Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - Property

Why a housing bust won’t matter to most

- Personal finance writer

After the boom comes the bust, but for the vast majority of real estate owners and investors the bust won’t cause a fuss. Property prices are falling in all capital cities and there has been a sharp rise in distressed sales and forced transaftio­ns leading to prices being slashed.

Seven interest rate rises in seven months from the Reserve Bankof Australia have dented demand and confidence, but are yet to fully impact household income and spending.

Home prices nationally are so far down less than 4 per cent on average and several forecaster­s predict 15-20 per cent house price falls nationally, but even if that eventuates only a handful of people will be hurt badly.

These poor property souls include: • People trying to refinance their debt as interest rates soar, only to find their equity is negative and the banks will not budge; • Those who bought a home just before the bust, but did not sell their existing residence, resulting in double the pain as both properties plunge in value; • Anyone selling without plans to buy again, effectivel­y receiving less for their property than they would have a year ago.

However, heavy falls in property prices have little impact on most longterm owners and can benefit others.

It makes housing cheaper for firsthome buyers; but remember that a 10 or 20 per cent fall in property prices is more than offset by mortgage repayments rising 40 per cent after the recent string of RBA rate rises.

Investors, who usually have much more financial firepower than firsthome buyers, will be ready to snap up bargain deals.

People who are buying and selling in the same market at the same time also do not suffer in the long run. For example, if they get 10-20 per cent less for selling their property, they should pick up the new property at roughly the same discount.

The biggest reason why a bust should not worry people is because they are completely normal – especially after a boom – and historical numbers show that property prices have always gone up over the long term.

In 20 years, Sydney’s median house value has jumped from $472,000 to $1.19 million.

In Melbourne across the same period it rose from $331,000 to $908,000.

Brisbane’s went from $195,000 to $832,000, Adelaide’s from $180,000 to $695,000, Perth’s from $189,000 to $591,000 and Hobart’s from $135,000 to $788,000. The median for Darwin in the Northern Territory more than doubled from $206,000 to $561,000, while the ACT’s has boomed from $238,000 to $1.01 million, according to PropTrack and Real Estate Institute data.

Different markets behave differentl­y. The big capitals of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are not the same as Adelaide where price movements are less volatile, and Perth or Darwin, which fell heavily in recent years and are still recovering.

Hobart has done its own thing for years, with median prices leapfroggi­ng several other capitals, while Canberra reflects the government of the day and public service levels more than other cities.

If you’re a typical property owner or investor, what happens with prices in the next six, 12 or 18 months really doesn’t matter. As long as you keep paying the mortgage, you’ll be fine in the years and decades to come.

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