A 40-year high in inflation, rising interest rates, talk of our property markets crashing, and our economy falling into recession.
Then there’s Russia’s war with Ukraine.
A spike in energy prices, a skyrocketing jump in the price of oil; supply chain problems.
Excessive government spending; exploding government debt.
A huge increase in the nation’s money supply.
All these factors and others are contributing to increased inflation.
But am I worried? Not really.
And you shouldn’t be either.
And I’m going to explain why in a moment.
2022 the year of inflation
I think when we look back on 2022 will be seen as the year of inflation.
Granted, it started in 2021 because of the massive disruption that Covid caused in the world.
But inflation is on everyone’s radar now.
And it's continuously in the media, isn't it?
I'd like to say I haven't seen so much rubbish written in the media before, but I'd be lying.
I read the same kind of misinformation when we experienced the GFC back in 2008.
At that time all the commentary was about economic Armageddon and crashing property markets.
And many of the same doomsday experts gave us dire warnings when Coronavirus caused the original lockdowns in 2020 but, once again, government and central bank policies helped us avoid terrible bankruptcies, double-digit unemployment, and the 20% house price falls that were predicted then.
This is easily forgotten at present as many Australians are worrying about interest rates rising and property prices falling.
The property pessimists are telling us that inflation and interest rates are the reasons why the property market will perform poorly over the next few years.
I’ve invested through inflationary times before and inflation is a property owners’ friend – as long as you own the right type of property.
I know how good it can be for those who are in the right assets, particularly property.
Now I’m not saying the property market won’t correct.
It will – it already has started in certain sectors, but there’s no reason to suggest the property market will crash.
The problem is we haven’t seen inflation in the developed world for decades.
It’s extremely uncomfortable if you’re facing higher prices for everything every single month, especially since wage growth has yet to materialise.
And the continual commentary about the current economic problems makes it even worse.
- Inflation is still getting higher
- Stocks are down
- Property values are going to crash
- This is looking like stagflation: There’s high inflation and low economic growth.
- Maybe we’re going to have a recession.
Now in a moment, I’m going to explain to you exactly what inflation means, what causes inflation, is inflation good or bad and what I’m planning to do, but before I do, if you’re worried about all this my message to you is: look at the big picture.
When we’re faced with economic problems (or any problem), there are two ways to view things:
- The up-close perspective: Looking at inflation, interest rates, debt, consumer spending, joblessness, and so forth.
- The broader big picture perspective: Looking at long-term trends and historical patterns.
You can get tunnel vision during periods of high stress.
So I always suggest taking a step back for a broader view.
What happened in the past can teach us about what’s happening now.
Our property market and the economy move in cycles.
There have always been periods of high growth and low growth.
As the platitude goes: “History doesn’t repeat; it rhymes.”
For example, when our economy gets stimulated (like it was in 2020-21) people get more excited, take more risks, and start to consume more.
This period of high growth often causes inflation.
Then, things slow down again later.
It goes up and down.
But we never spend time in the middle.
Our economy and the share markets and our property markets are at the extremes.
Despite the screaming headlines you see in the media or those so-called “gurus” telling us the sky is falling, recessions and slowdowns are normal.
But despite these cycles, our “big picture” research at Metropole shows that Australia’s property markets have increased by 540.1% over the last 42 years – that’s an average compound annual rate of growth of 7.62%, with some States obviously performing better than others.
When you invest for the long term, the market fluctuations don’t harm you, especially if you own quality assets.
Things only become problematic when you make bad investment decisions such as owning secondary assets or over-borrowing and taking unnecessary risks, or panic selling when the market is down.
So what is inflation?
There are many definitions, but I like this one:
“Inflation is a persistent substantial rise in the general level of prices related to an increase in the volume of money resulting in the loss of the value of currency.”
Broadly, inflation is caused by an imbalance in supply and demand, yet very few people understand the importance of the underlying factor of the volume of money.
You see…there are a lot of factors that affect the prices of certain items in the short term, and there are some factors that affect the price of a large number of items in the long term - things such as supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine or the lock down in China.
But the only thing that affects the price of everything all the time and over a long period of time is the volume of money.
Just to make things clear…a level of inflation is normal.
We don’t have to fear that inflation exists, and in fact, it is healthy for the economy.
The issue is when the amount of inflation is inappropriate.
Hyperinflation can be extremely harmful to consumers- if the cost of living rises considerably more than salaries, the standard of living goes down.
On the other hand, deflation is also undesirable – no one sees wants to see the value of their assets go down.
What causes inflation?
When we look at the cost of items in the short term, every individual product will have its own reason for becoming more expensive.
This is often related to supply and demand, such as droughts increasing the cost of strawberries.
Or conversely a bumper crop or if demand falls due to a health scare the price of strawberries might fall.
It's also possible for there to be a change in a single factor that affects a large swag of goods simultaneously, such as:
- An increase in the price of oil causing transportation to become more expensive, or
- Supply chain issues in a country like China
But at a macro level, inflation is caused by factors like pressures on either the supply or demand side of the economy.
- Cost-Push Inflation
Cost-push inflation occurs when prices increase due to increases in production costs, such as raw materials and wages.
The demand for goods is unchanged while the supply of goods declines due to the higher costs of production.
- Demand-Pull Inflation
Demand-pull inflation is caused by strong consumer demand for products or services.
This is something we’ve been recently experiencing as consumer confidence tends to be high when property values rise, when unemployment is low and when wages are rising and this leads to more spending.
Look what’s happened to inflation over the last 70 years
Looking at Australia’s CPI over the past 70 years shows how Australia has experienced long periods of high inflation, disinflation, and more recently, low and stable inflation.
The CPI reflects the impact on the Australian economy of global influences, such as oil price shocks, as well as domestic effects, such as policies that impact the labour market and wages growth.
What about inflation now in 2022?
Today’s high rate of inflation was caused, in part, by factors related to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the difficult years of 2020 and 2021 when large parts of Australia were locked down, the government crafted a number of stimulus measures to prevent us from falling into recession, prevent the high levels of unemployment that some predicted, and prevent the real estate Armageddon that others predicted.
It did this in part by entering a program of Quantitive Easing - which basically reduced interest rates, increased the supply of money, and drove more lending to consumers and businesses.
During those times when we were sheltering in our Covid Cocoons, most Australians stashed their cash and built up a war chest in our bank accounts or offsets accounts.
On the one hand, we were unable to go out and spend our money and on the other hand, we were cautious, being uncertain of what was ahead.
Now that we’re back to a normal life Aussies are getting out and spending more and this is occurring at a time of limited supply for many goods, pushing up prices and therefore inflation.
So we have both a demand-pull and cost-push in play.
Until that novelty wears off or until prices rise to the level where it starts to really impact demand or consumption, it’s likely we’ll continue to see pretty high levels of inflation.
So in essence, inflation was caused by the government, and now they’re asking the RBA why they can’t get it under control?
And it’s likely we’re going to have significantly higher inflation for quite some time because of continuing problems with the Russian and Ukrainian war and supply chain issues related to the Chinese lockdown.
In fact, the Reserve Bank now expects headline inflation to reach 7%, and it’s not expected to peak until the fourth quarter of this year – 2022, in part because high energy and power prices won’t filter through to households till then.
It’s likely that after that the annual rate of inflation will start to decline.
The Reserve Bank is going to try to control inflation by raising interest rates and stifling demand.
The problem is, if it raises rates too fast or too high it will suppress demand too much and we could fall into a period of recession.
However, if it occurs this recession is likely to be short-lived as the Reserve Bank will lower interest rates again to grease the wheels of the economy.
Fortunately, Australia’s economy is in good condition at present, growing well and with strong job growth, low unemployment, strong exports, and a positive balance of trade.
How long are we going to experience high inflation?
RBA Governor Philip Lowe explained:
"It's going to be some years, I think, before inflation's back in the 2-3% range. But over the next couple of years it will gradually come down.
We don't see a recession on the horizon.
If the last two years have taught us anything, we can't rule anything out. But our fundamentals are strong and the position of the household sector is strong, and firms are willing to hire people at record rates. It doesn't feel like the precursor to a recession.
And interest rates, while they've gone up, are still low. The cash rate is still less than 1% at a time when the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, so the fundamentals here are still pretty positive."
Why raise interest rates?
Many Aussies are worried about rising interest rates.
They're asking questions like
- what do rising interest rates mean?
- what is the reason for rising interest rates? And
- does raising interest rates really help inflation?
Higher mortgage costs will mean the average consumer will have less money in their pocket to spend after forking out more on their monthly mortgage payments.
It's a bit like getting a pay cut and this in turn should slow down spending and economic growth and therefore inflation.
Consumer confidence will play a big part - all the negative messages in the media and stories about property values falling will mean homeowners will feel less secure and curb their spending, once again decreasing economic activity and inflationary pressures.
And this decrease in economic activity will discourage businesses from raising their prices.
Of course, raising interest rates only tends to have an effect on the demand side of the inflation equation, not the supply side, and supply constraints from the geo political problems are likely to remain for some time.
Do rising interest rates mean falling house prices?
August 1994 to December 1994 - Cash rate up 275 basis points.
November 1999 to August 2000 - Cash rate up 250 basis points.
May 2002 to March 2008 - Cash rate up 300 basis points.
October 2009 to November 2010 - Cash rate up 175 basis points.
Five years after the first rate hike in each cycle, house prices were on average around 40 per cent higher.
Looking at house prices five years after the last hike in the cycle, they were always higher, with the average gain around 30 per cent.
So how worried should property investors be about inflation and rising interest rates?
We have now entered the next phase of the property cycle, one where the market is cooling, and prices are adjusting.
But this started at the beginning of the year after a once-in-a-generation property boom and was brought on by affordability issues, especially at the upper end of the Sydney and Melbourne property markets
And while property prices will correct in some locations, there will not be a property “crash” as some commentators are predicting.
- Also read:RBA tells workers to take a “real” pay cut to help the economy | Property Insiders [Video]
- Also read:Latest property price forecasts for 2022 revealed. What’s ahead in our housing markets in the next year or two?
- Also read:12 inflation jargons explained: Here’s everything you need to know
- Also read:Why I’m not worried about inflation — and why you shouldn’t be either
- Also read:Where should I buy my next investment property in Australia?
For house prices to “crash”, we need to have forced sellers and nobody there to buy their properties so values free fall.
This is more likely to happen at a time of high unemployment, but currently, anybody who wants a job can get a job, and with wages rising it’s unlikely that we will see many distressed forced sellers.
Sure some recent buyers will find high mortgage costs a financial challenge, but there is likely to be little mortgage stress in Australia.
Those who recently purchased would have gone through stringent lending hurdles from the bank to ensure they could cope with rising interest rates.
And for those who have a mortgage, even when interest rates rise couple of percent, and they most likely will, they’ll only be around the level as they were prior to Covid when these homeowners and investors coped with their mortgages.
If you think about it, 50% of homeowners have no mortgage at all on their homes, and most of the other homeowners – those who bought more than a year or two ago- will have substantial equity in their properties and are months in advance of their mortgage payments or have cash stashed in their offset accounts.
And over the last year or so many borrowers took advantage of the low fixed mortgage rate loans.
APRA data show approximately 38 per cent of home loans are currently fixed, so rising interest rates won’t bother them for a few years.
However, some who recently purchased a property and haven’t experienced market cycles will find the current market conditions concerning.
They should take comfort in the fact that property corrections tend to be short lived, and the Reserve Bank doesn’t want the housing market to crash– it wants that about as much as it wants another strain of Coronavirus.
These property owners should remember that the decline in property values will be temporary while the long-term increase in property values is permanent.
Over the long-term property values will continue to rise substantially, underpinned by our rising population at a time of significant undersupply of properties and the increasing wealth of our nation, meaning we’ll be able to pay more for our homes.
And the situation will only be exacerbated with the opening the floodgates for hundreds of thousands of migrants who don’t bring a home with them when they come to Australia.
It's likely that the current situation of high inflation and rising interest rates is going to be short-lived, and the Reserve Bank has already hinted that it may need to lower interest rates in 2023 once it has brought inflation under control.
This means there is a short window of opportunity for property investors who have a long-term focus to take advantage of the markets at present.
This is a great time to get all your ducks in a row, allow our team at Metropole to build you a personalised Strategic Property Plan, and then for you to take appropriate action depending on your circumstances and not be dictated to by the market.
The 7 biggest influencers of our property markets
Sure interest rates matter, but there's much more than just interest rates that affect property prices
That's why some of the modelling that suggests property prices will forward 25 to 30% is so blatantly incorrect
Property prices are inextricably linked to a myriad of other financial, social and political factors, all of which impact what your family home, or your next investment property, might be worth.
So, what are these factors?
1. Household formation
This oft-overlooked factor is actually more important than overall population growth, because what increases the demand for housing isn’t the number of people living in a city (or country), but the number of dwellings needed to accommodate them.
This works in a number of ways...
With more young adults staying home longer to save hefty house deposits, and the trend to more multi-generational households, or more friends and family members pooling their resources and buying a property to share, it's possible the number of dwellings required may decrease a little.
On the other hand, there are more older Australians living in one and two people household to even out the numbers.
Projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistic estimate that over the next decade, our population will be approaching 29 million, and there will be almost 50 million Australians by the 2060s.
That’s an increase of nearly 400,000 people annually, all of whom are going to need somewhere to live.
Sure immigration has been lower due to closing of of borders, but the floodgates are open again meaning more and more will people will want to come and live in the safety of Australia.
Then factor in our current population’s penchant for knocking down existing dwellings and rebuilding, and it looks like we’ll require around 200,000 new dwellings every single year.
The question many investors ask themselves is, where will those new dwellings and the associated population growth and infrastructure spending – be?
That's not necessarily the right question.
The population growth corridors of our cities tend to be poor capital growth locations.
Abundant new supply is the enemy of capital growth.
At the same time these locations tend to be where new family and migrants move, and this demographic, which tends to have a little spare cash left at the end of the month, are areas where there is little ability to push up the value of properties – these are not high wage earning areas..
Affordability encompasses dwelling prices, along with employment rates, interest rates, credit supply, GDP growth and inflation – whether or not someone can afford to buy a property is never just about the price tag attached to the home itself.
Unemployment, underemployment and the gig economy could have a big impact on property values as our workplaces undergo rapid change.
On the flipside, record low interest rates now mean the monthly mortgage repayments for most properties are cheaper than they’ve ever been.
As we are now entering a period of low inflation and low wages growth, investor should avoid areas blue-collar areas or young family suburbs and seek out suburbs where wages growth is higher than the state averages.
These are locations where people can afford to, and will be prepared to, pay a premium to live.
4. Credit policy
Property investment is a game of finance, with some houses thrown in the middle.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the significant impact changes in credit policy can have on our property markets.
Following the macroprudential measures APRA introduced in 2017, and the Royal Commission into the finance sector, we witnessed how the tightening in the availability of credit spelled the end of the housing boom.
The fact is, people simply can’t buy properties if they can’t access the cash.
Hopefully the regulators step back for a while now.
5. National wealth, wage growth and job creation
Artificial intelligence experts have estimated that anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent of all jobs could be taken over by robots in the future, meaning there will be fewer employment opportunities for unskilled workers or those who perform repetitive tasks.
Of the jobs that remain, many could be moved offshore to take advantage of cheaper labour costs, further slashing local jobs.
This means we will have fewer people doing more productive work.
All of this could impact on buyers’ abilities to save deposits, secure finance and pay mortgages, and in turn, influence house prices.
However other jobs will take their place.
Demographer Bernard Salt forecasts 1 million new jobs will be created next 5 years, and clearly many of these places will be filled by skilled immigrants to Australia
6. Supply of dwellings
Increasing the supply of dwellings is going to be paramount as our population increases, and to do so, will involve large projects such as high-rise apartment towers and new suburb creation on the outskirts of our cities.
But clearing the land and knocking up some houses depends on council zoning, density regulations, transport links and other essential infrastructure – people won’t buy a house and land package 40km from the CBD if they can’t get into work, or if local schools, shops and medical facilities are lacking.
7. Consumer confidence
The six factors I’ve talked about so far only tell half the story.
Regardless of how readily available credit is, or how fast the population is actually growing, people’s perception of these things is just as important.
If consumers believe the market is heading downward, whether this is reflected by the statistics or not, it will influence their behaviour.
And of course, at times of financial uncertainty, with job uncertain tenure, people will hold off making significant purchasing decisions like a new home or investment property.
Buying property is an emotion-heavy process, and buyers – both owner-occupiers and investors – often let their heartstrings pull them in directions their head might not.
This is the one factor you have some personal control over, and, if you’re savvy, you could use it to your advantage to get ahead of the game.
When other buyers are stricken with FOMO and bidding up a storm for less-than-perfect properties, your research could help you stay calm and avoid buying into the hype.
Conversely, when others are paralysed by fear and bargains abound, your confidence in the advice you’ve received from your buyer’s agent or other professional could see you snap up a fantastic property – without even breaking a sweat.
Fear and greed
As I just explained - fear and greed drive our markets.
During the recent booming times greed and FOMO (fear of missing out) drove property prices up strongly.
Today F.O.B.E. – fear of buying too early in a falling market and looking silly is holding some buyers back.
What they don’t realise is that as property prices decline, they are getting better value for the properties they are buying.
Those who are worried should realise that the regular market declines are just a fee for admission to the markets, rather than a fine for getting it wrong.
It’s the cost of being in the market. It’s the cost of long-term success in property
The current adjustment phase of the property cycle will provide home buyers and investors with an opportunity to buy great properties without the same level of competition they would have encountered last year.
This will allow them to do their due diligence and focus on buying the best asset they can afford.
And owning the right properties, investment grade properties, will deliver the type of strong long-term growth that can help their owners enjoy life changing wealth, but yes, these investors will not experience much capital growth in the short-term.
However, they will benefit from strong rental growth over the next couple of years.
Vacancy rates for both houses and apartments are at historic lows causing rentals to surge, and there’s no end in sight.
It all has to do with supply and demand, and at present, the competition for rental accommodation is high with tenants having very little choice with the number of available rentals trending lower month by month.
Why is rental supply so limited?
It all started in 2016-7 when APRA restricted funding to investors, meaning the number of investors providing rental accommodation decreased.
Then during the pandemic era of 2020 and 2021 and exacerbated by onerous changes to residential tenancies acts in a couple of states, many investors sold up and, in general, owner-occupiers purchased their properties further decreasing the stock of rental properties.
However, during this time the average household size got smaller as many young renters fled share houses for the “safety” of one or two-bedroom apartments.
And more recently, with our borders reopening and tourism increasing, many properties that had been put into the long-term rental pool are now back on Airbnb, thereby lowering the number of properties available for long-term tenants.
Rental demand doesn’t look likely to ease any time soon, particularly with our borders reopening and international students returning, filling the once vacant CBD apartments.
And most immigrants coming to Australia rent for a few years until they get their bearings in their new homeland.
Take a long-term view
It’s likely that the media will keep feeding us headlines of fear for much of the year, so here are some things you can do.
- Focus on educating yourself and mindfulness
The economy is affected by various factors, which are mostly out of our control.
Rather than let that worry you take a long-term view and focus on things you can control.
Whether it's property, shares, or bitcoins — booms just don't last forever, and neither do downturns.
So, think long-term and don’t seek quick wins.
And don’t listen to all those negative messages in the media.
It really doesn’t matter what the markets do in the short-term as long as you have sufficient financial buffers to ride out the storm.
And don't let emotions drive your investment decisions, because as I explained, it’s likely it will take a while for inflation to come under control and then the Reserve Bank will again start lowering interest rate because they always seem to overshoot the mark.
And take comfort by looking back to early 2020, during the peak of the scare regarding Covid19, when the fear started to rear its head.
Look how wrong all the predictions were then!
The thing is, downturns are just one part of a cycle, so they will always end at some point.
- 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.
You do have a Strategic Property Plan don’t you?
If not now is a great time to speak with the Property Strategists at Metropole
You can trust the team at Metropole to provide you with direction, guidance, and results.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced investor, at times like we are currently experiencing you need an advisor who takes a holistic approach to your wealth creation and that’s exactly what you get from the multi-award-winning team at Metropole
Just leave us your details here and we’ll be in contact to discuss your options.
So what should you do now about rising inflation and higher interest rate?
You’ve probably heard me say before that I’m a believer in planning for the worst and hoping for the best, so knowing that interest rates will rise further, what you will need to do will depend upon your own personal situation.
- Home owners and property investors
- If you are on a variable mortgage, find out what increased interest rates will do to your mortgage payments so that you understand how to budget for them.
- Make sure you are ahead in your mortgage payments or have a healthy buffer in an offset account.
- Speak with your broker regarding the option of refinancing to a discounted variable rate loan.
- If you’re looking for certainty of loan repayments
- Unfortunately you've missed the boat of low fixed rate mortgage loans. Currently fixed rates are much higher than variable rates, so get advice regarding what proportion of your loan you should fix.
- Property Sellers
- Don't be spooked by the current market conditions and change your long-term plans and sell up because of all the negative media.
- If you must sell, you should move quickly, or if you can wait, leave it for a few years till the market picks up again.
- On the other hand, if you're looking to upgrade or downgrade your home, remember you're buying in the same market that you're selling in, so even if you get a little less for your home than you hoped for, your new home will likely cost a little less than it would have a few months ago.
- Recognise that times like this create tremendous opportunities, a window of opportunity is opening up now that smart property buyers can take advantage of.
- Now is the time to buy quality assets and remember there are markets within markets – “A grade” properties are likely to hold their values well.
- Be prepared to take a borderless approach to find quality properties and don’t do it alone. Be prepared to invest in your future and pay for strategic property and buying advice but be careful to ensure your advisors and independent, unbiased and paid only by you
- Make all your decisions based on numbers and facts and in line with a long-term strategic property plan, rather than based on emotion.
- Your Plan should contain the following components:
- An asset accumulation strategy
- A manufacturing capital growth strategy
- A rental growth strategy
- An asset protection and tax minimisation strategy
- A finance strategy including long-term debt reduction and…
- A living off your property portfolio strategy
- Why not let our team at Metropole help you build this plan – find out more here
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.
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.