It has long been apparent that since 2005 Sydney has not constructing enough dwelling stock to keep pace with the city’s burgeoning population growth, which would inevitably lead to a surge in prices.
However, it should be emphasised that data released this week showed that the population growth of New South Wales is still tracking at 106,400 per annum, which in absolute terms is the greatest population growth in the country.
By the time the Q4 2014 data has washed through it seems likely that Greater Sydney’s population increased by close to ~90,000 persons in 2014.
Housing finance soaring
Contrary to what you might think, my analysis of the latest Housing Finance data showed that the number of owner occupiers buying into the Sydney market presently remains well below the levels seen in the preceding boom period (and in population-adjusted terms today’s figures would be comparatively lower still).
Stock levels remain muffled
We are now at last beginning to see the first impacts of new developments coming online, with a further ~25,000 apartment approvals for Sydney in the past 12 months, and dwelling completions also just beginning to hit their straps.
At the present time vacancy rates in Sydney remain significantly lower than where they were in 2004 at the end of the preceding boom period.
However, vacancy rates are finally being nudged higher around a few key construction hubs, which will put upwards pressure on apartment vacancy rates and an equivalent downwards pressure on unit rents.
These include certain suburbs in the inner west (Erskineville), the inner south (Mascot, Green Square), north Sydney (Chatswood, North Sydney), and the surrounds of Olympic Park (Homebush Bay, Rhodes), to name a few.
For all that we do need some perspective here.
Nationally, building approvals have smashed an all-time record high at more than 200,000 on a rolling annual basis.
Of these, Greater Sydney has approved 25,440 units and 13,337 houses in the past 12 months.
Dwelling prices rising
Unsurprisingly, CoreLogic-RP Data records Sydney home values as rising strongly.
Its “Daily Home Value Index” has historically tended to record a mid-year dip which invariably leads to misplaced excitement, so we might expect to see prices on this chart dwindle across the next month or two.
This weekend was the busiest auction weekend ever in Sydney with more than 1,100 properties scheduled to go under the hammer ahead of the traditional Easter break.
All the way back in August 2013 Australian Property Monitors (now under the Domain banner) reported that the auction market had shifted seamlessly from “red hot” to “white hot”.
This weekend’s preliminary result busted all previous records with a massive 87.5 percent clearance rate reported. Domain circumvented the auction heat/pigment conundrum by simply declaring the market as the hottest it has ever seen. Reported Sydney Morning Herald:
“The Domain Group senior economist, Dr Andrew Wilson, says he’s “absolutely astonished”. “This could not have been rationally predicted – the highest clearance rate on the biggest auction day ever. This is the hottest of hot auction markets ever.”
The good Doctor Wilson has courted a little controversy with the introduction of his divisive “Countdown to Sydney $1,000,000 median house price” counter. Based upon current market trends, Dr. Wilson sees this as being 442 days away, though after this weekend’s auction frenzy the $1 million median house price may hove into view sooner still.
Rates to fall further
With sub-trend economic growth, steadily rising unemployment and inflation appearing to remain relatively contained, debate has shifted from not “if” but “when” Australian interest rates will be dropped further.
Meanwhile Chinese port iron ore prices nudged new lows on Friday, with major producers refusing to blink while pumping out millions of tonnes of oversupply,
The US Federal Reserve seeming likely to push out its own interest rate hikes will do little to help the currency cause.
Futures markets are fully pricing in two further cuts and more to the cash rate by the end of the calendar year in Australia.
Commentators are split on whether the next cut will be delivered as soon as April 7, with some arguing that the Reserve Bank (RBA) will be keen to await another round of inflation data.
Others have argued that Sydney’s hot housing market itself could delay further cuts, with the RBA stressing the importance of maintaining lending standards.
As for what might happen to Sydney dwelling prices over the next 18 months or so, it’s impossible to call accurately, but absent an as yet unseen restriction on capital flows, prices are evidently set to rise.
Data providers show gross yields on Sydney apartments as sitting between 4.4 and 4.6 per cent as at the last available reporting date.
Given that futures market implied yields suggest that we’re likely to see the lowest nominal mortgage rates we have ever seen over the next 18 months, it seems unlikely that yields will be a metric which acts as an impediment to the Sydney investor stampede just yet.
A simple model shows that if gross rents were to rise by 4 per cent over the next 18 months and investors were prepared to bid gross yields all the way down to 4 per cent, then apartment prices could surge by as much as 14 to 19 per cent higher across that time horizon, adding a further $100,000 to the median apartment price.
Naturally, were such a price boom to occur, reversals could then follow.
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