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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 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.

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.

Mar 14, 2024

More Growth to Come

Perth’s housing values have increased more than 50 percent since the end of 2019 firmly putting an end to speculation that our run of price gains was purely due to the low interest rate, stimuli-fuelled COVID period. Core Logic reports Perth’s current median home value to be $687,004 up 52.9 percent since the bottom-of-the-market March 2020 price of $449,325. Current values eclipse the previous 2014 peak of $518,540. We’ve been witness to similar markets in the past. For example, back in 2006, Perth’s median house value rose a whopping 40.6 percent in twelve months thanks to the mining boom. Prices retreated relatively quickly after mining-related construction jobs ended and workers returned to whence they’d come. Back then, WA’s population gains went from +1,000 persons per week to -150 per week in a short period, hence the fairly spectacular downward adjustment in house values; demand simply fell away. There is a fundamental difference in Perth’s housing landscape this time around with population gains, low housing supply and relative affordability the three fundamental drivers of our market. These three factors are set to underpin positive house price growth for at least this year and into next with no predictable market shock on the horizon to bring this upward trajectory to a premature end. Considering each fundamental in turn, Perth’s house prices could gain a further 15 to 18 percent this year based on current trajectories. WA’s changes to population growth are at peak levels with around 22,000 new arrivals quarterly. Overseas migration is out-pacing interstate migration growth and with a housing shortage, the demand for more homes inevitably pushes up house prices. Meanwhile, REIWA continues to report low listing numbers currently at about 3,250, well below long term averages. The supply pipeline looks bleak too with current annual dwelling approvals 24 percent below the 10-year average for houses and an astonishing 74 percent below for units. Clearly, we are not going to be building enough homes for to cater for our population gains anytime soon. In fact, WA is leading the nation in terms of time taken to build new homes. Yet Perth remains one of the most affordable places in the nation to buy property with a year-to-date median house price of $718,500, well behind Sydney’s $1,395,804, Melbourne’s $942,671 and Brisbane’s $899,474. We have nudged past Hobart’s $696,508 in recent months. And the percentage of average household income to service current average mortgages in Perth is 29.8 percent, way more affordable than Sydney’s 58.1 percent. Interest rates are predicted to fall later this year as the broader economy slows. It’s foreseeable that such a move will add further fuel to Perth’s already hot property market.

Mar 7, 2024

Women in Property

The Real Estate Institute of Australia is now led by a CEO, President and Deputy President all of whom are women. Six of the eight state and territory Real Estate Institutes have women CEOs. Most of the high-profile property commentators we see in the media are women. Women represent the majority of real estate practitioners across Australia. Property Managers, Sales Agents, Agency Principals, CEO’s, Heads of Franchise groups, Marketers, Executive Assistants, Leasing Agents, Buyer Agents, every conceivable role, women are at the forefront of our industry. In terms of the daily work of real estate practitioner, women tend to develop a rapport with a property owner from a genuinely empathetic approach and can have a better appreciation of the stresses associated with selling or renting a home. In these early exchanges, women also tend to take time to listen to the homeowner and feedback advice that is in tune with their property needs. For a long time, real estate practitioners have had a reputation of unethical behaviours in search of a commission. Thankfully, for a variety of reasons, this has necessarily changed and agents now enjoy strong endorsement from the broader community for the work they do. However, the remnants of these biases float about from time-to-time with such negative perceptions usually focused on slick haired, gold chained blokes who seem prepared to sell their grandmothers for a quid. Such views are almost always born out of ignorance with such stereotypes fast becoming a thing of the past. Yet if any such stigma remains, it is interesting that it doesn’t appear to apply to women real estate practitioners. And perceptions are powerful motivators. There is a perception that women are more trustworthy, more honest and better organised than men; important qualities for a real estate agent. Women are often touted as having a superior eye for detail in design and decor than their male counterparts do too. It is International Women’s Day this week and is a celebration of the empowerment of women across society, including the work force. On average, we still pay women less than men to do the same job, but not in real estate where an increasing number of the top selling agents are women. So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, congratulations to all women involved in real estate, may they continue to grow the professionalism of our industry to the benefit of us all.

Feb 29, 2024

Sorry, Disconnected

Sometimes, governments make decisions that have unintended consequences that impact the practical ways certain industries work. Canberra’s latest effort to over-regulate comes in the form of changes to the Fair Work Act that formalise an employee’s ‘right to disconnect’. The changes effectively mean an employee may refuse to monitor, read or respond to contact from an employer outside of the employee’s normal working hours. As an employer, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for an employee to ignore my phone call after hours, and unless it was a serious emergency, I wouldn’t be calling them after hours anyway. But, do we really need to make a law for it? For the real estate industry, the implications could be significant. The business of real estate – sales or property management – doesn’t happen during usual business hours. The laws extend to an employee (sales representative or property manager) refusing to monitor, read or respond to contact from a third party if the contact relates to their work. This includes contact from vendors, tenants, buyers and lessors. The obvious issues for national companies operating in Western Australia have been neatly overlooked by east coasters with the 3-hour time difference in summer could mean an effective workday starting in midday in Melbourne and Sydney and ending here two hours later. The changes could result in lost business if employees refuse to take urgent calls on a critical matter, such as a live sale negotiation. And what about a matter concerning safety at a property where property or person is at risk where a worker is required to manage such emergencies? The new laws are set to become law in July this year. After which, a tenant, needing assistance to get into their home after losing their keys at 6 pm can expect no reply from their property manager. A vendor, - in theory - wanting to know how Saturday’s home open went, can’t demand a response from their sales agent until Monday morning. As a result, many real estate employees will ignore the new laws and carry on providing service to their clients, tenants and buyers outside normal working hours. It won’t be until something goes wrong with the employer / employee relationship that challenges might arise. Employers could find themselves in strife with the Fair Work Commission if a disgruntled employee claims they were expected to work outside normal business hours without the right to disconnect. Employees working from home further muddies the water given these arrangements enable a degree of flexibility that transcends normal work hours anyway. Time will tell what impacts come from these laws that seem to be an answer to a question no one ever really asked.