One minute we are told there is an apartment glut and house prices could crash any minute. The next, our leaders are calling for negative gearing changes that will push prices down even further. So are we headed for housing armageddon or not?
PRICES ARE TOO HIGH …
Housing prices have been rising for over a decade and warnings about a property bubble have been brewing for years.
One of the latest warnings came last month from property analyst Louis Christopher, of SQM Research, who said the national property market was overvalued by 22 per cent.
This is being driven by prices in Melbourne, which hit its highest overvaluation level of 40 per cent and Sydney, which was at its second highest level of overvaluation at 40 per cent.
Mr Christopher warned that if changes weren’t made, such as lifting interest rates or tougher restrictions on home lending, prices in Sydney and Melbourne would continue to rise by up to 16 per cent in 2017.
“However it is likely 2017 will be the last year of price falls generated by the mining downturn for these cities,’’ he said.
Mr Christopher said if interest rates were cut again, prices would rise even further, paving the way for a possible correction in 2018.
BUT THERE’S AN APARTMENT GLUT COMING …
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are fears that construction of new apartments will lead to an oversupply in the next few years.
The construction boom already seems to be impacting Melbourne apartment prices, where there’s been record levels of building in the last two years.
On Thursday, Corelogic’s November Hedonic Home Value Index showed Melbourne dwelling prices had fallen by 1.5 per cent.
Head of research Tim Lawless attributed this to new units coming on to the market. Prices for units fell by 3.2 per cent last month.
Overall, prices for Melbourne units have only grown by 3.9 per cent this year, compared to 12.2 per cent for houses.
But this is where things get really interesting for Sydney.
While Sydney unit prices are not increasing as fast as those for houses, they are still rising.
In November, unit prices increased by 0.9 per cent, which was actually slightly higher than 0.8 increase achieved by houses.
Across the year, unit prices grew by 10.6 per cent compared to 15.3 per cent for houses.
Earlier this year BIS Shrapnel released a report that predicted Melbourne would have an oversupply of more than 20,000 homes by 2017, but managing director Robert Mellor said Sydney was still suffering from an undersupply of housing.
“It’s so severe we won’t see an oversupply in Sydney in the next four years,” Mr Mellor said at the time.
“A downturn in Sydney between 2004 and 2012 was so severe, basically only in the last 12 months we’ve started to see construction move above the level of demand.”
SYDNEY IS DIFFERENT
Prices in Sydney have outstripped those in other areas and it remains Australia’s most expensive city, with a median dwelling price of $845,000, according to the latest statistics released by Corelogic.
Since 2009 dwelling prices in Sydney have risen by a staggering 96 per cent, Corelogic head of research Tim Lawless told news.com.au.
Melbourne is not that far off, with growth of 78 per cent, but the next best performing market after that was Canberra, which has only seen growth of 33 per cent.
The difference was even more stark in Perth, which only grew by 6.5 per cent, and Hobart on 4.5 per cent.
Mr Lawless said Sydney’s astronomical growth had been achieved against the backdrop of record low wages growth of about 2 per cent.
“So the byproduct of strong capital gains (for housing) and relatively low income growth is that affordability is becoming stretched,” he said.
One way of measuring housing affordability is to look at the dwelling price to income ratio.
In Sydney this ratio is 8.4, which means it takes 8.4 times the typical household salary to buy the typical Sydney dwelling.
If you look at houses only, this ratio is closer to 10, while for apartments it is 7.1.
These figures are still higher than in other cities.
Melbourne has a ratio of 7.2 for dwellings, while Brisbane’s ratio is 5.7.
“It highlights that Sydney is becoming increasing unaffordable,” Mr Lawless said.
However, Mr Lawless said there was some confusion in the market because the measure of “serviceability”, the proportion of household income that goes towards paying a mortgage, which has been really flat because of record low interest rates.
“This hides the fact that dwelling prices have risen at a substantially higher rate than incomes in Sydney and to a lesser extent, in Melbourne.”
A TARGET FOR INVESTORS
All the analysts seem to agree on one thing — the Sydney real estate market is different and property prices in other areas are not growing as strongly.
His comments were later backed by NSW Premier Mike Baird, who said changes should be considered. But this is in direct conflict with Liberal Party policy.
During the election Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition would not change the measures, and warned Labor’s policy to reform negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount would lead to price falls. Estimates have ranged from between two per cent to as high as six per cent.
Mr Turnbull pointed to the need to increase housing supply to improve affordability.
But in his speech, Mr Stokes said supply alone wouldn’t solve Sydney’s housing affordability problem.
The state is currently building 185,000 homes over the next five years to try and address an undersupply of close to 100,000 homes in NSW.
But with interest rates at record lows and generous federal tax incentives, Mr Stokes said Sydney had become a prime target for investors.
Property investors can use negative gearing to reduce the tax they pay if they make a loss, for example if the rent they collect is less than their mortgage repayments.
Once they sell the property, they only pay tax on half of the profit because of the capital gains tax discount.
Mr Lawless said statistics showed investors currently made up more than half the demand for mortgages in NSW.
States are now trying to wind back incentives for investors.
This year NSW introduced higher taxes on foreign investors buying residential property, following in the footsteps of Victoria and Queensland.
HOUSING MARKET IS STILL HOT
AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said NSW must think there’s still some extra capacity in the property market as the state planning minister probably wouldn’t be talking about negative gearing if the market was weaker.
“They are probably thinking there is still room in the market as it’s not altogether clear that the market has peaked,” he told news.com.au. “They are probably thinking there’s a long way to go.
“I would be more cautious, I think a supply glut could hit next year,” he said.
However, if prices did fall, Mr Oliver said the market could still be propped up by two types of buyers.
Firstly, first home buyers may re-enter the market, especially if prices fell by 20 per cent and interest rates remained low.
Ironically foreign investors could also be lured by lower prices and move to snap up a bargain. Prices in Sydney are still reasonable compared to those overseas, especially because the Australian dollar is quite low at the moment.
Population growth in Sydney also remains strong and this would also cushion the market against a big fall. Mr Oliver said he didn’t think any price falls would go beyond 15-20 per cent.
“You wouldn’t be looking at a fall like what happened in the US or eurozone.”
SO SHOULD THEY CHANGE NEGATIVE GEARING?
By restarting the debate on negative gearing, NSW is basically trying to push some of the responsibility for fixing housing affordability back on the Federal Government.
While Mr Oliver believes supply is more connected to affordability, this doesn’t mean some changes shouldn’t be looked at — especially the capital gains tax discount.
“This is a bit of a distortion and that’s what makes negative gearing so profitable,” Mr Oliver said.
But Treasurer Scott Morrison did not seem to be taking the bait, and said on Friday that abolishing negative gearing would hit mum-and-dad investors in rental properties, pushing rents up and putting immense pressure on the market.
Another tricky thing about changing negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, is that the measures would impact property markets around Australia, not just Sydney.
Meanwhile, Housing Industry Association chief executive Graham Wolfe pointed to the state taxes and levies charged on the sale of every new home.
“State-based stamp duty on the purchase of a typical new home alone adds a $91 per month burden on household mortgage repayments,” Mr Wolfe said.
Stamp duty is something the NSW Government could change to help first homebuyers but has left untouched.
In his speech, Mr Stokes said if states were to consider getting rid of inefficient state taxes, the Federal Government needed to outline how it would help states raise money for schools and hospitals to cater to a booming population.
Providing investors with generous tax breaks such as the capital gains tax discount, costs the Federal Government billions. In 2014/15, the CGT alone was estimated to have cost the federal Budget more than $6 billion.
And despite all the talk of housing bubbles, apartment gluts and falling rental prices, this hasn’t deterred investors.
ABS housing finance data has shown a consistent rise in finance commitments for investment purposes since May this year.
“Clearly investors are continuing to see housing as the preferred investment option, despite low yields and a mature growth cycle,” Mr Lawless said.
Mr Stokes believes it’s time for a real debate about policies and for the Federal Government to partner with states to address housing affordability.
“Why should you get a tax deduction on the ownership of a multi-million dollar holiday home that does nothing to improve supply where it’s needed?” he said.
“We should not be content to live in a society where it’s easy for one person to reduce their taxable contribution to schools, hospitals and other critical government services — through generous federal tax exemptions and the ownership of multiple properties — while a generation of working Australians find it increasingly difficult to buy one property to call home.”
Originally Published: http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/
Negative gearing set to impact over 60% of investors
Perth and Brisbane have emerged as new property investment hotspots as investor interest continues to shift from the declining Sydney and Melbourne markets.
A survey of 483 investors across Australia by property investment consultancy Momentum Wealth showed that Perth and Brisbane were leading the pack when it comes to investor preference, with 36% and 33% of survey respondents highlighting the respective capital cities as the best places to invest.
Team Leader of Momentum Wealth’s buyer’s agents, Emma Everett, said a combination of affordability and potential growth opportunities had likely contributed to higher levels of investor interest in the capital city markets.
“Whilst both markets offer strong levels of affordability compared to Sydney and Melbourne, they also hold promising opportunities for long-term growth, with Brisbane already experiencing overall price growth and areas of Perth performing strongly as the market enters its recovery,” she said.
Ms Everett said that investors looking to take advantage of current conditions will need to remain vigilant in their property research and selection.
“In these early stages of recovery, it’s not uncommon for different areas of the market to experience price growth at different times, so investors will need to remain diligent in their research to ensure they are selecting an area that aligns with both their investment strategy and growth expectations,” she explained.
The survey also showed that professional service firms were regarded as the most credible source of information when researching the property market, compared to only 1% of investors who ranked friends and family as the best source of property research.
Hometown confidence hits a high in WA
Whilst Perth was considered the best place to buy amongst overall respondents, the survey also highlighted a considerable rise in home confidence, with an overwhelming 70% of WA investors finding Perth to be the most appealing capital city to invest in.
This marks a further 4.5% increase from last year’s survey, when the proportion of WA respondents preferring Perth spiked a staggering 29% from the year prior.
Ms Everett said renewed confidence is already leading to price growth in some areas, but warns investors need to act fast to avoid rising levels of buyer competition.
“Perth is offering some great buying opportunities for investors looking to take advantage of current levels of affordability, but those looking towards high-demand suburbs will need to move quickly or risk entering the market when competition levels have already picked up.”
“We are already seeing significant evidence of this in some areas of the market, with increased activity from trade-up buyers resulting in significant price growth in Perth’s central sub-region across the past 18 months,” she said.
Lending restrictions still a barrier
Whilst investors are recognising the potential benefits of entering the market, lending restrictions continue to pose a barrier for some, with a number of investors finding increasing difficulty in securing finance in light of recent APRA changes and the Banking Royal Commission.
The survey showed that 67% of respondents had reviewed their loans in the 12 months to November 2018, up 8% on the previous year’s results.
Team Leader of Momentum wealth’s mortgage broking team, Caylum Merrick, said the challenging lending conditions highlight the importance of regular loan reviews in ensuring investors continue to receive the support they need.
“In today’s lending environment, and in any lending environment for that matter, it’s vital that investors conduct regular loan reviews to ensure they are still receiving the best rates and products to support their investment goals.”
“Whilst we’ve seen record low interest rates in recent years, we’ve also seen a number of buyers impacted by changing lending restrictions. With many banks now raising their interest rates outside the RBA cycle, it’s more important than ever that investors keep their finger on the pulse,” he said.
Negative gearing set to impact majority
The potential changes to negative gearing proposed by the Labor government pose a further source of uncertainty for some investors, with 61% of survey respondents revealing they have a negative cash flow portfolio.
Ms Everett said that whilst investors who rely heavily on the tax benefit will need to be mindful of the impact of such changes, it’s important they remain focused on the fundamentals during the property selection process.
“Whilst negative gearing provides a useful tax benefit for those with a negative cash flow portfolio, investors need to remember that tax offsets only form a small portion of a property’s overall returns, and that factors such as land value, location and tenant appeal remain critical to a property’s performance.”
“Investors who get these fundamentals right from the start will be better placed to weather potential changes and short-term volatilities in the market,” she said.
Ms Everett said that any investors who are unsure or concerned about the potential impact of recent changes, including shifts within the lending environment, should seek advice from an independent investment advisor.
“It’s been a challenging and at times confusing period for investors trying to navigate through these complexities themselves or relying on unreliable sources to guide them, so it’s important that they seek professional and independent advice to ensure they fully understand the opportunities and risks specific to their situation,” she said.
Investors in search of stability and yield amid the market downturn could find solitude in an old favourite this year.
The February issue of Herron Todd White’s Month In Review report found that the Brisbane property market will see some growth in 2019, and overall will continue to see consistency in its property market.
“Brisbane in the coming 12 months will, generally speaking, see a stable market across most locations,” the report noted.
“Brisbane has been on the cusp of substantial price rises for about six years now.”
What could indicate those looming price rises is an influx of infrastructure projects, which are expected to drive employment up, a factor which the report stated is “sorely in need of improvement in Queensland”.
“Some of these major projects will have national and international appeal – the Howard Smith Wharves project and the Queens Wharf complex in particular – which have a ﬂow-on for boosting our tourism and services sector,” stated the report.
Also of importance is the capital city’s more affordable property when compared to Sydney and Melbourne and high levels of interstate migration figures.
Tips for buyers
The report noted the inner and middle rings, particularly around 3 kilometres of the CBD, is unlikely to produce any bargains, but provide investors with some long-term investing opportunities.
“This is solid real estate where our population likes to live and play. For example, this would include Enoggera out to Stafford in the north and Annerley through to Moorooka in the south,” the report stated.
For Brisbane property, the report also mentioned to look for growth creation factors, such as renovatable properties on sizable blocks of land, larger allotments with solid long-term redevelopment potential and subdivisible land.
Investors looking for where not to invest should be careful in the northern and western corridors pictured more so towards property investors, the report warned.
“If there’s a predominance of dual occupancy and duplex structures or generic townhouse designs on offer, tread warily if your goal is capital gains,” the report stated.
“Credit restrictions have not helped the demand side of the equation in this sector either and with plenty of supply on hand, the result seems to be subdued growth if any for this real estate.”
Despite the oversupply of apartments, those aimed at home owners have performed well, according to the report, and further supply has been predicted to slow down.
“We aren’t recommending anyone rush back into this type of investor accommodation, but the future is looking less dire than it did a couple of years back,” the report noted.
“2019 will be a year to watch in Brisbane. If we can accentuate the positive and eliminate the negatives, then property owners should do fine by annum’s end.”
The big picture
Although the broader Australian residential property market is in a down cycle, data experts and research houses are quick to point out that the long-term trajectory is positive for property investors.
You can read more about how the property market has been performing since 1999 here.
Don’t have a negatively geared investment property? You’re in good company.
Despite all the talk about negatively geared nurses and property baron police officers, 90 per cent of taxpayers do not use it.
But federal Labor’s policy will still affect you through changes in the housing market and the budget. Here’s what you should know.
Labor’s negative gearing policy will prevent investors from writing off the losses from their property investments against the tax they pay on their wages. This will affect investors buying properties where the rent isn’t enough to cover the cost of operating the property, including any interest payments on the investment loan.
Doesn’t sound like a good investment? Exactly right: negatively gearing a property only makes sense as an investment strategy if you expect that the house will rise significantly in value so you’ll make a decent capital gain when you sell.
The negatively geared investor gets a good deal on tax – they write off their losses in full as they occur but they are only taxed on 50 per cent of their gains when they sell.
Labor’s policy makes the tax deal a little less sweet – losses can only be written off against other investment income, including the proceeds from the property when it is sold. And investors will pay tax on 75 per cent of their gains, at their marginal tax rate.
Future property speculators are unlikely to be popping the champagne corks for Labor’s plan. But other Australians should know that there are a lot of potential upsides from winding back these concessions.
Limiting negative gearing and reducing the capital gains tax discount will substantially boost the budget bottom line. The independent Parliamentary Budget Office estimates Labor’s policy will raise about $32.1 billion over a decade.
Ultimately, the winners from the change are the 89 per cent of nurses, 87 per cent of teachers and all the other hard-working taxpayers who don’t negatively gear. Winding back tax concessions that do not have a strong economic justification means the government can reduce other taxes, provide more services or improve the budget bottom line.
Labor’s plan will reduce house prices, a little. By reducing investor tax breaks, it will reduce investor demand for existing houses.
Assuming the value of the $6.6 trillion property market falls by the entire value of the future stream of tax benefits, there would be price falls in the range of 1 per cent to 2 per cent. Any reduction in competition from investors is a win for first home buyers.
Existing home-owners may be less pleased, especially in light of recent price falls in Sydney and Melbourne. But if they bought their house more than a couple of years ago, chances are they are still comfortably ahead.
And renters need not fear Labor’s policy. Fewer investors does mean fewer rental properties, but those properties don’t disappear – home buyers move in, and so there are also fewer renters.
Negative gearing would affect rents only if it reduced new housing supply. Any effects will be small: around 90 per cent of investment lending is for existing housing, and Labor’s policy leaves in place negative gearing tax write-offs for new homes.
All Australians will benefit from greater stability in the housing market from the proposed change. The existing tax breaks magnify volatility. Negative gearing is most attractive as a tax minimisation strategy when asset prices are rising strongly. So in boom times it feeds investor demand for housing. The opposite is true when prices are stable or falling.
The Reserve Bank, the Productivity Commission and the Murray financial system inquiry have all raised concerns about the effects of the current tax arrangements on financial stability.
Negative gearing would affect rents only if it reduced new housing supply.
And for those worried about equity? Negative gearing and capital gains are both skewed towards the better off. Almost 70 per cent of capital gains accrue to those with taxable incomes of more than $130,000, putting them in the top 10 per cent of income earners.
For negative gearing, 38 per cent of the tax benefits flow to this group. But people who negatively gear have lower taxable incomes because they are negatively gearing. If we look at people’s taxable incomes before rental deductions, the top 10 per cent of income earners receive almost 50 per cent of the tax benefit from negative gearing.
So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the share of anaesthetists negatively gearing is almost triple that for nurses, and the average tax benefits they receive are around 11 times higher.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says aspirational voters should fear Labor’s proposed changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax.
But for those of us who aspire to a better budget bottom line, a more stable housing market and better opportunities for first home buyers, the policies have plenty to find favour.