WHAT TO EXPECT FOR SYDNEY’S PROPERTY MARKET IN 2019
Further property price falls, fewer auctions and a development downturn are on the cards for Sydney this year, experts say.
The city is already in the midst of its steepest slump in decades but prices have further to fall as buyers continue to be limited by tighter lending restrictions.
While caps on interest-only lending were lifted by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in December, AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said he expected credit tightening to continue and prices to fall another 10 per cent.
Mr Oliver said the introduction of comprehensive credit reporting meant lenders would be able to take into account other loans and debt which buyers already had. He noted greater credit visibility could make it harder for people to take out additional loans.
“The era of the speed limits and caps seems to be fading, and in it places a focus on serviceability and total debt,” Mr Oliver said.
Add to this the banking royal commission, for which the final report is due to be handed down in February, and banks and subsequently buyers are expected to remain wary.
“That caution will linger for a while yet, whether we see further pressure coming [from the commission] remains to be seen.”
Tighter credit and lower buyer confidence will see auction clearance rates – which tracked below 50 per cent for the past two months – remain low, and fewer people choosing to sell under the hammer, Starr Partners chief executive Douglas Driscoll said.
He expected rates to hover just under 50 per cent for the first half of the year, but noted sellers should not see a pass-in as a failure and trust the auction process — with an increasing number of properties selling post-auction.
“I think agents themselves are going to need to remember that auctions are part of the process … they create a sense of urgency in the market,” he said.
It would be a tricky start to the year, Mr Driscoll added, with the market stagnating ahead of the state and federal elections, due to potential changes to negative gearing and other policies. However, buyers shouldn’t expect prices to fall off a cliff and should take advantage of good-value properties while they can.
“You only know you’ve hit the bottom of the market when it’s too late,” he warned. “You could wait and the market could drop another 3 to 5 per cent, which [long term] is negligible.”
Prices in the eastern suburbs and lower north shore would hold up better, Mr Driscoll said, because the upper end of the market was less reliant on investors, while having the added benefit of cashed-up buyers – both local and foreign – who were less reliant on credit.
Areas with lot of off-the-plan apartments could have issues, he added, as valuations increasingly come in below the purchase prices and people aren’t able to borrow the amount required to settle.
Chris Johnson, chief executive of developer lobby group Urban Taskforce, said he expected settlement defaults to increase, but did not believe it would be a big issue.
What would be, he said, was the pressure which lending restrictions had applied on the ability to get projects off the ground, particularly for smaller developers who may increasingly have to “tap out of the game”.
Added to this were an anti-development climate and uncertainty around tax changes in the lead-up to the elections.
“I think it will be a holding year rather than a boom year,” Mr Johnson said. “The projects that will keep going are ones that are well located, generally close into the city centre or Parramatta.”
With the construction of dwellings peaking last year, Mr Johnson said, the banks would have to “open up lending a lot more” because they created too much of a reduction in housing supply. “My feeling is, in the middle of the year that will have to change dramatically,” he said.
The high volume of new apartments — many of which were bought by investors in the boom — was good news for tenants, Mr Driscoll said, as it could see rents fall away in areas like Zetland and Parramatta.
“We’ve been saying ‘be realistic’ to sellers for months and now we’re having the same conversation with landlords.”
However, Leo Patterson Ross, senior policy officer at the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, wasn’t convinced this would lead to a big improvement in Sydney’s overall rental affordability.
“There are areas where rents have come off the boil a little … [but mostly] at the higher end of the market, which is never where the competition really stings anyway,” he said. “There are certainly places around the outer ring where rents are still going up.”
Conditions for renters are set to improve with the roll-out of rental reforms introduced to parliament in 2018, which include limiting rent increases to once a year, set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease and ensure there are no penalties for domestic violence victims who break a lease.
If the state government was re-elected, Mr Patterson Ross said he expected the reforms to be in place by July, but if Labor — which promised to end no-grounds evictions — wins, it could go back to the drawing board to potentially create stronger conditions for tenants.
By: What to expect for Sydney’s property market in 2019
Published 4th Jan 2019