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Apr 24, 2024

Boom or Bust

Perth’s housing value surged past the $700,000 mark last month with year-to-date price now at $703,502. According to Core Logic, that puts us closer to Adelaide’s $734,173 but still behind Melbourne ($778,892) and Brisbane’s $817,564. Sydney’s nation leading $1,139,375 seems a long way off, but in the years 2006-2009, Perth’s and Sydney’s dwelling values were aligned around $465,000. Perth’s home values have increased 19.8 percent for the twelve months to March. Perth’s last strong market showing was back in the years 2012 – 2014 where housing values peaked at $518,737. Fuelled by the mining-construction sector which saw around 1,000 people per week flood into the state to take up high paying jobs, this boom came to an end when many of these workers returned home, limiting demand for housing. It took Perth from July 2014 to April 2021 to regain the 15.3 percent fall in housing values after prices fell to $440,841 in July 2019. From that trough to current peak, a span of less than five years, Perth’s property values are up by 59.6 percent. Greater Fremantle has put on 20.8 percent over the past twelve months. The current market is being fuelled from the bottom up. The top five performing local government areas in Australia are in Perth’s more affordable areas including Armadale, Gosnells, Rockingham and Kwinana. A two-bedroom duplex half recently listed in Rockingham is asking $449,000 sold three years ago for $260,000. The agent tells me she had offers site-unseen over $500,000 already. That’s a 33% gain over the past three consecutive years. These are worrying signs for our market. Perth has long been known as a ‘boom – bust’ market with strong gains normally tied to a specific event – a mining industry boom, for example - followed by a strangled demise afterwards. The boom years of 2004 to 2006 were testament to that when Perth put on 40.6 percent house price growth in 2005 only to be back where it started a year later. The question is, will this time be different? Whilst the pace of property value gains is following a similar pattern to previous booms, this time its is predicated on three major factors: Population growth, low supply and relative affordability and not a mining boom. Our quarterly change in population shows more than 20,000 arrivals, well above the long-term average. Core Logic’s analysis of monthly listing volumes shows inventories are at about half the decade average and, as already demonstrated, Perth remains more affordable than most of the nation’s capitals. These elements, underpinning Perth’s current market gains, will ebb and flow in the coming months. However, with supply levels still low and migration levels strong, the only thing likely to arrest this current trajectory in the short term is affordability and until our house values reach the early to mid- $800,000’s it seems unlikely affordability will impinge on potential future gains.

Mar 27, 2024

Love Thy Neighbour

In our secular society, Easter has lost some of its religious importance, but for Christians, it is the most important religious festival of the year. Christian values of love and forgiveness, whilst sometimes buried beneath layers of modern life, remain important foundations for a cohesive society. Our media is filled with stories that reveal the worst, rather than the best of us. A recent article I came across covered a boundary fence dispute between two warring neighbours. After about $10,000 in legal costs, neither side seemed any closer to a resolution with each party claiming the moral and legal high ground. Not much Easter spirit on display here. The exact detail of the boundary fence dispute is not revealed, but it is a shame that such a dispute has escalated to cost thousands of dollars and, more importantly, ruined a neighbourly relationship. Real estate agents are able to recount many stories involving neighbourly disputes and some sales occur due to neighbourly disharmony. Many neighbourly disagreements stem not from social disharmony, but from legal ones. The repair, replacement or alignment of boundary fences, Rights of Carriageway, the use of Common Property in Strata Schemes and Easements all carry certain obligations for those affected by them. Solving disputes with such matters is normally quite straight forward because there is either legislation that provides the framework for a solution or common law precedent that defines a prior legal decision. Sections 14 and 15 of the Dividing Fences Act WA 1961, for example provides detailed rules as to who pays for the cost of repairing a dividing boundary fence. Arguments may arise when one neighbour refuses to contribute but the Act provides a process for recovering monies due. Arguably more difficult is boundary alignment issues particularly in areas like Fremantle. I would wager that probably the majority of boundary fences of inner city housing in Fremantle are imperfectly aligned. In some cases, the boundary fence may be out by a significant margin. Such title encroachments can lead to the more complex legal matter of “adverse possession” under specific circumstances and whilst common in real estate vernacular, actual claims for adverse possession are relatively rare. Thankfully, neighbours prefer to live harmoniously and a misaligned boundary that has been in situ for decades in normal circumstances is often better left alone. The ability for neighbours to compromise over normally petty issues goes a long way to providing years of friendly “hellos” and a good supply of lemons from over the side fence.

Nov 30, 2023

Giving at Christmas

Giving at Christmas The National Hotel and St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre held their legendary Long Table Christmas Dinner on Saturday 24th November and raised much-need funds to assist those without a place to call home. A shout-out to Karl and Janine Bullers for their inspiration. You see evidence of homelessness everywhere every day. I hear that Fremantle has a resident population of about 120 rough sleepers. Such is the confronting nature of homelessness that some of us opine that those in authority must ‘move them on’, put them elsewhere to make our lives less confronted. But this just locates the problem elsewhere. Family break-down, domestic and family violence, job-loss, addiction and untreated mental health issues all contribute to homelessness and most of us can’t imagine ever being amongst their number. It has been said we’re all a handful of catastrophic life events away from homelessness. It is not an incurable disease; it is rarely a choice and it can be overcome. There are dozens of organisations whose sole purpose is to help transition the homeless back into secure, affordable housing. Local heroes like St Pat’s do extraordinarily good work in supporting Fremantle’s homeless. Yet St. Pat’s is constrained by funding, they never have enough beds to house the needy and, amongst many other organisations, can only do so much with their small army of volunteers. REIWA members, through the Community REInvest program provide financial help to the Salvation Army’s various homeless assistance measures. So far, REIWA agents have donated more than $1,200,000. Local agents, Caporn Young, White House and Dethridge Groves support this program and I encourage other REIWA member agencies to join. Current government social housing systems mean eligible applicants can wait up to eight years to get into suitable housing. According to various sources, 60,000 households need social and affordable homes in WA, yet despite the overwhelming need for housing, 1 in 6 homes nationally remain underutilised. The state government has pledged to build 3300 more social homes within the next four year which should help but this is really only playing catch up. There are already 8,000 fewer privately owned investment homes in market now than a year ago. For every government-supplied home, mum and dad investors supply ten. Part of the solution to finding affordable homes for those on struggle street is to incentivise these modest investors. How about removing stamp duty for those that commit to buying affordable rental properties or guaranteeing attractive rent returns in exchange for providing affordable rents. Perhaps early access to superannuation with guaranteed buy-back at pre-determined returns into the future. The great work of benevolent groups is laudable, but investors need more encouragement in solving homelessness.