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Few distressed sales – home owners are weathering the storm - featured image
By Brett Warren

Few distressed sales – home owners are weathering the storm

Despite predictions of property prices tumbling because of distressed sales, recent data from Domain shows that most capital cities around the country have seen only very marginal increases in distressed listings, while in Canberra and Brisbane the number of distressed listings has actually fallen.

The property pessimists are suggesting that many first homebuyers and investors have over committed themselves financially and will have to set up their properties, creating a domino effect of falling property values. Property Market

However JobKeeper and JobSeeker have minimised many Australian's financial hardship.

At the same time banks are not keen to force people to sell up their home, offering them payment holidays to get through these difficult times.

And the banks have been helped by the RBA introducing a three year funding facility for banks of up to $90 billion with a concessional interest rate of 0.25%.

At the same time the RBA has extended facilities to banks to help find business loans

In other words the RBA is supporting and protecting our banks as is APRA who have also adopted a series of measures to compliment easier lending conditions amid COVID-19.

It’s important to remember that even in very good economic times there will always be a percentage of borrowers in mortgage arrears and others who are in what some would call mortgage distress - not that there is a firm definition of what this term means - yet they don't sell up their homes.

To try and identify urgent sales Domain filtered listings of properties for sale looking for descriptions that included but were not limited to: reduced price, mortgage in possession, urgent sale, motivated vendor, or reduced price, between February and mid-May.

Here's what they found:

Urgent sales

Capital Feb Mid-May
Sydney 1.4% 1.6%
Melbourne 0.5% 0.5%
Brisbane 3.0% 2.9%
Perth 2.3% 2.4%
Adelaide 0.9% 1.1%
Canberra 0.7% 0.6%
Darwin 2.8% 2.8%
Hobart 0.7% 1.0%
Source: Domain
While distressed sales levels remained very low overall, it was tourist regions in Queensland and resource-driven state economies such as Western Australia that were showing to be the hardest hit so far.

“It’s all those holiday regions that have gone into distressed selling,” said Domain’s senior research analyst Dr. Nicola Powell.

Distressed listings on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast rose 0.6 percentage points to 3.4 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.

An uptick in property listings identified as distressed or urgent in several regional locations could be an early sign homeowners there are coming under financial pressure as a consequence of COVID-19.

Among the areas were Port Stephens, on the NSW coast, where the proportion of urgent sale listings grew from 1.5 percent to 3.4 percent and Perth Hills in Western Australia

Nevertheless, Dr. Powell said it was still early days for the economic impact of COVID-19 to play out in the property market but the fact the increases in urgent or distressed listings were still modest across the capital cities was a positive sign.

Forced Sales

The fallout will vary

The impact of COVID-19 on household financial stress and in turn on property values will vary from region to region depending on the level of exposure to industries hardest hit by the virus.

And it has already shown up in the rental markets which are struggling in some areas. Hand Drawing A Graph About Real Estate Market Concept Image
For instance, high-density sections of Melbourne, like Docklands, and in Sydney, such as the CBD and Ultimo, where two-thirds of properties are rentals, have seen vacancy rates triple.
In general these are areas where international students and young people typically working in retail and hospitality live.
These two groups have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

At the same time many investors who were trying to get a higher return by leasing their properties out on Airbnb have put their properties onto the general rental market.

According to data website AirDNA, which tracks Airbnb listings, the number of active short-stay holiday rentals in Australia fell from 202,000 in early February to 164,000 by the end of April.

New bookings fell from 78,000 to 27,000 over the same period.

Now is the time to take action and set yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves as the market moves on

If you're wondering what will happen to property in 2020–2021 you are not alone.

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About Brett Warren Brett Warren is National Director of Metropole Properties and uses his two decades of property investment experience to advise clients how to grow, protect and pass on their wealth through strategic property advice.
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