our clients have the ability to ride through these periods. Ballarat and Bendigo are showing great value currently.

Are you seeing any opportunities from a residential or commercial investment perspective?
We are seeing that Perth, which has been down for nearly 11 years, is starting to show value in both the residential higher value suburbs and commercial office buildings around the city fringe.

The Affordability Index has never been more attractive and we expect an increased demand for iron ore in WA, which is needed to stimulate the Chinese economy. This will see an increase in property values in Perth in the medium term.

Good upgrading opportunities will start to show in Melbourne and Sydney as affordability constraints start to ease $2m+ in certain pockets. We expect yields to increase in Melbourne and Sydney over the next 12 months.

Regional towns remain excellent value as people start to climatize to new working conditions as a result of COVID-19. This may drive owner occupiers to make lifestyle purchases in areas such as Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong (in Victoria) in the medium term.

For further information, please contact:

Phillip Almeida
Performance Property Advisory