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10 lessons I learned from past property downturns that we can use in this changing market - featured image

10 lessons I learned from past property downturns that we can use in this changing market

What's ahead for our property markets for the rest of 2022 and beyond?

Clearly, there will be continuing issues with Covid 19 and the socio-political problems that plague the world are unlikely to disappear.

But now we have to contend with rising inflation, higher interest rates, fears of recession around the world and correcting local property markets.

Housing Market

Sure property values grew significantly over the last year few years, in fact, house prices increased close to 30% in many locations around Australia during the boom of 2021-22, and even more in certain locations.

But let's put this in context...

Australia’s property markets had been sluggish for the previous three years.

This started with the APRA-induced credit squeeze prior to the Haynes Royal Commission into Banking in 2018, followed by the fright of a Labour government changing property tax laws in 2019, and finally, the Coronavirus-induced property market lockdowns of 2020.

Then in October 2020, our property markets started moving out of their downturn phase driven by falling interest rates, pent-up demand, and rising consumer confidence that we were getting through our Covid-related challenges.

But this boom was short-lived and now property price growth has stalled in Sydney and Melbourne and is slowing in other parts of the nation.Index Results As At 31 May

So what’s ahead for property for the rest of 2022 and beyond?

The downtrend in our property markets is becoming evident as buyer and seller confidence wanes.

Auction clearance rates are falling and decreasing affordability in our 2 big capitals, a significant rise in fixed mortgage rates, rising variable rates, uncertainty about inflation and the media full of stories or real estate Armageddon have dampened buyer enthusiasm.

In general, buyers are more cautious, factoring in further interest rate rises and potential price falls.

And vendors are becoming more nervous and selling before auction rather than testing the market, while others are withdrawing their properties from sale.

We're in a two-speed property market with the smaller capitals outperforming Melbourne and Sydney, but on the other hand, capital city rental markets continue to tighten, with the record low vacancy rates still falling.

While price growth has peaked, I still see property values rising in selected markets throughout 2022, but eventually, this cycle will end, so I’d like to look back and share 10 lessons I learned from previous property downturns that could be helpful in planning for the future.

1. Property booms don’t last forever

Whether it's property, shares, or bitcoins — booms just don't last forever, and neither do downturns.

The thing is, downturns are just one part of a cycle, so they will always end at some point.

Property Boom 2018

Every boom sets us up for the next downturn, just as every flat period provides opportunities to get set for the next upturn.

The trick is to maximise your upside while preparing yourself for the next downturn.

Sure, we're coming into a period of property market correction, but that doesn't mean property values are going to crash.

Successful investors recognise that market downturns are a “fee of admission” rather than a fine for getting it wrong.

The short-term fall in the value of their properties is the cost of being in the market. It is the cost of long-term success.

2. Stick to your strategy

Don’t change your long-term investment strategy because of short-term factors.

Look for what’s always worked, rather than what’s working now.

Your long-term wealth will be created by the capital growth of your property portfolio increasing your asset base.

Sure, cash flow is important - it will keep you in the game.

But it’s capital growth that will get you out of the rat race.

Let’s be honest, almost anyone could have made money during the boom years as the market covered up any mistakes.

But as Warren Buffet says: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

In other words, if you’re not following a strategy that works in all market conditions you will be caught naked when the market changes and it will - because as always the good times we'll experience in the next few years will also come to an end.

3. Get rich quick = get poor quick

Successful property investment takes time.

Be wary because, just like at the beginning of every other property cycle, there’s a new breed of spruiker out there looking to lure the uneducated into parting with their money by offering them a shortcut to riches.

4. Take a long-term perspective

Think long-term and don’t seek quick wins.

Don't let emotions drive your investment decisions.

Remember in early 2020, during the peak of the scare regarding Covid19, when the fear started to rear its head.

Long Term

People who had made poor investment decisions, or those who bought near the market peak, started to panic.

Then, as the market picked up, FOBE (the fear of buying early) kept home buyers and investors out of the market, they were worried that property prices could still drop further.

Then throughout 2021 as it became clear that our markets are on the move again, FOMO (the fear of missing out) set in – many homebuyers and property investors were concerned that the market will take off before they get a foothold.

Let's face it: emotions of any kind are not a good idea when investing.

The secret is to keep your eye on the long-term horizon and not worry about any short-term vagaries of the market, because they will pass.

5. Property investment is a game of finance with some houses thrown in the middle

Strategic investors don’t only buy real estate — they buy themselves time by having the correct finance structures in place including cash flow buffers to ride through the cycle.

6. Invest in locations with a future, not a past

Since the bulk of your property’s performance will be determined by its location, rather than looking for somewhere cheap to buy, find a location where local economic growth will lead to job growth, wages growth, and population growth.

Look for a suburb where the local demographic can afford to and will be willing to pay for their properties because they earn high disposable incomes.


And in these post-Covid times, locations that will outperform will be desirable, aspirational suburbs that offer mobility and proximity.

By proximity I mean the ability to work, live and play all within 20 minutes’ reach will be the new gold standard desirable lifestyle.

It seems that in our new “Covid Normal” world, people love the thought that most of the things needed for a good life are within a short public transport trip, bike ride or walk from home.

Things such as shopping, business services, education, community facilities, recreational and sporting resources, and some jobs.

We’re in for a 2-tier property market moving forward.

While most property markets around Australia have performed strongly so far this cycle (other than the inner city of high-rise apartment market), it’s important to realise that moving forward we are likely to have a 2-tier property market.

In other words, not all property markets will continue growing strongly moving forward.

Properties located in the inner and middle-ring suburbs, particularly in gentrifying locations, will outperform cheaper properties in the outer suburbs.


While the outer suburban and more affordable end of the markets have performed strongly so far, affordability is now becoming an issue as the locals have had minimum little wage growth during the time when property prices have boomed.

In these locations, the residents don't have more money in their pay packet to pay the higher prices the properties are now achieving.

More than that, Covid19 has adversely affected low-income earners to a greater extent than middle and high-income earners who are likely to recover their income back to pre-pandemic levels more quickly, while many have not been hit at all.

Also, high-rise apartment towers in our CBDs, which were already suffering from the adverse publicity of structural problems prior to Covid19, will now become the slums of the future as they are shunned by homeowners and investors.

And as we start to emerge from our Covid Cocoons there will be a flight to quality properties and an increased emphasis on livability.

As their priorities change, some buyers will be willing to pay a little more for properties with “pandemic appeal” and a little more space and security, but it won’t be just the property itself that will need to meet these newly evolved needs – a “liveable” location will play a big part too.

To many, liveability will mean a combination of:

  • Proximity – to things like parks, shops, amenities, and good schools
  • Mobility – access to good public transport (even though this may be less important moving forward) or a good road system
  • Access to jobs

7. You know less than you think you know

A healthy ego can be a good signal of future success.

However, an over-inflated ego will usually mean you end up worse off than when you started.

If you’re the smartest person in your team you’re in trouble, so recognise that mentors and experts can help teach you the things that you don't even know that you don't know.

8. Don’t mistake money for wealth

A big bank balance means someone's rich, right?

Well, no, it doesn't.

Many high-income earners live from one pay to another — and never have enough money "leftover" to invest in income-producing assets.

Rich Happy Venn Diagram Success Goal Of Wealth

The truly wealthy not only have a capital growth portfolio behind them, but they have also learned that money is not wealth.

That's why they make time for their family and their health, and they give back to society and to their local communities because that is where true happiness lies.

And these lessons were brought home clearly to many of us as we were huddled in our Coronavirus cocoons.

9. The sky isn’t falling

When the good times seemingly turn bad the property pessimists and doomsayers come to the fore.

These "commentators" predict the end of the financial world suggesting we should all sell up and hide under a rock.

On the other hand, sophisticated investors ignore the white noise because they are concentrating on the long-term, where the view is calm and clear.

Think about it… How often do we have to hear "this is the end of the world as we know it" until we realise this is not the end of the world as we know it?

The world and our property markets move in cycles and for over 2000 years Spring has followed Winter, and I'm putting my money on the fact that spring will find this property winter once again.

10. Opportunity is knocking

When the opportunity arises, strike.

Remember Warren Buffet’s words: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

Sure it’s difficult to take action when others around you are talking doom and gloom, but it is during downturns that lifetime wealth is made.


So while the best time to buy a property may have been 20 years ago, the second-best time to set yourself up for financial independence and buy investment great property is right now.

But don't expect a bargain, as well-located investment-grade properties are in strong demand as, Like after every downturn, there is now a flight to quality my buyers.

However, that property that seems reasonably expensive today will look like a bargain when you look back in a decade.

The Bottom Line:

Strategic investors don't really care too much about market phases.

Instead, they concentrate on growing their portfolios and investing in the right type of properties, whenever it suits their finance, their strategy, and their long-term goals.

Property Investor

Over 2021 there was been a palpable change in market sentiment and this was reflected in strong buyer activity at a time when there is a little good stock on the market.

Today there is likely to be the greatest selection of properties available, so don't let FOMO allow you to make bad decisions.

Only buy A-grade homes or investment-grade properties.

You can't expect to get wealth-producing rates of returns from secondary assets

ALSO READ: I would have been a better property investor if I knew these 12 things earlier in life

About Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit

Yes Richard they are a "wealth tax" - you should see mine. There are some ways to manage them that I know Ken Raiss advises his clients of, but most people just see them as a necessary cost of doing business

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Great to always read your articles ... please advise us how to manage horrendous land tax bills ...

1 reply

Thanks for the kind words Linda

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