Wouldn’t it be great to know how our property markets are going to perform this year?
However my many years as a property investor have taught me not to try too try too hard to predict our markets year by year, but instead to take a long term view, then allow for cycles around this long term trend and be prepared for uncertainty, surprises and the unexpected.
The market moves in cycles
It’s important to understand that cycles are a continuing feature of the economy and investment markets and anyone who ignores those cyclical swings does so at their peril.
Yet investors have a tendency to perceive risks as being at their lowest during booms, when the cycle has almost peaked.
That’s because the media is full of stories about amazing profits, television shows on real estate abound and friends and family are all a buzz with tales of great gains that have been made.
Of course, when property prices are breaking new highs there’s a very good chance that sooner or later they’re going to slow down or turn in the other direction.
Similarly, many investors believe the risks are highest when the markets are down and prices have dropped.
At these times the media tends to report the doom and gloom stories of people losing money and these often sap investors’ confidence.
Of course, the reality is that property slumps are often the best time to snap up bargains while prices are cheap.
Also it’s also more likely that prices will rebound and grow from their low points, whereas there’s not as much room for growth if you buy at historical highs.
Why do the cycles keep recurring rather than finding a nice equilibrium?
Economic cycles exist because we’re human and affected by the optimism or pessimism of others.
The world economy is a collection of many nations, each at their own individual point in the economic clock.
And every nation is made up of millions of people like you and me, each making our own financial decisions in reaction to, or in the expectation of, other people’s decisions.
The sheer momentum of all these economies means that they always over-swing the mark and then correct themselves, resulting in cyclical economic movements.
In case you’re wondering, “if economic cycles are well understood and the benefits of being a counter-cyclical investor are evident, why doesn’t everyone make a killing?” – the answer is simple.
Waves of optimism and pessimism sweep the community driving investment cycles and the property cycle.
Investment markets, being forward-looking, are driven by expectations and sentiment as well as fear and greed and that’s why cycles will always be with us.
The pendulum swings to far
Interestingly investor sentiment and therefore investment markets tend to “overshoot” the fundamental influences on them – in both directions.
During booms property markets get ahead of themselves and grow too fast and they remain flat for longer than needed in slumps.
In today’s connected society, with the media feeding us a continual conveyor belt of messages, our mood swings seem wider and the cycle seems shorter.
Haven’t we learned anything from the past?
Well some of us have.
I’ve often said you have to invest through one or two complete property cycles to become a sophisticated investor.
However, some people just don’t learn from their mistakes and keep getting carried away by their emotions or fears.
Then every seven to 10 years or so there is a new generation of investors who have grown up and entered the market.
These beginning investors haven’t had the opportunity of learning the lessons of history and tend to drive the next property boom and this ensures
the cycle continues.
But there’s more to it than that…
Watch out for the unexpected.
In the early 80’s – long before there was a TV show of the same name – economist Dr. Don Stammer taught me to watch out for the “X Factor”.
He said we need to allow for uncertainty and surprises.
These X factors are powerful influences on the economy and investment markets that had not generally been expected but which, for a time, have a marked effect on them.
They can be from an international source (such as falling oil and commodity prices) or a domestic one (like the uncertainty surrounding the government fiddling with GST or negative gearing.)
X factors can be negative such as the world shock after September 11th or the near melt down of the world banking system in 2008 for reasons that happened on the other side of the globe.
At other times they have a positive affect on our economy such as Australia’s resilience to the Global Financial Crisis because of the demand for our resources from China or the drop in interest rates over the last year when many expected them to rise.
These X factors affect the economy at large, which of course affects our property markets, but our property markets also have their own specific X factors – unforeseen events that affect the best laid plans and predictions.
The lesson is while it’s important to take a long term view of the economy and our property markets, you also need to allow for uncertainty and surprises by only holding first class assets diversified over a number of property markets and having patience.
Understanding the cyclical nature of our property markets, the fact they overshoot and that an X factor can come out of the blue to thwart my best plans makes me a more cautious investor.
Examples of X Factors:
One of the X factors in 2015 was APRA’s regulations restricting lending to property investors, causing many to have to review their borrowing capacity in a way they had not forseen.
Further X factors last year were 2 interest rate drops in the first half of the year when 12 months beforehand economists were predicting rates to rise.
Then we had the surprise of 2 rate hikes for investors despite RBA cash rates remaining the same.
Trying to predict the X-factor is futile: if it’s been predicted, it’s not the X-factor; but let’s have a look at a list of major past X-Factors from Dr Stammer, who now writes for The Australian.
THE X-FACTOR FILES:
2015 Falling world wide oil prices.
2011 Continuing problems with European government debt
2010 European government debt crisis begins
2009 The resilience of our economy despite the GFC
2008 The near-meltdown in banking systems
2006 Big changes to superannuation
2004 Sustained hike in oil prices
2001 September 11 terrorist attacks
1997 Asian financial crisis
1991 Sustainable collapse of inflation
1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait
1989 Collapse of communism
1988 Boom in world economy despite Black Monday
1987 Black Monday collapse in shares
1986 “Banana Republic” comment by Paul Keating
1985 Collapse of $A after MX missile crisis
1983 Free float of Australian dollar
Now it’s your turn to play the game and predict the coming year’s X-Factor.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Of course…if you want to grow your property portfolio in a more difficult environment this year you’ll need to buy the right type of property.
One that has a level of scarcity, meaning they will be in continuous strong demand by owner occupiers (to keep pushing up the value) and tenants (to help subsidise your mortgage); in the right location (one that has outperformed the long term averages), at the right time in the property cycle (that would be now in many states) and for the right price.
To become a successful investor you will need to surround yourself with a team of independent and unbiased professional advisors (not sales people) – a team of people who are known, proven and trusted, so it is probably appropriate to remind you that in changing times like we are experiencing, no one can help you quite like the independent property investment strategists at Metropole.
Remember the multi award winning team at Metropole have no properties to sell, so their advice is independent and unbiased.
If you’re looking for independent property investment advice to help you become financially independent, including how to get he banks to say yes more often to you, no one can help you quite like the independent property investment strategists at Metropole.
Remember the multi award winning team of property investment strategists at Metropole have no properties on the market to sell, so their advice is unbiased.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned property investor, we would love to help you formulate an investment strategy or do a review of your existing portfolio, and help you take your property investment to the next level.
Please click here to organise a time for a chat.
Or call us on 1300 20 30 30.
When you attend our offices in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane you will receive a free copy of my latest 2 x DVD program Building Wealth through Property Investment in the new Economy valued at $49.