Our experts predict what is ahead for property in 2016

Welcome to our first show of 2016. Over the next few weeks you will hear some of the most respected and highly followed property commentators talk about their views on what is ahead for property in 2016. At the same time we have asked them to reflect back on 2015 and discuss what we have learned that we can carry forward into this year. The years surprises, disappointments and lessons.
You will hear from Dr Andrew Wilson, Michael Yardney, Cate Bakos, Damian Collins, Chris Gray and Andrew Mirams. That is this week – and in the weeks to come there will be lots more.
Also, we will answer your questions, discuss your feedback on how we are going and catch up on the big news stories that influenced the markets last year and what is likely to happen this year.
A reminder to keep your questions coming in because we have 12 month subscriptions to Australasia’s premier property investment magazine – Australian Property Investor – to award to questions we choose as our question of the week.  Send your questions and comments through the website or to me directly at kevin@realestatetalk.com.au


Cate Bakos

Kevin:  Well, as we launch into a brand-new year, 2016, over the next three shows, we’re going to be pulling in so many of our experts who we’ve featured over the years to give us their impressions of where the 2016 market is going to end up at the end of 2016.
My first guest is Cate Bakos, a buyer’s agent out of Melbourne, Cate Bakos Property.
Hi, Cate, and happy new year to you.
Cate:  Happy new year to you, too, Kevin.
Kevin:  Well, we ended up 2015 in not too bad shape. What do you think we’re going to be saying about the property market this time next year, Cate?
Cate:  Well, have two answers here, Kevin.
Kevin:  Oh, you’re going to hedge your bets, aren’t you?
Cate:  I am. I keep my crystal ball in good shape. I will hedge my bets. I think that the APRA changes have a lot to do with how our market has finished up in 2015 and unless we have some loosening of bank scrutiny and criteria for investment lending, I think that we’ll see a bit more of a divide between our auction clearance rates in our capital cities for houses versus units and also unit price growth.
I’d like to optimistically say that we’ll see a rebound in clearance rates and value growth through our unit market, but the skeptical side of me or the concerned side of me thinks that that divide will become greater.
Kevin:  Yes, okay. We’re going to check in with you, obviously, during the year, but we’ll replay that comment to you this time next year and just see how you faired.
Let’s have a look back at 2015. Were there any surprises for you last year?
Cate:  Yes, there were. We had some enormous and long growth trajectories in our capital cities, particularly Melbourne and Sydney, and the surprises were probably just how tightly the banks pulled in the reins on investment lending.
I know I’ve spoken about this quite a lot, but it was a real game-changer for a lot of investors. We saw some investors pushed out of the market altogether and then others who had their borrowing capacity completely lessened and restricted. That really changed the unit market in particular in our capital cities.
Kevin:  Yes, it changed it for everyone, didn’t it? It made it very, very difficult to work out where the market was going at the latter part of last year. Were there any areas where you thought, “Yes, full marks to me; I got it right in that area”?
Cate:  Yes, absolutely. Every time people went on about a bubble and a crash and a collapse in our housing market, I kept reiterating the reasons why we’re having this steady run, and I also pointed out that we’ve had some really attractive capital growth.
We’ve had rates hovering around 10%, maybe a little bit higher in Melbourne, but when you look at the pre- and post-GFC spikes that we experienced, we had growth figures above 20% back then. The difference throughout 2015 was that we had these attractive growth runs but they weren’t ridiculous paces. They were just sustained for a much longer period., and that’s because we didn’t have any interest rate increases.
Kevin:  Were there any property disappointments for you last year?
Cate:  Possibly. Yes, when I put my buyer’s advocate hat on and I think about some of the people who have been waiting for the market to cool down or drop, particularly at the start of 2015, I met a couple of people who felt that they’d wait for the heat to come out of the market. The disappointments aren’t for me; they’re for them. The pace of the market continued with gusto, and they’ve now been priced out of areas that they could have bought into.
Kevin:  Cate, let’s talk specifically about the area you specialize in around Melbourne. What are the areas you’re going to be keeping an eye there on this year?
Cate:  I’ll be focusing on some opportunity areas for first-home buyers and home-upgraders who are finding that they’ve been priced out of the inner ring areas that have become quite popular. We’ve had a lot of areas that are showing some really good signs of growth, and the growth is actually fueled by people who are being taken to the next wave out, areas such as Sunshine, Faulkner, Hadfield, Glenroy, and Preston.
We’re seeing a lot of buyers who would have loved to have that inner west or inner north lifestyle, and when we look at the eastern areas and we have people being priced out of prices like Blackburn and maybe having to consider going into areas like [4:37 inaudible] or Vermont.
There are lots of ripple effects taking place and I think there are the areas to watch, because while we haven’t got such a strong focus on scrutinizing home-buyer loans, we’re still seeing a lot of home buyers doing quite well, and we’re seeing typical home-buyer properties continuing to grow quite aggressively.
Kevin:  Cate, always good talking to you. Cate Bakos from Cate Bakos Property in Melbourne. Cate, we’ll talk to you again as the year unfolds. Thanks for your time.
Cate:  Sounds wonderful. Thanks, Kevin.

Damian Collins

Kevin:  As we continue to look at what’s going to be happening with property in 2016, joining me now from Western Australia, Damian Collins from Momentum Wealth.
Damian, thanks for your time.
Damian:  Pleasure, Kevin.
Kevin:  A common question we’re asking all of our commentators this week, next week, and even the week after is what are we going to be saying about the property market this time next year, Damian?
Damian:  Well, I think in terms of the Perth market, by the time we get into this time next year, about early 2017, we’re going to be saying, “We’ve just seen the seeds of recovery.” The market probably in the first half of the year to be fairly similar to what it was in 2015 – fairly flat and a tough rental market.
But towards the end of the year, we’ll start to see the signs of recovery as the rental vacancy has peaked and started to drop back, and a bit more confidence back in the West Australian market, and early stages of, hopefully, a reasonable up cycle – not anything significant, but a reasonable up cycle over the following years ahead.
Kevin:  Just tracking long-term – let’s talk specifically Perth – how does it fare? Is that a market that goes with huge swings, or is it fairly consistent?
Damian:  It is more volatile, Kevin, than the other cities around Australia, and it’s definitely more tied into the mining sector. The other thing you see also is Perth operates in a different cycle to Sydney and Melbourne. What we saw in 2001 to 2003, particularly in Sydney and to some extent in Melbourne, they had big run ups. Perth really was just an average market. Then Perth caught up in the three years post that.
Obviously, what we’re seeing through 2015 in Sydney and Melbourne is a pretty strong run up. When you look at the relative value of what you can get dollar for dollar, they seem more overpriced; Perth seems a little bit underpriced.
Again, I’m not expecting anything near what we’ve seen in Sydney and Melbourne in terms of run up, but the fundamentals are looking pretty good. As we get towards the end of 2016, we’ll start to see the early shoots of a recovery in the market.
Kevin:  Based on what you said earlier in our chat, there might be some good buying opportunities in Perth during 2016?
Damian:  Well, that’s definitely what we’re telling clients. If you want to get wealthy in 2016, pretty much in property anywhere in Australia, I don’t think we’re likely to see a lot of it, but even certainly in Perth, it’s not about expecting a lot of capital growth. But what it means is that you can really pick the eyes of the market.
We’ve been buying some great opportunities for clients through 2015 and now into early 2016 – development sites that people can lock away and rent for a period of time, but when the timing is right for them, they can potentially build anywhere from duplexes right up to 10 or 20 apartments. That’s a way of really speeding up your capital growth and creating your own growth, not relying on the market.
For a lot of our clients there, that’s the strategy they like. We think 2016 is certainly going to be a great opportunity to pick the eyes out of the best opportunities in that space where you can develop those properties in the future.
Kevin:  Yes, looking back on 2015, it certainly wasn’t a good year for Perth. Were you terribly surprised by that or disappointed by what happened in Perth?
Damian:  Look, our thoughts were always that it was going to be a fairly static market and rental vacancies were going to rise. We certainly weren’t predicting growth of any significance. In fact, it did come back a little bit. It’s always hard to predict exactly to the exact percentage where it’s going to go, but prices either stagnated or came back marginally. Some at the top end came back a little bit more.
I guess it wasn’t particularly surprising. The big thing is confidence. Even though mining has cut some jobs, still the unemployment rate is quite low in Perth. But the psyche of the town is very much “Oh, mining is in a downturn.” We see it in commodity prices, and so that impacts people’s outlook.
But for me, the long-term story is commodities are still strong. China needs it. India is coming up. There are a billion people in the Asian region who are going to come out of poverty into the middle class. They need all those resources.
Again, the long-term fundamentals are good, but yes, it is a market that people need to appreciate is a bit more volatile than some other cities around the country.
Kevin:  That’s a pretty good summary. Damian. I want to thank you for joining us on the show. Happy new year, too. I haven’t been able to say that to you yet.
Damian Collins from Momentum Wealth, thanks for your time, mate.
Damian:  Same to you, Kev.

Andrew Mirams

Kevin:  Let’s continue to have a look at what’s happening with the market in 2016 as we launch the shows for this year and we say a happy new year to Andrew Mirams from Intuitive Finance. Hi, Andrew.
Andrew:  Thanks, Kevin. Happy new year to you and all the listeners.
Kevin:  Have a nice Christmas?
Andrew:  Yes, it was fantastic. Thank you.
Kevin:  Good. Good on you, mate. Now, get that crystal ball out. I know you’ve been polishing it overnight for me. Let’s have a look at what you think is going to happen to the national market firstly, and then let’s have a look at maybe even Victoria.
Andrew:  Yes, absolutely. I think with the changes late in 2015, and we saw probably a little bit of heat come out of the market, I think we’re still going to be in for a pretty good year in terms of our property market. Now, that’s going to be very segmented as we’ve seen already across 2015, and I think that will continue.
I guess the things that underlie that continue to be interest rates – and we saw late last year, the bank starting to put up some interest rates – consumer confidence, how well people think about themselves, and what their employment status is, and things like that.
Then, I guess, on a more macro thing, it’s the economy, things like that and then the economies within the economy, very state-based – like what’s happened in WA, South Australia – and the changing labor market probably is going to dictate a lot of things that will happen through 2016, I think.
Kevin:  Yes, that was highlighted, wasn’t it, the two states? We spoke to Damian Collins just a few moments ago on the show about WA and how impacted that was in 2015. Do you think we’re likely to see an improvement in WA and in Queensland this year?
Andrew:  I think that probably the continuation of the mining change and the employment factors and things like that is going to dictate their markets, as it will up and down the eastern seaboard. Melbourne and Sydney have enjoyed a couple of years of pretty good markets – obviously, Sydney has had a couple of great years.
Melbourne still appears to be really strong, and that’s underpinned by our population growth and employment, which still seems to be quite strong in our state. It seems to be similar in Sydney, and the markets seem to be still okay there. I think that probably Brisbane might be something where some money starts to go because people look at fundamentals and think based on a yield, it appears to be undervalued and there might be some opportunities in Brisbane in 2016.
Kevin:  What advice would you have for someone wanting to start a portfolio this year?
Andrew:  I think that the key is, Kevin – and will have all heard this all the time – “Is now the right time?” If you want to be a property investor and a successful property investor, it’s not a matter of timing in the market; it’s a matter of time in the market. That’s really the key.
You have to look at your fundamentals. You have to have a plan. You have to get your right people around you and set up with a proper strategy about what you’re going to buy, when, how soon, how many, and what your ability to do that is.
Trying to stock pick or market watch is just dangerous. It’s a bit of a folly, I think, and while some people, probably the [3:11 inaudible] ones, are the ones that fluke it and get it right at the outset, they become a little bit naïve.
But it’s really spending time in the market is the real key to anyone starting. Trying to stock pick where the markets are going to be and what they might do is too difficult; you’re better to get in. Property investment is a long-term strategy – as we all know – so the sooner you start, the better you’ll be off with those compounding effects.
Kevin:  Indeed. Andrew Mirams from Intuitive Finance. You can catch up with Andrew and all of his thoughts, too, on our website, RealEstateTalk.com.au. Andrew has his own channel there, and a great website he has, too, Intuitive Finance.
Andrew, thanks for your time.
Andrew:  My pleasure, Kevin. Thank you.

Michael Yardney

Kevin:  As we continue to have a look at what’s going to happen this year with our markets and also reflecting back on some thoughts about 2015, joining us this time is a regular on our show, Michael Yardney from Metropole Property Strategists.
Hi, Michael.
Michael:  Hello, Kevin.
Kevin:  Happy New Year to you, too.
Michael:  All the best to you and your family, Kevin.
Kevin:  Thank you for that. Interested to see, Michael, that you are predicting 2016 to be a boom year.
Michael:  Yes, Kevin, but maybe not the boom year some people are expecting. I believe it’s going to be a boom year for scary stuff in the media – things like house prices aren’t affordable, world economies stalling, interest rates are rising not falling, Australia’s going to go into recession.
Kevin, we’re going through a seminal year where the markets are changing. The strong markets we had in Sydney and Melbourne in particular are going to drop from fifth gear to maybe third gear, and that’s going to create a lot of negative headlines, and it will scare some investors in the market.
Kevin:  What do you think of the factors affecting housing markets this year?
Michael:  Well, I see consumer confidence falling in the first half of the year, particularly in those people interested in property because of a lot of the negativity that’s in the media. There’s going to be continued concerns with China’s economy slowing, the European economy having trouble, the terrorism, and things like that. There’s also going to be some local issues with a weaker economy, unemployment, and APRA tightening the screw on investors.
Kevin, there are a few of the negatives. But there are heaps of positive things that are going to underpin our property markets, as well.
Kevin:  Let’s have a look at a couple of those, Michael, if we may.
Michael:  I think interest rates are going to remain at historic lows throughout this year and very likely to drop at least once if not twice again.
We’re going to still have continued strong population growth to our capital cities. Kevin, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is suggesting our population is growing by one person every one minute and 32 seconds, so there’s already been a couple of new people come here since we’ve been speaking. They’re mainly going to come to our four big capital cities where the jobs are, and in particular in the next year or two, to Sydney and Melbourne where the service industry jobs are.
Kevin:  What about overseas investors, Michael?
Michael:  Kevin, I think they’re still going to be a strong influence on our property markets because as the Australian dollar remains low, they’re going to keep ploughing money into what they see as a safe political and economic haven.
The other factor is going to be that people are still feeling wealthy from the value of their homes. People in Sydney and Melbourne, their houses have doubled in value in the last five or six years, so they’re still going to – even though the markets are tapering off – start upsizing, downsizing, moving home.
I see that as the year goes on and our government gets its act into gear, an improving local economy in the second half of this year will increase consumer and business confidence, and all of that is pretty good for property, Kevin.
Kevin:  Yes. As we’ve come to learn, too, Michael, and was highlighted during 2015, there are so many different markets around Australia. What about some of the other markets like Perth and Darwin?
Michael:  Kevin, I can see that unfortunately, there are some negative effects in Perth and Darwin. Perth has still got a bit of a way to unravel from its excesses of the previous couple of years from the mining boom, and there are actually very few growth factors in the Darwin market.
On the other hand, some of the other smaller markets – Tasmania, Adelaide – they’re probably going to keep bubbling along and maybe at the rate of inflation. I think this is also going to be a reasonably good year for Brisbane.
Sydney and Melbourne may end up having maybe about 5% capital growth over the year, and Brisbane would probably catch up to that, as well. But, Kevin, lots of markets within those markets – some segments will underperform, and there will always be those that will do a bit better than others.
Kevin:  Wonderful, mate. Sum it up for me in a couple of paragraphs. What do you think we’ll be saying about 2016 at this time next year?
Michael:  Those people who could see past the mixed messages and work their way through the fragmented markets are going to find good investments that will see them through. There will be less competition for them, but I’d be very, very selective with property purchases.
As always, my strategy has been to buy properties to which you can add value, so even if the market isn’t going to work out for you, you can do the heavy lifting through some renovations or development.
Kevin:  Great talking to you, mate. Happy New Year once again. Look forward to working with you during 2016. Thanks, Michael.
Kevin:  It should be an interesting year. Kevin, thank you.

Chris Gray

Kevin:  We take the opinion in the show of yet another one of our experts, Chris Gray from YourEmpire.com.au.
Chris, your take on the 2016 market – where do you think it’s headed this year?
Chris:  Look, it obviously depends on where you are. There are lots of different property markets around Australia. But I think if you’re in the main markets of the Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, then I think a lot of people are going to look back and say, “That was another great year. We maybe made 5% or 10% capital growth over the time, and so, yes, we should be pretty happy.”
Kevin:  That was going to be my question. What do you think we’ll be saying about the market this time next year? You think we’re in for probably not a stellar year, but certainly a year when we’re not going to lose a lot of money?
Chris:  Again, it really does depend on what market you’re in. I quite often look at the SQM research by Louis Christopher and his results. He was certainly predicting some pretty good property results for Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Obviously, some of the other markets – like Perth and Darwin – are not as great.
But I think it’s possible to make money in pretty much any market. Even if you’re in those markets that aren’t predicted to do wonderful things, then there are still opportunities there.
Kevin:  What were the surprises for you in 2015? Were there any?
Chris:  The biggest thing for me was probably APRA. For those people trying to get a mortgage, APRA came in, and they were worried about trying to cool the market and not get a boom going certainly in the Sydney market, so they put a lot of restrictions on people.
Some people, it didn’t affect at all. But other people, including myself, it did affect temporarily. That was the biggest thing. If you were just about to refinance, whether you did it one week or the other, could have made a massive difference.
Kevin:  Of course, the markets that would have been probably most affected by that were the off-the-plan markets, as well, where people may have gotten approval to purchase and then found that the bank’s attitude toward lending the money had changed not long before settlement.
Chris:  It’s the thing most people still haven’t realized yet. A lot of people were talking about the Brisbane market and the thousands of apartments that have been sold off the plan, but those people may not realize they’ve got a problem for another 6, 12, or even 18 months, depending on how long it goes on.
Kevin:  Yes. They should be checking with their bank now, I would have thought.
Chris:  Exactly. One thing I always say with the off the plan properties is get a valuation now. If you’re going to settle in 6 to 12 months, rather than have an issue at that time, just before you try and settle it, get a valuation now or from the local agent or even the developers because if you’re not going to get that property valuing up as to what you wanted, you’ve now got 6 to 12 months to try to fix the problem.
Kevin:  What are the markets you’re going to be watching in 2016, Chris?
Chris:  I’m very consistent with mine. My plan doesn’t change from year to year. It sounds very boring. It’s not news-worthy, but it’s just consistent. I’m going to carry on investing in the Sydney market. I still think if you’re into Melbourne or Brisbane, you need a cheaper market, and then I think there’s plenty of opportunity there.
I basically just keep refinancing every year. I pull my money out. I keep some as a buffer. I reinvest some. Literally, as they call in shares of dollar cost averaging, I just try and buy consistently from year to year.
Kevin:  What are the market indicators you look at before you’ll invest in a property?
Chris:  Most of mine is consumer confidence. Sure, you have interest rates, you have clearance rates. But even the experts at Residex, RP Data, and SQM, it’s all in the interpretation. I even had the head of News Limited for advertising saying, “Oh, Chris, the clearance rate is coming down. You must be happy.”
I said no, because two-bedroom units in Coogee, Bondi, and Clovelly are at 100% clearance rates all the time. When the clearance rate comes down, it’s all the properties that are on the wrong side of the street or without parking, which are the ones that sold in the good times but aren’t selling now. Clearance rate doesn’t really affect me in all honesty.
I worry about are people still confident? Are they still thinking long term that property is the way to go? But to be honest, I don’t really care about that either. I’d still just continue to buy. If you by the right property at the right price, whether it’s GFC or boom, it’s still a good time to buy.
Kevin:  Chris Gray, thank you so much for your time. All the best for the New Year, Chris, and we’ll look forward to talking to you during 2016. Thanks, mate.
Chris:  Great. Thanks a lot.

Andrew Wilson

Kevin:  Well, a little bit more crystal-balling in the show. This time, I’m talking to Dr. Andrew Wilson, senior economist at the Domain Group.
Hi, Andrew.
Andrew:  Hi, Kevin. How are you?
Kevin:  Well, thank you. Let’s have a look at 2016. First show for the year and we are, in fact, doing exactly that. What’s your feeling about the market based on what we saw at the end of 2015?
Andrew:  I think we’re going to continue to see, Kevin, a flattening, generally, of house-price growth levels. We’ve had big surges in that Melbourne and Sydney market particularly over the last year or two and clear signs that that has come to an end through 2015, particularly the impact of those higher interest rates that we got in spring.
I think that we’ll just see a continuation of flatter activity levels, flatter demand, right through the spectrum, and it is that convergence of house price levels between capital cities that will be most evident this year.
Of course, however, there will be, I guess, the better performers and those that haven’t been performing that well, and that will continue to be those resource states where long-term economic issues are now impacting housing market activity in those states. We’re talking particularly of Perth, Darwin, and to a lesser degree, Brisbane.
Kevin:  Andrew, fast-forward through to January 2017. What do you think we’ll be saying about the year 2016?
Andrew:  It’ll be less exciting in Sydney, particularly, and Melbourne in terms of the discussion points, and I think the outcome that we’re likely to see going forward is a much flatter cycle. I think that would have been validated through 2016, where prices growth on a quarterly basis really would have been around about the 1%, just a bit above or below the 1% mark per quarter depending on seasonal factors.
I’m not sure we have much wiggle room left in interest rates, and any more cuts in interest rates would likely be a negative rather than a positive. We’ve seen continuous low growth in the economy.
This is the future of really all our economies, national and state economies, reflecting what’s happening internationally, of course, and with low inflation and low incomes now translating into less of a cyclical element to house price growth. I think that’s what we would have seen crystallize over 2016, a much flatter cycle.
Kevin:  Andrew, I doubt that there would have been, but were there any moments in 2015 where you said, “Hey, I didn’t see that one coming”?
Andrew:  I think Brisbane was a little bit of a disappointment through 2015. I think we didn’t realize the impact, particularly in those outer suburban areas, that declining economic activity had had generally and notably on confidence. The Brisbane market, really after an early positive sign particularly from mid to higher price ranges, just failed to take off. I think it was, again, those outer suburban markets that kept the market largely moving sideways in terms of prices growth, but that was a surprise outcome.
Of course, I guess nobody really could have predicted how strongly that Sydney market would have grown given those two cuts in interest rates last year in February and May. That certainly got the Sydney market into lift-off and ready to go into outer space, Kevin, with some remarkable numbers. But, of course, it’s come way back to the pack since then, and we’ll look back on those remarkable first six months of 2015 in the Sydney market.
Kevin:  Yes. Of course, this is not the first time it’s happened, is it? Sydney has done that on so many occasions where it’s had these massive highs and then just goes into a massive low.
Andrew:  Look, we have some different economic factors. Most capital cities had strong house price growth in early 2000. Sydney, of course, that was its peak boom period – the early 2000s. Even though it was very strong in 2014/15. It didn’t have quite the depth of prices growth that it did in 2002 through to 2003, but still nonetheless, it was a very similar period.
But different economic drivers followed that Sydney burn, then, when you had really an exodus of the population out of Sydney and New South Wales through the early 2000s, mid-2000s, and that really did dampen demand for housing. I think what we’re seeing now is more of a generalized driver based on incomes growth and low interest rates, which will be different and will be more consistent through all the capital cities.
Sydney still is an undersupplied market despite those high levels of new apartments coming through, so demand will, I believe, remain ahead of supply in the Sydney market. It’s just the capacity for prices growth is now constrained, as it is through all capital city markets.
Kevin:  What are the markets you’re going to be keeping an eye on during 2016?
Andrew:  Adelaide always remains a remarkable market, Kevin. In a way, Adelaide has been a pointer to the future for a lot of our housing markets, particularly those underperformers in Darwin and Perth, because the Adelaide market really shrugs off those short-term hits to confidence.
It remains the underperformer in terms of economic activity. South Australia and Adelaide has the highest unemployment rates. It also has the highest levels of net interstate migration, so it actually loses people out of the state, out of the capital on a consistent basis.
Nonetheless, confidence remains in the housing market. There’s still demand for bigger houses, smaller houses, houses in other regions, and that housing market just keeps ticking over despite all the negatives, particularly those economic negatives. I think it reflects the fact that confidence is a short-term driver of the market and that people generally pick themselves up and get on with the business of buying and selling houses.
I think that’s a model for particularly those resource states that have been struggling with economic issues in the shorter term, but the Adelaide market reflects that very strong underlying connection to housing over the long term that Australians have.
Kevin:  Andrew, thank you for your time.
Andrew:  My pleasure, Kevin.

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