Will property prices will crash under Labor? How scared should you be?

Will Labor’s policies kill the property market?

With a federal election expected to be called within the next 6 months and Labor proposing some controversial reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, the jockeying for position in the negative gearing debate has started.


Recently Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Labor’s proposed policy to make housing more affordable could actually “invite a housing market crash.”

This echos a report by RiskWise which advised that Sydney and Melbourne’s house prices could slide by up to 9 per cent if Labor gets into power and introduces its planned property tax changes.

Similarly, CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless was reported in the Australian Financial Review as saying:

“There’s no doubt Labor’s policies are adversely affecting housing demand right now as current and prospective investors fret about not being able to negatively gear and being subject to much higher capital gains tax.”

To better understand what this all about and what’s likely to be ahead for our property markets, let’s do a Q&A:

What do we know about Labor’s proposed reforms if they are elected into government next year?

Labor plans to limit negative gearing to new rental dwellings. 


This will only apply to new purchases after a yet to be announced date.

Those who currently own properties won’t be affected.

They also propose to halve the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) discount from the current 50% to 25% when investors sell their property.

What was Labor’s reasons behind proposing these reforms?

The stated intention was to level the playing field for first homebuyers competing with ugly greedy property investors (my words), improve housing affordability and strengthen the Commonwealth Budget position through limiting these subsidies.

These reforms were first proposed before the last election — are they still appropriate today?

It makes no sense to me to implement a housing policy that was developed at the peak of a last boom when property prices Sydney and Melbourne prices were skyrocketing, investors were buying emotionally and first home buyers were having difficulty getting into the market.

Remove Negative GearingThe landscape of the Australian property market has changed significantly since these proposals were first made and this needs to be taken into consideration.

APRA’s credit restrictions, tighter lending standards by the banks in part because of the findings of the Hayne’s Royal Commission into Banking, have significantly reduced investor, as well as home owner, lending and as a result dwelling prices in Sydney and Melbourne have been falling for the last 18 months.

And the other property markets around Australia have softened.

At the same time first home buyers’ activity is back to or above long term averages in all States other than in NSW.

So there’s really no need for Labor to introduce a policy to reduce investor activity.

However, earlier this year the shadow treasurer Chris Bowen shrugged off suggestions the proposed tax amendments should now be scrapped. 17034015_l

Bowen said that the negative gearing and CGT changes are about making long-term structural adjustments rather than addressing the short-term property cycle.

The problem is there is a delicate balance between orchestrating a soft landing for our two big property markets (which APRA seems to have achieved) and a more significant downturn which would have flow on effects to the economy at large.

If the aim is for the soft landing to run its course and house prices to gently drop a little further before stabilising, it makes no sense to scare off investors more than they already are.

However these proposals would obviously make the tax concessions available to investors far less attractive.

And if investors withdraw from the housing market, it will remove a big chunk of demand and that’s going to have an ongoing negative impact on prices.

Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s make sure you understand exactly what negative gearing is and why a property investor would consider it

How-Much-is-Capital-Gains-Tax-300×300Negative gearing means that the interest you are paying on your loan and all other associated costs with your investment property is more than the income you earn and as a result you are making a cash flow loss.

What makes negative gearing particularly useful when it comes to personal tax is that any net loss from investment properties can be offset against other income that would otherwise be included in your assessable income.

This means the amount of tax that you need to pay is potentially reduced.

Negative gearing was originally introduced in Australia in 1936 to encourage investors to invest and help the economy get going after the Great Depression

More recently negative gearing has been a way of encouraging the private sector – investors with a little money, and probably paying more  tax than they’d like –  to invest in residential real estate and become landlords providing accommodation for those  Australians who can’t afford to or who chose not to buy their own homes.

In many other countries this type of rental accomodation is provided by the government – but the fact that 30% of properties in Australia are owned by private invetsors – mums and dads – let’s the government off the hook.

If you look back in the past the Australian government provided more public housing – remember all those housing commision projects which were expensive for their budgets and in many cases were disastrous social experiments

However, it’s important to understand that negative gearing is available for other investments as well, such as shares or businesses. And on the other side of the tax equation, property investors have to pay Capital Gain Tax when they dispose of the asset.

Unfortunately, negative gearing is also a political football, which is often mistakenly blamed for increasing house prices. Negative Gearing

The problem is that many people with only a hazy idea of what it actually is, blame negative gearing for virtually everything from locking first home buyers out of the market, to causing high property price rises, to investors rorting the tax system and driving the National Budget into deficit.

The truth of the matter is that negative gearing not an investment strategy – it never has been.

It is a funding model that is usually only used for a short period of time.

And the proposed changes will not affect sophisticated investors who have other investment income (from properties, shares or businesses) to write off their future negative gearing against.

This will still be allowed – the restriction will be that negative gearing losses from investments (like property) won’t be able to be offset against personal exertion income (wages.)

So while more sophisticated, wealth and established investors probably won’t be affected much by the proposed changes, they will be detrimental to mum and dad investors who won’t be able to write it off against their personal exertion income.

How many property investors use negative gearing?

ATO statistics suggest there are just over 2 million property investors and 1.8 million (just over 60%) are negatively geared.

If Labor did come in to government next year and did introduce their proposed measures, what impact would they have on our property markets?

House Prices Could DropSydney and Melbourne’s house prices could drop even further if Labor gets into power and introduces its planned property tax changes.

Doron Peleg, CEO of RiskWise Property Research explained that one of the key findings of his recent detailed study on this issue is that a blanket introduction of the reforms across the country would have unintended consequences, and some local government areas, especially those with weak or fragile property markets, would be adversely impacted more than others.

His report identifies the Top 10 Local Government areas that would be most impacted if the changes went ahead as currently proposed.

These include Darwin, Mackay, inner-city Perth and Townsville.


Source: Riskwise.com.au

According to the report another unintended consequence would occur in the Sydney unit market where the proposed changes would be the equivalent to a sudden 1-1.5 % increase in interest rates.


Source: Riskwise.com.au

Declining dwelling prices, or price deceleration in some regions, would lead to a reduction in dwelling commencements and deteriorating rental affordability in some locations.

What does this mean for property investors?

There will be no change to the tax situation for those who currently own investment properties, but if there is a general fall in property prices some may choose to, or have to, sell up and suddenly their property could be seen as a secondary property to future buyers who will not be able to negatively gear it as it is an established property. Investors Vs Owner Occupiers

And some investors will also avoid these second hand properties because they will pay higher CGT when they sell.

It seems to me that the proposed changes would create primary and secondary markets for investor stock.

You see…investors will be driven to buy new properties, both apartments (which will generally be in the CBD) and houses (which are likely to be in the outer suburbs.)

But history shows us that both these types of property make poor investments because of their locations and will make even worse investments as, once purchased, will instantly be established properties with a thinner potential resale market.  negative gearing

Now we know that around 50% of investors sell up in the first 5 years, because they buy the wrong property or get the wrong finance, or their circumstances change but the proposed taxation changes will only further increase the risk of investing in new dwellings.

So these poor investors lose out in 2 ways – poorly located properties that won’t appreciate in value and difficulty selling their second hand properties.

Another factor to consider is that in time investors will require a better return is they lose the tax benefits of negative gearing.

This is the situation in many other countries who don’t offer investors negative gearing.

And this extra return will come int he way of higher rentals.

Won’t the proposed changes increase the stock of new houses and therefore affordability?

Contrary to Labor’s claims, its policies on negative gearing and capital gains tax will not increase the supply of new housing or create new jobs in the building industry according to independent economic modelling commissioned by Master Builders Australia.

They suggest up to 42,000 fewer new homes would be built over the five years following the implementation of Labor’s policies, resulting in a reduction in the value of residential building activity of between $2.8 billion and $11.8 billion.

The bottom line:

The odds are shortening for a Shorten government and in the short term this will dampen investor confidence. (See how many “shorts” I squeezed in this short sentenceJ)

The unintended consequences will also affect home owners who won’t be happy to see the value of their home falling.

First Home BuyersAnd rents will rise as the supply of rental properties diminishes at a time of strong population growth.

This will mean a cash flow windfall for property investors and further harm the people the Labor party is trying to protect.

By the way…If this policy allows more first home buyers in the market do you think they’ll want the value of their home to keep falling. Certainly NOT!

Having invested for well over 40 years now, as I look back I’ve noticed that I’ve had my best years in property during Labor’s reign in government.

Their policies tend to lead to inflation which is a powerful driver of property values.

If property values drop in some locations as is likely to occur, I have no doubt there would be a significant economic flow on effect due to falling consumer confidence as they see property values falling.

This will lead to a round of government led incentives that will be the making of the next property boom.

The lessons for investors is to think long term and not to change their strategy based on short term factors.


As signs point to softer growth conditions for Australian property over the coming months, independent professional advice and careful consideration will be as important as ever in navigating Australia’s varied market conditions.   


If you’re looking for independent advice, no one can help you quite like the independent property investment strategists at Metropole.

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'Will property prices will crash under Labor? How scared should you be?' have 36 comments

  1. Avatar

    December 10, 2018 Chris Davey

    Are the proposed CGT changes going to be grandfathered also? ie. only houses that are purchased after the “date” and then sold would then have the 25% CGT discount. Or would it mean that every sale after the “date” would then incur the 25% CGT discount?


    • Michael Yardney

      December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

      Chris – the legilation has not been written – so this was in uncertain – but it sounds like CGT will not be grandfathered


  2. Avatar

    December 10, 2018 MICHAEL CORRELL

    Maybe we’ve been spoilt here? Apartments are big in Hong Kong and Singapore and I doubt occupants have tons of land to wander around in. In Manila, Philippines, many new apartments are 50 stories high. One spruiker I’m aware of has been decrying negative gearing for years and stresses cash flow.


    • Michael Yardney

      December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

      Michael – we’ve felt entitled – maybe a different way of saying it


  3. Avatar

    December 10, 2018 Fabio Barone

    RE: The claim by the Master Builder Association that Labors policies (removing negative gearing and halving the CGT discount) would result in 42,000 fewer homes over 5 years.

    Let’s put that into context. According to the Housing Industry Association (HIA), the number of new builds (free-standing houses plus units) started in 2017 was 214,875 . In fact the numbers for the 5 years from 2013 to 2017 are as follows:
    Total: 1,050,727.

    Assume this number of new builds is repeated over the next 5 years, then the loss of 42,000 represents just 3.997% (lets call that 4.0%) of that total. Averaged out per year, that means the MBA claims amount to a decrease of just 0.80% new builds per year. That is within the margin of error for this sort of analysis, meaning that this claim is nothing but noise.

    Why is this claim making any headlines at all? Well, I suppose that is because “42,000 fewer new homes” sounds much more alarming than “0.80% fewer new homes per year”.



    • Michael Yardney

      December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

      Fabio – you’re right – we are coming off all time high construction numbers


  4. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 Peter

    Another detailed, valuable insight from the best advisor in the industry. Thanks, Michael.


  5. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 David

    The labour government want to help young people get into their first property – we all get that .
    However a property does not mean a 3 bedroom house ! If a young person today were to buy an existing apartment in say Footscray the price would be $ 200,000 or 3 -4 times average salary. This is EXACTLY what it was when I bought 30 yrs ago when I first entered the property market !
    We are making the mistake of equating a
    ‘home’ with a ‘house’
    The fallout for people like myself who diligently went about catering for their own retirement ( the pension is laughable ) is we will suffer CGT wise AND/OR from falling prices due to having secondary properties all because labour will move the goalposts. Just


  6. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 Jeremy

    “And if investors withdraw from the housing market, it will remove a big chunk of demand and that’s going to have an ongoing negative impact on prices.”


    I don’t think the speculative investors realise how much destroying housing for current and future generations has seriously stuffed this country. Let alone the effect of being treated as exploitable serfs by scumlords as the rest of us are left renting our entire lives.

    You might have gotten rich off what Costello did to the housing market, but that money didn’t come from nowhere. It came from the poor (in terms of services cut to fund those enormous tax concessions) and from future generations (left paying rent forever to make Xers and boomers rich in retirement). You have turned housing from something an ordinary person has a chance of having some security in, to an impossible to enter market only accessible by the rich and people who inherit.

    This nonsense has ruined Australia. And when ordinary people realise why and how, there’s going to be a sudden great demand for guillotines.


  7. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 Jeremy

    Even a fraction of how scared renters are that they’re being squeezed and can be kicked out with a couple of months’ notice if they dare to ask for repairs?

    As for prices crashing, your investor mates are still sending out rent increase notices well above CPI, so which is it?

    “Poor us, house prices might not rise enough to make us rich for snapping them up!”
    “Sorry renters, housing is expensive, so your rent is going to have to jump up again this year, serves you right for not owning a house.”

    The greed inherent in the approach of speculative investors to housing is just nauseating.

    It’s a pity the ALP isn’t going to grandfather their changes.


    • Michael Yardney

      December 7, 2018 Michael Yardney

      Thanks for your detailed opinion. I’m aware of the plight of young people I have children and grandchildren and I had the issues of affordability too when I started out.
      Of course when the young people get into the market they’re not going to want house prices to fall further – are they?


      • Avatar

        December 7, 2018 Jeremy

        It is amusing investors trying to suggest that really it’s important for house prices to continue to skyrocket because it will help the homebuyers who can’t enter the market if they ever did somehow enter the market. I mean, seriously, that’s a mad argument.

        Also house prices escalating doesn’t really help people who just own a house to live in. Whatever they gain when they sell they pay to where they move – plus a higher stamp duty.

        You guys should be thanking your lucky stars Labor’s only touching negative gearing – they’re not proposing what should happen, which is proper land taxes – and even negative gearing they’re grandfathering their changes. You’ll still get to keep your windfall gains from the last 20 years, built on the backs of future generations you’ve locked out and forced to spend their productive years paying off your mortgages with inflated rents.

        You worry that your investments might not be worth as much? That the pension is miserable? You lot at least own your own house. In retirement you won’t have housing costs beyond rates. The next generations will retire whilst still paying ever-increasing rents! We’re going to be living in abject poverty – all because Costello decided to make boomers and Xers with cash even richer.

        The lack of empathy is astounding.

        Oh, as for the commenter who’s like “hey they should buy shitty apartments without any actual land attached” – gee, thanks. Our kids should be growing up crammed into tiny boxes with no land, so retired boomers can enjoy lovely quarter acre blocks and beautiful gardens? What a brilliant housing policy.

        And in any case, even those shitty apartments are out of reach for ordinary people.

        Next you’ll be telling me that young parents should be commuting 4 hours a day, without a moment’s thought for the impact of that on their kids. And of course that’s not what people before Costello’s nonsense had to do.

        The only way forward that leaves Australia even vaguely as equitable as it used to be, a place where people can work, save for a house, and retire in something other than destitution, is for houses to stop appreciating in value, and wages to catch up – so deflation of house prices in real terms, but without a crash.

        Labor’s policy is a start. The other part is that wages need to catch up.

        I guess you guys wouldn’t mind every year having $10/week added to your housing costs just because some greedy landlord can squeeze it out of you, and because as a result of paying these inflated rents you can’t afford moving costs or a new bond so you just have to take it. Like hell you wouldn’t mind that.

        I don’t think you guys realise how angry we are, and how sick of being exploited we are. Every time you squeeze a struggling tenant for more rent just because you can, you are fuelling that anger.


        • Michael Yardney

          December 8, 2018 Michael Yardney

          I can hear how you’re really angry Jeremy and how it’s all someone else’s fault – that’s a real pity


          • Avatar

            December 9, 2018 Jeremy

            Michael, the housing situation IS someone else’s fault – Costello as treasurer changing the tax settings so the housing market was flooded with speculative investors. And the big two parties for having done nothing to address it for more than a decade.

            I like the passive aggressive insinuation that it’s something *I’m* doing wrong, as if the many many people stuck renting who previously would have been able to buy a home. And as if it’s our fault that the policy settings let landlords screw us as they can.

            Yes, I am angry, and so are a lot of us. We are angry that the system has been broken, that the people who have profited from it are trying to portray us all as lazy or entitled or some other patronising and inaccurate insult, and that the people who have profited from it are continuing to gouge us every chance they get, knowing we’re stuck.

            Michael, if you can’t see how things have profoundly changed over the last decade and a half – even while you yourself have clearly profited handsomely from it – then I’m not sure how to explain it to you.

          • Michael Yardney

            December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

            Jeremy – thanks for taking the time and trouble to leave such a detailed response

          • Avatar

            December 11, 2018 Dean

            That’s correct Michael. It’s always the fault of someone else who was prepared to work harder and sacrifice more. Shame on them for digging in and having a go.

        • Avatar

          December 10, 2018 Aaron

          Hmmm. Inter generational inequity is very real. The issue affects gen X as well, I would add, though, yes, more so the further behind boomer peak you go. There has been a demographic, immigration, cultural and tax driven rise in residential property prices in Australia that has caused significant structural imbalances. I think you should always look to the future and perhaps if house prices are too high to be supported by future demand then the best investment opportunities may lay elsewhere for gen y, z. It is what it is. It’ll take a long time to rebalance.


          • Michael Yardney

            December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

            Aaron – there has always been intergenerational inequality.
            When I gre up all the older people owned homes and I didn’t. I had to save 20% and have a savings history with a bank before they’d even consider lending to me

      • Avatar

        December 7, 2018 Jeremy

        And Michael, the “issues of affordability” you might have had when you started out are nothing compared with what has happened now. Are you seriously denying that housing is less affordable now than at any time in the last century?

        PS if you try the “hey in the 80s interest rates were high” – oh, man. We WISH they were high. High interest rates suppress prices. And then high interest rates COME DOWN. The reverse is also true. If someone manages to buy a house now, the prices are higher because of the low interest rates. But just as high interest rates come down, low interest rates GO UP. So if you’re not just buying a property as an investment you can sell when necessary, if you’re squeezing every cent to try to somehow get a mortgage, you are absolutely vulnerable, in a way people were not in that time when interest rates were at a peak.

        Pity the state government isn’t looking at proper land taxes. Drive out the land bankers like the big developers, sitting on land and refusing to build so they can eke out supply and artificially inflate prices…


        • Michael Yardney

          December 8, 2018 Michael Yardney

          Jeremy I’m not sure you know the issues of affordability when I bought my first property in the 1970’s.
          Yes interest rates were higher but there were also stricter lending criteria.
          The property cost $18,000, but was SO expensive I had to go half with my parents and despite getting $12 a week in rental I had to take out a 30 years loan and had no idea how I’d pay it off


          • Avatar

            December 9, 2018 Jeremy

            …and then house prices inflated and you were fine. Lucky you had your parents to help you out!

            The stricter lending criteria kept prices down. And it is a demonstrable fact that prices to incomes are worse now than they have been since the second world war.

            And even when you were in a much better situation you still had to have your parents’ help to get started. Pity the ordinary workers now who have neither your parents’ help nor an actually achievable housing market.

          • Avatar

            December 11, 2018 Dean

            Michael you’re obviously missing the basic point here that people who are 30 and have worked for 10 years should have the exact same amount of wealth as people who are 60 and have worked and accumulated that wealth over 40 years. Otherwise it’s all unfair…..

          • Michael Yardney

            December 11, 2018 Michael Yardney

            Gee Dean 🙁 Sorry I didn’t see it that way

  8. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 Harris

    Great summary Michael – Thanks
    Sure there are lots of first hime buyers who want property values to drop so they can get into the market. BUt then they won’t want values to drop any further. They’ll want them to rise. Funny about that


  9. Avatar

    December 7, 2018 Dean

    The truth is that long term it will actually force the price of property even higher because there will be much less lending to developers from banks that are unsure about the reliability of the market. That means less supply long term which of course means higher prices.


    • Michael Yardney

      December 7, 2018 Michael Yardney

      Dean – yes the end result is these proposed measures will do more harm than good for those that Labor was planning to help


      • Avatar

        December 9, 2018 Jeremy

        That is absolute nonsense. The status quo has destroyed, and continues to make worse, housing affordability.

        The only solution to return housing to affordability is to get the speculative investors out of the market. They’re why prices skyrocketed: they will never be manageable while the market is filled with investor money inflating prices.

        So policy settings that discourage investors are needed. Improve renters’ rights (also needed to actually protect the millions of Australian citizens stuck with no security in their homes). Remove the subsidies for investors in existing homes, like negative gearing. Tax capital gains like income. Implement actual land taxes, so there’s a cost to people sitting on land and doing nothing with it to match the cost to the community of that land going unused and wasted.

        Of course, investors will squeal, but we already know what makes them happy – and it seriously harms everyone else.


        • Avatar

          December 10, 2018 Luke

          Sounds like Jeremy is from generation victim. Never mind the fact people like Michael and others who have invested took on risks, applied discipline, and put their backside on the line to setup their own future. People like Jeremy are perenial whingers who think the world has stopped them from getting ahead.
          The vast majority of us Jeremy all start from the same start line in this country. Its just what some of us decide to do once we enter the race that makes a difference. But keep throwing stones.


          • Michael Yardney

            December 10, 2018 Michael Yardney

            Luke – thanks for your comment – I agree with you. Maybe I was a little polite with Jeremy – but there are too many people who believe the world owes them – fact is – NO it doesn’t.
            You have to go out and do something

          • Avatar

            December 15, 2018 Jeremy

            “The vast majority of us Jeremy all start from the same start line in this country. Its just what some of us decide to do once we enter the race that makes a difference. But keep throwing stones.”

            Just delusional. Seriously, how do you not walk into things wearing such staggeringly effective blinkers?

        • Avatar

          December 11, 2018 Dean

          Nonsense is it?
          Riddle me this then… why would anyone buy a property and pay the enormous outgoing costs on it each month including interest, maintenance, rates and of course insurance only to have the value of that property diminish?
          The answer is they wouldn’t and further to that point the bank wouldn’t loan them the money to do it because it would be too risky. So not only they wouldn’t but in fact they couldn’t. So in turn less people are buying property which means less people are building property because why on earth would the bank lend someone money to build something that people are going to buy once prices start to drop? which means that at some point supply dries up. Now I’m not a degree qualified economist but in general I think it’s fairly well known that when supply dries up and demand continues to grow due to population growth prices will inevitably rise.
          Or maybe the basic laws of supply and demand don’t apply here….?
          I guess that law is nonsense too then.


        • Avatar

          December 11, 2018 Dean

          Life is obviously difficult when you’re a victim


          • Avatar

            December 15, 2018 Jeremy

            “Generation victim”

            JFC. Are you people seriously denying that housing affordability is worse now than at any previous time since the second world war? Like, I’m not sure how to argue with people so delusional. The figures are clear. Home ownership has plunged. The cost of houses compared with average salaries has skyrocketed. Even the real estate lobby, trying to pretend there’s no problem, can’t find stories of people buying their first homes without huge help from homeowning parents.

            This isn’t about “victimhood”. It’s about the policy settings having broken housing. The fact that you lot are so oblivious to it isn’t a reflection on us, it’s a reflection on you.

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