After seeing some of the strongest price growth so far this year, both Perth and Adelaide have now joined the other major capital cities with declining prices.
The latest data from CoreLogic shows that property values across the country fell 1.8% last month, led by a 2.3% decline in Sydney prices.
Brisbane prices dropped 1.8%, Hobart and Canberra fell 1.7% while Melbourne was 1.2% lower. Darwin was the only capital city market to record price growth last month.
CoreLogic’s research director, Tim Lawless, said Brisbane’s market had finally started to slow down after almost two years of growth.
“It was only two months ago that the Brisbane housing market peaked after recording a 42.7% boom in values,” Mr Lawless said.
“Over the past two months, the market has reversed sharply with values down -1.8% in August after a - 0.8% drop in July.”
According to CoreLogic, it’s not just the capital cities that are experiencing declining prices. Regional markets are also starting to turn down after what has been a record-setting few years of price growth.
Regional home values were down -1.5% in August compared with a -1.6% fall in values across the combined capitals. Between March 2020 and January 2022 regional dwelling values surged more than 40% compared with a 25.5% rise for the combined capitals.
“The largest falls in regional home values are emanating from the commutable lifestyle hubs where housing values had surged prior to the recent rate hikes,” Mr Lawless said.
“Over the past three months, values are down -8.0% across the Richmond-Tweed, -4.8% across the Southern Highlands-Shoalhaven market and -4.5% across Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.“
The annual trend in housing values is rapidly levelling out. After moving through a peak annual growth rate of 21.3% in November last year, the annual growth rate across the combined capitals has eased back to just 2.2%. Values across Sydney (-2.5%) and Melbourne (-2.1%) are now below the level recorded this time last year.
Despite the recent weakness, housing values across most regions remain well above pre-COVID levels. Home values in all capital cities and rest-of-state regions, bar Melbourne, remain 15% or above the levels recorded in March 2020, implying most home owners have a significant equity buffer before their home is likely to be worth less than what they paid.
“A 15% peak to trough decline would roughly take CoreLogic’s combined capitals index back to March 2021 levels,” Mr Lawless said.
“Additionally, many home owners would have had at least a 10% deposit and paid down a portion of their principal, the risk of widespread negative equity remains low.”
Mr Lawless said he expects the downturn will continue to play out through the remainder of the year, and possibly into 2023.
“It’s hard to see housing prices stabilising until interest rates find a ceiling and consumer sentiment starts to improve,” he said.
“From current levels, interest rates are likely to increase by at least another 75 basis points and there is a good chance advertised stock levels will accumulate through the spring selling season, providing more choice for buyers and adding further downwards pressure on housing values.”
Listings rise in Spring
According to Mr Lawless, higher advertised stock levels are mostly the result of less housing demand rather than a rise in the number of new listings being added to the market. Nationally, CoreLogic estimates the number of home sales over the three months to August was -14.8% below the same period a year ago, but larger declines were evident across some cities including Sydney (-35.4%), Canberra (-18.9%) and Melbourne (- 16.5%).
“Between winter and spring we typically see a 22% rise in the number of new capital city listings based on the pre-COVID five-year average,” Mr Lawless said.
The flow of new listings this spring season may not be quite as active with the housing downturn dissuading some prospective vendors, but we are likely to see more listings added to the market than in winter.
“At the same time we are expecting to see less buying activity as higher interest rates and low sentiment continue to weigh on demand. Should this scenario play out, the net result will be an accumulation of advertised supply that could further weigh down values.”
Rent growth slows
Rental rates increased a further 0.8% in August according to CoreLogic’s national rental index, down from 1.0%.
The slowdown in rental appreciation comes after annual rental growth reached double digits (10.0%) for the first time since at least 2006 when CoreLogic rental statistics commence. The slowdown was most evident across regional Australia, where the annual rate of rental growth eased from 12.5% in November last year to 10.1% over the 12 months ending August. Growth in capital city rental trends look to be easing a little as well, with the combined capitals recording a 10.0% rent rise over the past year, while the monthly trend eases from a recent peak of 1.1% in May to 1.0% in August.
“This trend is reversing as tenants become more willing to rent in higher density situations, especially in Sydney and Melbourne where unit rents are now rising at a much faster pace than house rents,” Mr Lawless said.
“Potentially we are seeing the first signs of smaller rental households that formed earlier in the pandemic reverting back to larger households or utilising higher density rental options to combat worsening rental affordability.”
Interest rates are key
The outlook for the housing market remains intertwined with the trajectory of interest rates. Forecasts for the terminal cash rate generally range from the mid-2% to the mid-3% range, although financial markets are pricing in a peak cash rate of just over 4% by August next year. Mr Lawless said the range of forecasts for the cash rate highlights the sheer uncertainty associated with inflation, wages growth and monetary policy.
“As borrowing power is eroded by higher interest rates and rising household expenses due to inflation, it’s reasonable to expect a further decline in consumer confidence and lower housing demand,” Mr Lawless said.
Mr Lawless said that while interest rates are hurting property prices, it is also helping with affordability in many areas.
“The wash up is that lower housing prices and higher incomes should make home ownership more achievable for non-home owners, but headwinds remain in being able to save for a deposit and demonstrate the ability to service a loan amid such a high cost of living,” he said.
“With spring upon us, advertised stock levels are expected to rise. Inventory was already higher than average across some markets at the end of winter (Sydney/Melbourne/Hobart) and, although the flow of new listings may not be as high as previous years, we could see advertised supply accumulating through spring due to a lack of housing demand.
“Amid higher advertised stock levels, vendors will be competing across a larger pool of available supply for fewer buyers. While this is positive news for buyers, sellers will need to be realistic in their pricing expectations and ensure they have a quality marketing campaign in place.”
Although housing values are on track to record a significant drop, the risk of widespread negative equity remains low, considering the substantial rise in housing values between September 2020 and April 2022. Nationally home values rose by 28.6%; so even a 20% decline in housing values would result in housing values remaining above their pre-COVID levels.