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Jun 13, 2024

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Thinking I should have heeded my own advice two years ago and bought real estate (which I foolishly did not), I enquired recently about a neat, two-bedroom duplex half in Rockingham advertised at $459,000. A little high, I thought, given it had sold three years’ earlier for $230,000. The agent informed me, she had received offers already - site unseen – for over $500,000, a gain of about 120%! Value gains of more than 33% per annum are generally unsustainable, but stories such as this are not uncommon in the current market.

Meanwhile, broader economic conditions are posing some challenges, with the national economy slowing to an anaemic 0.1% for the March quarter, the worst quarterly performance in 24 years. Interest rates are not likely to come down anytime soon with March’s inflation at 3.6%, higher than hoped. The inflationary costs of fuel, rents and food are pressuring family budgets with household spending still on the rise as is credit card debt. We are more pessimistic too with a recent survey finding the percentage of people feeling optimistic about their personal future falling from 32% in July 2022 to 13.5% in February 2024.

cost of living and housing affordability have been the two top issues

Without the recent surge in migration levels, Australia would be in a technical recession. A recent survey of current and future concerns by Foresee Change, reveals cost of living and housing affordability have been the two top issues for Australians since October 2022. Issues like climate change and security of personal information have since dropped out of the top ten major issues of concern.

With the economy faltering and pessimism rising, most property commentators would be predicting a significant slowdown in the housing market. So why not this time?

Housing supply and the lack of it remains the core challenge of housing affordability and the primary factor behind the rapid rise in house prices locally. Our ‘lost decade’ of meaningful net value gains from 2010 to 2020 has deterred substantial investment in sufficient housing across WA. Meanwhile, there has been a significant rise in population growth, well exceeding forecasts of net migration of 90,000 per annum where actual migration gains from 2008 and 2019 was 225,000 annually.

Despite the surge in population since 2007, dwelling approvals never exceeded 50,000 nationally in a quarter until the 2023 December quarter. Currently, we are running about 20,000 dwellings per quarter short of our national target to meet the federal government’s target of 1.2 million homes by mid-2029. At this rate we will miss the target by at least 400,000 dwellings.

There is a sense of inevitability that local house prices will continue to rise due to the potent and enduring relationship between demand (through migration) and supply (the lack of it) irrespective of broader economic conditions.