You may have heard that the key to gaining capital growth from your investments is about “time in the market”, not “timing the market”.
This wisdom suggests that the long-term trend in housing and stock markets tends to be up. Therefore, holding on to your investments for a long period will help you weather short-term fluctuations.
But to use another cliche; hindsight is 20/20. The release of the December 2018 Domain House Price Report reveals that time in the market has not served buyers equally in every city.
The following graphs show how much money would be made from selling the median value house or unit in each city at December 2018, based on when it was purchased over the past 15 years.
Although the Domain price series goes back more than 25 years for most cities, the past 15 years have seen some of the largest structural disruptions to parts of the Australian economy. These include the onset of the global financial crisis, a record low cash rate, the mining boom and the east-coast housing boom.
Historic values were adjusted for inflation so both the buying and selling points are represented in 2018 dollars. Therefore, the gains and losses reflect “real” returns, taking into account the effect of inflation.
Admittedly, without the aid of a time machine, this data crunch may not seem actionable. Many weren’t in a position to enter the market over the past 15 years (whether that’s because you didn’t have the money, or you were 11 years old).
And of course, capital gains are not everything. Buying at the bottom of the market might have meant paying higher mortgage rates. Looking only at capital gains also does not take into account other benefits of owning property – such as rental return, or getting to live in it.
But there are important lessons from looking at the past.
This data provides insight into the unique economic drivers of each state and territory that have led to different patterns in returns over time. It shows us that recognising structural shifts can be just as important as holding onto assets.
It potentially foreshadows future peaks and troughs in our cities, by highlighting what areas are starting to provide stronger returns.
Check out when you should have bought in:
Perth and Brisbane top choices for property investors
- Perth and Brisbane considered the best capital cities to invest in
- 70% of WA property investors believe it’s a good time to buy in WA
- Lending restrictions causing concern amongst investors
- 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.
Is this property hotspot making a comeback?
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.
Negative gearing changes will affect us all, mostly for the better
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.
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