7 Trends that property investors must understand

A few weeks ago you had to  fill out the 2016 census.

It comes around every five years (doesn’t time fly!) and essentially is a reliable count, plus it tells the government statistician (and us boffins) quite a lot about us.

It is used to help recalibrate population growth, electoral boundaries, infrastructure spending and to fuel thousands of articles about who we are, what’s going on and where we are going.

Our census is one of the best in the world.census people demographic measure population statistics data

It is a brilliant document; an honest picture of who Australia is.

Yes, there are issues about privacy; collection method; promotion and compliance.

And it’s a pity, despite living in the digital age, that the results will take over a year to be released.

So, in the meantime, whilst we wait until sometime in 2018 for the results, here are seven things we think the 2016 Census will tell us.

1. Increase in household size.

More people are living in blended households.

The now defunct baby bonus was taken up with gusto, so lots more kids in our population mix and migrants to Australia are generally young adults, with an average age of around 30 years, so they have or want kids, too.

Plus, the mix from overseas has changed, with more migrants now coming from those countries with large family units.

2. Popularisation of demographics.

An increase in those living alone or as a couple, plus an increase in blended households as noted above – coupled with a drop in what many still think is the standard Aussie household, mum and dad and 2.5 kids.

The proportion of those living alone or as a couple over 60 years of age will have increased too, especially women over 60 years; sadly, most with limited financial means.

3. Casualisation of the workforce 

Many more will be working a range of casual or part-time jobs than the regular ABS labour force data series suggests.

As part of this trend, more oldies will be working than in previous generations.

Most are doing so, because they have to, financially, rather than because they want something to do.

The promoted image of Australian retirement is a happy couple walking along a beach at dawn or dusk, whilst the real picture is weathered hands counting coins.

4. Limited wage growth

Very little real change in household income over the past ten years, with falls in real average household income since the last census.

Increasing share of material stuff for the top 10% of wealthy households; a contraction in the size of the ‘middle class’ and a large increase in the number of Australians in struggle street.

Nearly all households will have taken on more debt.

5. Fewer moves

Blame stamp duties; lack of new full-time work; oldies needing to work to help fund retirement or low housing affordability, but our current count is likely to see a very low number of moves between census periods.

Tenants are also staying put longer.

6. Maximising available space for lease rent tenant

Tenants are not only staying longer but they are subleasing space in order to afford the rent.

Owner residents are also now turning to the likes of Airbnb to help cover the mortgage.

Others are now renting out homes that were once locked up or used occasionally.

This trend towards utilising our spare bedrooms or even homes – despite the recent rise in off-plan overseas buying (and the penchant of Chinese towards locking up assets) – we believe, is on the increase.

7. Less home ownership

Recent HILDA reporting has illustrated this trend.

The 2016 Census will add further weight.

Less home ownership for those in the typical first home buyer age group; even falls in home ownership rates for those in their 40s and even 50s.

We wouldn’t be surprised to find that two out of five households now rent, up from 30% only five years ago.

In the coming decade, one to two Australian households could opt to rent, not buy.

So what does this mean when it comes to housing?

  • Less new houses will be needed than many think. 15563628 - house and question  3d image
  • Dwellings need to accommodate sharing – either by tenants and/or blended families.
  • Fewer sales than in the past.  Biggest falls expected in investment selling.
  • Being close to work or being conveniently located near major transport routes will become paramount.
  • Many will be forced to compromise on their housing choice.
  • Limited price and rental growth, if not real falls.
  • More tenants, but with increasingly limited money available for rent.
  • Fewer property investors – as the easy gains are now largely gone.  A drop in the number of households holding just one property and an increase in the number of investors with multiple holdings.
  • Residential returns based more on yield and manufactured growth, via redevelopment or maximising existing space.

This new world is currently not being supported by the mainstream.

Our banks, building industry, valuation process – and especially governance (and in particular, local government/town planning) – are holding back much needed housing reforms.

Mum and dad, without wanting to sound too derogatory, want these housing changes.

Whenever I give a public market outlook presentation and the time comes to outline what’s really happening out there, most of the ‘mum and dads’ in the audience nod in agreement.

When it comes to question time, the majority want to know how they can redevelop their home to assist with their retirement and age in place.

Few seem truly interested in moving into a new build.house inspect

They are too expensive and/or poorly designed/built.

More would move if the product did the right things.

Oh, and before we forget, don’t be surprised that more nominate Pokémon Go as their first religious choice than one of the more standard selections.

Two censuses ago it was the Jedi Force, this time around, it is something much more sinister.

I am with Oliver Stone on this one.

Want more of this type of information?

Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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