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Jun 19, 2024

Get Your Price Right

Fremantle’s property market continues its positive trajectory with short supply and solid demand. This current imbalance is keeping up property values as buyers continue to compete for the limited homes available throughout the area. FOMO enthusiasm gives rise to some ‘unicorn’ selling outcomes too, with seller expectations sometimes rising faster than market sentiment. The short supply means agents are desperate for listing stock and, unfortunately, one response to this market is for agents to offer ‘happy prices’ to would-be sellers, the aim being to secure the listing and hope the market ‘catches up’ during their period of authority. friends, lovers and others have their own opinions Additionally, emotional attachment often leads homeowners to believe their property is worth more than a market consensus of a fair price. Opinion of market value for property is largely a subjective exercise; various agents will have differing views of market price, and friends, lovers and others have their own opinions that influence would-be sellers. Sellers who have committed to another property at a higher-than-hoped price will also be pressured to sell their own home for more than the market might bear. The result can be price expectations that exceed market reality. In truth, the value of a property is not determined until a buyer is found, negotiations finalised and the contract for sale completed. The combination of market information, comparative property sales analysis, demand and supply levels, buyer activity and property presentation provide an insight into what fair market price might eventuate for a property, but what does the anticipated or listing price have to do with the final market price? In short, plenty. Statistics show that sellers that over-price their property lose money in the end. Sellers that allow their property to languish on the market due to unrealistic price expectations (either derived from themselves or an over-zealous agent) end up fighting against the buyer sentiment of a “stale” listing; a property that has been on the market for above average periods of time. Such properties are often simply over-priced and buyers will discount them because they think “there must be something wrong with it if no one has bought it.” Sellers that discount listing prices to sell will almost always end up selling for less than if they had a realistic market price expectation from the beginning. Sellers are well advised to take in professional advice from a local REIWA agent and form a considered, unemotional opinion of value based on facts, evidence and reputable market data.

Jun 13, 2024

Is the market too hot?

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.

May 29, 2024

New Laws Arrive

The state government has introduced its first tranche of tenancy law changes designed to further protect renters in the face of stubbornly low vacancy rates, rising rents and ongoing supply shortages. As national debate about the ‘housing crisis’ rages on, becoming more political by the day, the frustrations of those impacted by housing affordability constraint continues to rise. Thankfully, everyone agrees that the lack of housing supply goes to the heart of the problem of housing affordability, yet there is yet to be substantive, needle-shifting policies from our state or federal governments that has meaningfully focused on this core issue. So far, we’ve seen a series of back-slapping fringe policies that are either promissory or tinker around the edges. there’s no law against being a rude, vindictive narcissist For example, the federal government’s promise of building 1.2 million new affordable homes by 2029 came off the back of protracted negotiations with the Greens over the Housing Australia Future Fund; a political promise that sets a wildly ambitious construction target. Housing approvals over the past five years reached about 925,000 boosted by the HomeBuilder grants of 2020/21. The trajectory for new approvals is troubling for adding supply having fallen back (down 9.5% in December) sharply as construction material costs continue to rise, up 32.5% since 2020. Add to this rising inflation elsewhere in the economy, poor productivity, NIMBYism, high property taxes, planning constraints, lack of building innovation, higher interest rates and falling employment, we’ll miss the 1.2 million home target by miles. Meanwhile, our state government celebrates fringe policies such as the $5,000 landlord incentive for property owners who, after having their ‘extra’ property lay empty for six months, can claim the $5k for putting in a tenant. Our Treasurer reckons this could add an additional 1000 homes to the rental pool. Sorry, but anyone that can afford leave their investment property empty for six months, won’t be swayed by five grand. Other government actions around housing included changes to the Residential Tenancy Laws, two of which came into effect this week. Firstly, there is now a ban on ‘rent bidding’. This effectively means landlords and property agents are banned from encouraging tenants to “pay extra” to secure a rental home. Nor can properties be advertised at a “from” weekly rent. The intention is sound but in response, initial asking rents will rise to account for the competition in the market. Tenants can still offer more than the asking rent if they choose to. The second new law is referred to as the ‘retaliatory rule’ whereby a landlord cannot respond to reasonable requests from a tenant regarding property maintenance and other matters by not renewing the lease, for example. Some tenants can be unreasonable to deal with and there’s no law against being a rude, vindictive narcissist. It will be interesting to see how the new law deals with circumstances like this where the property owner seeks to not renew a lease on the grounds of their tenant being unreasonably difficult. There is no quick fix to the housing crisis, but every effort to add supply to the housing stock in an affordable way must be the priority.

May 10, 2024

More Edge Tinkering

The Cook government is trying to rebalance Western Australia’s rental market. There has been a flurry of affordable housing-related policy announcements recently to address surging rents and low vacancies. REIWA assesses Perth’s vacancy rate at 0.6 percent, a long way from a market parity 3.5 percent. The latest announcement aims to encourage property owners to convert their vacant homes into long-term rentals by offering a one-off $5,000 payment. Sorry to be cynical, but a property owner who can afford to leave their property vacant (Granny / Fonzie flats or vacant rooms are ineligible) for a period of longer than six months, doesn’t need a lazy $5,000 to convince them to lease it. The policy comes off the back of the recent Short Term Rental Accommodation (STRA) Incentive Scheme, which encouraged owners to convert their property from the short to long term market with a $10,000 payment. So far, 150 properties have converted their properties into the long-term market or a minute 0.05 percent of rented properties across WA. In announcing the latest policy, Premier Cook acknowledges the “significant demand for housing” and has committed to “leaving no stone unturned in our work to boost supply of homes.” Responsible Ministers shared the limelight with Treasurer Saffioti suggesting, “This initiative has the potential to bring up to 1,000 properties back onto the rental market.” Commerce Minister Ellery reckoned the STRA Incentive Scheme has been “a success” and Minister Carey (Planning and Housing) reflected on his government “continuing to think outside the box…to boost housing supply.” To give credit where credit is due, at least the government is doing something and, in this market, something is better than nothing. Unsophisticated private investors – ordinary West Australians – supply 27 percent of all homes to tenants, about 264,000 properties. Government supply about 3 percent. In this time of greatest need, with supply of rental homes at severe lows, these recent housing policies that seek to encourage the investor cohort into supplying more homes will barely scratch the surface. Meanwhile, big-ticket items that would significantly move the needle on supply are ignored. Stamp duty - where bracket creep means an investor tax of $27,000 at Perth’s median house price - and land tax rebates are obvious places to start. And why not (even temporarily) repeal the foreign investor tax where these buyers pay $76,000 in state tax when buying a $700,000 property? This group, very sensibly, choose to rent rather than pay the tax, soaking up valuable rental stock. Put simply, governments – supported by the media and tenancy advocates – have been busily whacking investors, whilst simultaneously failing to provide enough rental housing for West Australians as the only possible alternative to the private investor market. WA’s poor market performance in the years 2012-2020, has left our housing market underprepared for the surge in new arrivals and we’re playing catch up. There is time for meaningful reform to encourage investors into the market to add more supply and whilst relatively small cash incentives may tinker around the edges, they won’t make a meaningful impact.

May 3, 2024

Rent Bidding

As recently reported in these pages, the West Australian parliament passed into law changes to the Residential Tenancies Act designed to further protect the interest of tenants. Some of the changes bring WA into line with other states where substantial changes have altered tenant-landlord relationships and, in some cases, have deterred investment and pushed up rents. Many of the changes will be relatively benign, such as rent increases limited to no more than every twelve months (currently it is a minimum of six months). None of the laws encourage investors to further supply rental stock by improving protections for landlords from tenants that breach the lease agreement and / or wilfully damage the property. One of the changes will be to make it illegal for a landlord (or their property manager) to encourage a tenant to offer more rent to secure a lease. Known as ‘rent bidding’, in a tight rental market it is common for tenants to offer more than the advertised rent for a property. It’s important to note that the ban will not prevent a tenant from offering more rent than advertised. In other states, rent bidding is already banned, but the outcome of the ban has failed to afford any additional benefit for tenants. In the current market, most properties receive multiple applications to rent with many tenants prepared to offer more than the asking rent to secure the property. Under the current arrangement, tenants will typically seek guidance from the leasing agent as to what constitutes market rental value and without specifying the details of competing applications, tenants are able to secure a lease by offering a modest amount above the asking rent. With a ban on rent bidding, tenants will be ‘flying blind’. The leasing agent will have to be silent on proffering any advice as to the level of competition, or where the market sees value. What has occurred in other states is tenants are offering substantially more than the asking rent because the leasing manager is unable to guide them where fair market rent might lie. I am told desperate tenants in NSW will offer 20% above asking rent where a 5% increase would have been sufficient. Already, property managers are advertising asking rents with a “From” in front. This makes it more difficult for tenants to determine fair market rent, especially once rental bidding is formally banned. Mostly, landlords are seeking quality tenants at a reasonable rent. Many will choose the best tenant over one offering the highest rent. Property managers have a duty to their landlord to secure the best possible lease outcome for their client and the rent achieved is but one component. Banning rent bidding will do nothing to further the plight of tenants already dealing with a highly competitive, stressful market of limited supply and rising rents. Governments should spend their time thinking about how they can get more rental supply into the market by actively encouraging property investors. Everything else treats the symptom not the cause and rents will continue to rise.

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.

Apr 18, 2024

Rental Reforms Pass

Significant changes to residential tenancy laws passed through parliament this week heralding a strengthening of tenants rights as they relate to residential leases. The following key changes will impact residential tenancies: Tenants will be allowed to keep pets and the property owner will only be able to refuse in certain circumstances. Tenants will be able to make minor modifications to the property without permission from the owner. Tenants may take an owner to court if they can demonstrate the owner has acted with reciprocity against a tenant. Rent increases are limited to once annually. The process of bond disposals can be commenced by either tenant or landlord. Disputes will mostly be heard by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection rather than the Magistrate’s Court. Rent bidding will be banned. Overall, the changes are moderate and align with tenancies laws in other states and territories. Importantly, the changes stop short of prohibiting ‘without grounds terminations’, a silly phrase used to describe circumstances where a tenant requests a further lease term after the end of a fixed term and the landlord refuses without giving a reason. REIWA conducted a survey into this particular element of the tenancy laws with an astonishing 61 percent of the 6,000-odd landlords surveyed saying they’d ‘consider selling’ the property if ‘without grounds terminations’ were prohibited. Given a fixed term lease has a clear end date, neither party should anticipate that an additional lease or reversion to a ‘periodic lease’ is assured. You don’t have to give a reason to end a fixed term agreement in any other circumstance, even a marriage! At a time where supply of rental homes are at crisis point across Australia, new laws that actively undermine the encouragement of supply risks further disincentivizing the main cohort of property investors; unsophisticated, family investors the majority of whom own one additional property other than their home. Given family investors provide 9 in every 10 rentals in WA, we cannot afford to discourage them.

Apr 11, 2024

Rental Market Tightens Further

This week, REIWA reported Perth’s residential rental vacancy rate dropped to a record low of 0.4 percent in March. A balanced market records vacancy rates at around 3.5 percent and in sharp contrast to early 2018 where vacancy rates were at 7.3 percent and over 12,000 properties were advertised for lease on reiwa.com. Today there are 1,963 advertised. Median Perth rents are at $649 per week with properties offered for lease below this figure in higher demand than those above the median. Accordingly, properties advertised at less than $1000 per week are leasing in about two weeks, whereas those at above this figure take about 21 days to rent. Core Logic shows Perth’s rental value is up 14 percent in the twelve months to March 2024, leading the nation amongst capital cities which averaged a 9.6 percent increase. Applied to Perth’s current median rent, a further 14 percent would see Perth rents hit $740 per week this time next year. The core of the problem is the shortage of housing supply at a time when migration levels into WA are rising contemporaneously with deteriorating construction approvals for new homes. Apartment approvals are at decade low levels falling to around 375-unit approvals last month against our 10-year average of about 725 units. Thankfully, investors are relatively active with 36 percent of mortgage demand in Western Australia coming from investors. This is up from the decade average of 24 percent and just 15 percent in 2019. The upside to this renewed investor enthusiasm is more rental stock coming into the market adding to supply, with the downside for first home buyers being investors buying stock that might otherwise have gone to them, which ultimately push up house prices. And prices are rising most in typical first home buyer regions. Remarkably, 8 of the top 10 local government regions across Australia for annual price growth are in Perth with the affordable regions of Armadale, Gosnells, Rockingham and Kwinana the top four performers up between 25.8 percent and 28.6 percent. Serpentine – Jarrahdale, Wanneroo, Cockburn and Mandurah all made the top ten up around 23 percent. In a balanced market, as house prices moderately rise, rents typically ease as first home buyers leave the rental market and enter home ownership. The opposite applies when interest rates rise and home prices abate, demand for rentals rise, pushing up rents. Today’s market is different. Perth is experiencing a renaissance of sorts after a prolonged period of negative or negligible growth from 2009 to 2019. During this decade, under-investment locally has caught us off guard with the speed of market recovery leaving us hopelessly short on supply during a time where construction costs remain a deterrent against meaningful and rapid increases in housing stock.