Empty nesters turn to investment property + Mortgage stress increases + Rental vacancies down slightly

Empty nesters turn to investment property + Mortgage stress increases + Rental vacancies down slightly

Highlights from this week:

  • The impact of increased mortgage stress
  • The factors you must now include when calculating a buffer
  • The good news for property investors concerned about returns
  • The tipping point for vacancy ratios
  • How to know you are working with the best buyer’s agent
  • The life lessons you can teach your kids and grandkids about investing
  • A success story that proves it is never too late


Mortgage stress on the rise – Elizabeth Tilley

Kevin:  With so much talk about prices for power and what’s happening with childcare and so on, it’s no wonder that a report has been released that has indicated that mortgage stress – well, we’ll talk about Queensland – in Australia is probably at an absolute peak. The number of households in mortgage stress increased in August. That was according to a report released by Digital Finance Analytics, and the report was compiled for The Courier-Mail.
Joining me now the senior real estate reporter for The Courier-Mail, Elizabeth Tilley.
Elizabeth, thank you for your time. Did the outcome of the report come as any sort of a surprise to you?
Elizabeth:  Not really, Kevin, because we have been monitoring this for a little while now. I’m in contact with Martin North, the principal of Digital Finance Analytics, usually on a month-by-month basis, and things have been gradually getting worse for households for the last few years, really, and each month, it just seems to get worse and worse.
But this month in particular, the August figures that this modeling has been done for, really they’ve put it down to three main things. And that’s higher power prices – which we know of course is the number one issue that households are dealing with at the moment – council rates, also another one that’s gone up during that time, and childcare costs apparently also really started to bite during the month of August.
So it was a particularly difficult month for households on top of the usual rising living costs they’re facing, and household debt, and obviously mortgage. This modeling also shows that only a small jump in interest rates would push a lot more households into the risk of defaulting on their home loan.
Kevin:  Yes, it’s a real problem for the Reserve Bank to think about, because interest rates are at an all-time low. I know they could go down a little bit further, but everyone’s tipping that they will, in fact, increase at some stage. We’ll talk about that in just a moment. But that’s actually going to make the situation even worse, so it’s really hard for them to make the kinds of decisions they need to make based on some of the reports that are coming out, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth:  It is. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in their Board meetings and just see exactly what they’re discussing over the table, because it’s really a tough one, isn’t it? They have to weigh up all the pressures that are happening out there, but then meanwhile, especially this time of year, spring, we have all the banks now coming out with all these discounts for home loans, which some analysts are saying is going to see a flood of more people into the market and taking advance of that.
Yes, it’s a very delicate balancing act. But household debt is their biggest concern, I think, and we hear about it quite often that that is the problem. It’s too high, and there’s just no financial buffer there for many households. So, it means that even just the tiniest added pressure can tip many of them over the edge and into stress, and that is a big concern.
As you said, rates aren’t expected to rise for a while yet, but when they do, I just don’t know how people are going to be prepared for it. Many households are really going to feel the pain.
Kevin:  The report from Digital Finance Analytics looked at it by postcode. It was quite interesting to see that the postcode they highlighted as being the worst was 4305, which is Toowoomba in Queensland. The average age in Toowoomba is extremely high, because we’ve seen a number of people retire off properties and they go and buy a home with their retirement nest egg in Toowoomba.
I guess this really highlights the impact of some of these higher prices like council rates and power rates on the elderly, as well as the young, growing families, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth:  Yes. I think you’re right. I think they’re definitely feeling it just as much. They’re obviously living on their retirement savings, if they have much of that, and obviously their super funds are getting eaten into as well with not very high interest rates there.
Yes, it’s interesting the modeling finding that that postcode really would be severely affected if interest rates were to rise, and at the moment we are seeing a large number of households there being affected. About 30% of their households do have a mortgage at the moment, and they are feeling it the most.
Digital Finance Analytics is saying that that’s partly because that area does have high unemployment. Of course, we’re seeing stagnant wages growth particularly here in Queensland. House prices have seen a bit of a rise in that area in recent years.
And according to the Digital Finance Analytics, there are actually a lot of new mortgages that have been accumulated in the last few years, so that also could be attributing to the pressure that’s being felt there, as well. And yes, a bit of a hangover maybe left from the mining boom, resources boom as well still there.
Kevin:  Yes. We talk about when people borrow to buy a property, they should build in some kind of a buffer and allow for increased rates, but it’s bringing on a whole new idea about how that buffer should be structured – not only structuring an increase in rates but also an increase in some of these essential costs in the household, as well.
Elizabeth, can I just ask you from a national perspective, did you have a feel for how many households are actually in financial stress across the nation due to increased mortgage payments?
Elizabeth:  Across the nation, it’s about 860,000 estimated to be in the mortgage stress, and that’s up 40,000 from July. So, in one month, that’s a big increase in households to be under mortgage stress. And more than 20,000 of those are in severe stress. That’s about 26.4%, so that’s now over a quarter of households nationally that are suffering from mortgage stress.
And there are also about 46,000 households at risk of default in the next 12 months. Interestingly, that’s down a little bit from July – down 7000, in fact – and that’s because revisions to the expectations of future mortgage rate rises have come down or been dialed back a little bit, because we are seeing a lot of analysts and economists now predicting a rate rise to happen still but not until the second half of 2018, according to comparison website Finder, another economist survey there.
Because of that, it’s looking like that might put the brakes on the number of houses at risk of default for a little while longer, at least delay that from happening. But it’s still a huge problem. It’s going to happen at some point once rates go up, so it means they have a breather for a little while.
But that’s still a very large number, and yes, the main drivers of that, living costs, wages not growing, and under-employment being on the rise, under-employment particularly being the issue we hear about whenever those numbers come out.
It’s a deadly combination, and it’s touching households right across the country, not just in those mortgage belts. Although as I mentioned here in Queensland, they are mostly in those regional areas, Toowoomba and then Mackay I think was the second worst-hit postcode.
Kevin:  Elizabeth, great talking to you. Elizabeth Tilley is the senior real estate reporter for The Courier-Mail and joined me to talk about the Digital Finance Analytics report.
All the best, Elizabeth, and thanks for your time.
Elizabeth:  Thanks, Kevin.

It’s never too late! – Simon Pressley

Kevin:  When we all get to a certain age, you often assess what’s gone before you and what lies ahead. Even with the sunniest of dispositions, sometimes that assessment makes you realize that the time to act is fast running away from you. That’s what’s called age.
Such is the case with Karen and Rod. They decided in their early 50s that they needed to do something about their financial future with their retirement looming sooner rather than later. That’s the success story we’re going to tell you about now, because I don’t know if you’re like me, but I love to hear about what other people have done, their successes, and learn from some of their lessons.
They actually turned to Propertyology, and joining me to talk about the lessons and the journey, Simon Pressley from Propertylogy joins me.
Simon, thank you very much for your time.
Simon:  Good to chat again, Kevin.
Kevin:  Tell me about Karen and Rod, how it all came about, and how you guys were able to help them.
Simon:  Yes, a lovely couple, early 50s, Brisbane-based at the time, just of recent months, moved up to the Sunshine Coast, but what we probably generally refer to as the empty nesters, a couple of children who are now late adolescent years and have moved out of home.
Have had different careers throughout their life as most people would have by age 50, spent ten years or so of that in their own business, and along the journey, had dabbled in investing in property a couple of times with mild successes on occasion and some failures on others – such is life – but realized that in their early 50s, they really couldn’t afford to make a mistake a second time around.
It would appear that they had been looking at different companies throughout Australia for some time. They reached out to us amongst others. We were delighted when they appointed us, and they’ve since gone on over the last couple of years, already purchased two investment properties and are very close to being ready for their third.
Kevin:  What were some of the lessons that came out of this? Obviously, they set about educating themselves, which was the first part of the process. Were they able to tell you about some of the things that they learned along the way?
Simon:  Yes. I guess things are always easier in hindsight, aren’t they, Kevin? We’ve all done it. We don’t know what we don’t know. We all have skills, and Rod’s skills were blue-collar skills. He’s great tools of trade, got a maintenance background, had a successful career in that regard. But he felt that with property, the way to do it was to get his hands dirty, without really being conscious of what he wasn’t looking at.
The investment properties that they bought in the past were largely based on buying something in close proximity to home and then Rod saying “I can renovate it. I can do it this way or do it that way,” but had very modest results.
At the end of the day, it’s rarely renovations that make property values grow. Renovations guarantee us costs, but it’s really the broader market that that property sits within that causes the most growth.
One of the other lessons they learned was that they’d never considered investing anywhere other than their home city, and it’s probably the most common I’ll say mistake that investors make. They’re just not conscious of “Is my own city, the place throughout all of Australia that has the best potential?”
So, they realized that and then that led to another question, which is “How do I identify the fundamentals of all these locations throughout all of Australia? Who can I trust to help me pick that location out, and then find the right property when I don’t live there?”
It’s wonderful when people are able to reflect and want to do better and go out of their way to seek out professional advice.
Kevin:  When you seek that professional advice out, too, you have to be prepared to listen and do it with an open mind. Obviously, the reason you do that is because you want someone else’s opinion about what you should be doing, so you have to keep an open mind about this, but at the same time, you cannot abdicate that responsibility.
At the end of the day, it’s the investor’s responsibility to make that final decision, isn’t it, Simon?
Simon:  Absolutely. With every decision we make in life, more often than not, there will be a service that all sorts of professionals who do that every day can offer for you, but the devil is in the detail. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to ask the right questions and to determine whether that skilled professional is most equipped and has your best interest at heart.
But then once you’ve gone through that process to make that very important decision of appointing a professional, yes, absolutely, it would be not really worth the process if you didn’t listen to what they said. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say, but certainly have an open mind. If something doesn’t make sense, ask why, with their expertise, they’re making those recommendations.
Kevin:  That’s the point I was making there about not abdicating that responsibility. You have to remain involved, make up your own mind.
Can I just get back to Karen and Rod for a moment? They have two investment properties. How long did it take them to put those two together?
Simon:  From when we first met to settlement on their second property would have been roughly six months. It takes several weeks for both parties to get to know each other properly, to form that really professional relationship. We need to understand a lot about Karen and Rod’s background, work situation, past investment experiences.
We then invest heavily into their investment education, so we talk a lot about our methodology and how we pick certain locations. We share some history of Australian property markets to substantiate some of our beliefs. It’s all about earning trust and confidence. That’s done in the early stages of the relationship.
Then it’s a matter of working out a strategy that’s tailored for their needs. Everyone’s budget is going to be different. Everyone’s investment journey ahead is going to have different time periods. Different people have different appetites for risk. So, we need to make sure that both parties are really comfortable with each other, and then we start making recommendations about a specific city and finding an individual property.
We do it at Rod and Karen’s pace, so it would have been roughly about four months after we met when we found that first property. And we intentionally didn’t want to have two property transactions on the go, so even though their strategy was to initially buy two, we didn’t want to overwhelm them and have two on the go, as I said.
We took our time. We found one. We make sure the due diligence stacked up and got the lowest price. It settled. We got a tenant in. They took a breath for a couple weeks and then we started the process for that second property.
Kevin:  I want to thank you for sharing that story with us, and I also want to thank Karen and Rod for allowing us to do it. It’s a great story. It’s one of the many stories that you’re going to pick up if you go to the Propertyology website. There are a lot of success stories there, a lot of great reasons why you’d want to deal with these guys. We recommend them. You can check their channel out, too, on Real Estate Talk. That’s Propertyology.
Simon Pressley, thank you so much for your time.
Simon:  Always a pleasure, Kevin. Have a great day.

Not all buyers agents are the same – Miriam Sandkuhler

Kevin:  There’s a saying that you get what you pay for – nothing truer when you’re dealing with people like buyer’s agents. Joining me to talk about that – that you get what you pay for – is Miriam Sandkuhler from Property Mavens.
Good day, Miriam.
Miriam:  Hi, Kevin.
Kevin:  True, isn’t it – you get what you pay for. I guess that raises the question: how do you distinguish a good buyer’s agent from an average one, Miriam?
Miriam:  That’s a great question, Kevin. What I say to people is it’s like any industry: there will always be those who are more qualified, more experienced, have more expertise than some others, and so like any industry, it’s important to ask the right questions of the person you’re looking to engage.
Kevin:  Sometimes it’s hard to know what questions to ask, and even then, Miriam, what answers to expect, because salespeople are very good at selling themselves, aren’t they?
Miriam:  Absolutely. A lot of it is really around evidence. It doesn’t matter what someone says; it’s “Where’s the evidence that you can provide to support that?” And that evidence can be through case studies, it can be through client testimonials or success stories, but particularly testimonials and case studies and evidence of expertise and outcomes is certainly something to be asking for when dealing with a buyer’s advocate.
But more importantly, to start with, you want to make sure that you’re genuinely dealing with an independent, licensed estate agent who’s acting as a buyer’s agent, because there are some selling agents who masquerade and pretend they’re buyer’s agents but they get paid by the vendor, which means they’re not – in fact – a buyer’s advocate.
Kevin:  Is there a certain qualification that you need to have to be a buyer’s agent?
Miriam:  No, you don’t. Sorry, I’ll take that back. You need to be a licensed estate agent, and that way you’re legally allowed to transact in real estate and charge for those services. But where someone isn’t a licensed real estate agent – they might be an accountant or a solicitor or just someone with no qualifications whatsoever in terms of a real estate agent’s license – they can’t charge you for those services if they don’t have a qualification.
Kevin:  It’s a very gray area, because traditional agency is where a real estate agent will deal with both the buyer and the seller, but they normally get paid by the seller. That’s where they earn their commission. Is it possible for an agent to get a commission from both sides, if they declare it?
Miriam:  Legally, they shouldn’t be getting paid from both sides. That’s an absolute conflict of interest. Whether they declare it or not, they’re legally not entitled to do that.
Kevin:  What about if it’s in the same office? You might have a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent in the same office.
Miriam:  Again, I see that as a conflict of interest. You want to be dealing with people who are exclusively a buyer’s advocate or exclusively a selling agent.
The only thing to add to that is they might do a little bit of vendor advocacy, which means they’re not actually selling property but they’re helping their clients and recommending agents for their clients to deal with if, in fact, they do have a property to sell.
That often comes about as a lot of us have got very good relationships and we know who the good, the bad, and the ugly agents are on the selling side, so we can really cut down and shorten that process for potential vendors.
Kevin:  Use of buyer’s agents is becoming much more accepted in Australia. For quite some time, it wasn’t, and it’s very accepted in the States, as an example. Now, there is an organization in Australia that we’ve talked about, the Real Estate Buyer’s Agents Association of Australia. Is that a good recognition?
Miriam:  Absolutely. At a minimum, you want to be dealing with somebody who is a member of the Real Estate Buyer’s Agents Association, and that’s because they have code of conduct and minimum qualification standards that we have to meet to be able to be a member. Really, that’s the only body in Australia that can really help consumers to have access to qualified or pre-qualified buyer’s agents.
Kevin:  I have to say that there are heaps of people out there who have written books. Does that necessarily make them a good buyer’s agent or a good expert?
Miriam:  Myself included in that category!
Kevin:  Well, I’m sorry.
Miriam:  No, that’s fine. Look, it depends on the content of the book. And I’m not intending this to be a plug, but in my experience, a lot of people write books specific to a single strategy that they’ve implemented, that they recommend, that they’ve done, and suddenly everybody else should be doing it. My book takes more of a financial planning approach to direct property investing and is a series of steps like an expert to get an outcome in a certain manner.
I think it depends really on the content of the book, and not all books are great quality and not all books are bestsellers, and not all books necessarily meet what the investor’s needs are.
Kevin:  To muddy up the waters even further, there are a lot of people also who do seminars. They go on the road with seminars and purport to help people. We’ve spoken in the show before about some of those, especially when they sell property. They’re the ones you have to be very careful of.
Miriam:  Again, they’re not buyer’s agents; they’re selling agents. There’s a lot of what I call “edutainment” that goes on in these particular road shows and seminars. They get so-called experts up there, they play whiz bang music, they show slides, they put a whole lot of stuff up there without necessarily any evidence or data to support what they’re saying. And then there’s usually a limited opportunity at the end of it, and if they sign up now, they’ll have the opportunity to get in and try this whiz bang new strategy or concept or whatever it is they’re selling. The main point there being that they are selling agents. They are not a buying agent.
No buyer advocate will ever engage a client with a property that they’re recommending to them, because their role is to get a brief, to confirm that brief or to potentially even develop a strategy with the client, and then once that’s signed off, they will go into the open marketplace and usually buy established property for their client. But you don’t come to a client with a property solution. That’s what a selling agent does.
Kevin:  We’ve had a big discussion here. Let’s clarify a little bit. Getting back to the earlier question, how can we distinguish a good buyer’s agent from an average one – bullet points?
Miriam:  They absolutely have to be a licensed estate agent operating as a buyer’s advocate. They have to be absolutely independent and only deriving income from the buyer, not from the vendor or no kickbacks from a selling agent.
You want someone with at least three to five years’ experience in buyer advocacy, because there are a lot of ex-selling agents who jump into buyer advocacy thinking it’s easy, but they often learn the hard way that it’s a lot harder to be a buyer’s advocate, it’s harder to get outcomes, and you can’t take the same approach that you do in selling when it comes to buyer advocacy.
Qualifications: you want to make sure that if someone has an investing qualification in addition to being a buyer’s advocate, then that means they have investing expertise, which is a whole skillset in itself.
And some may just specialize in owner occupiers and limit themselves to particular territory. Other buyer’s advocates, such as myself, might have investment qualifications – as I said – and we buy in multiple areas according to strategy and brief.
You want to be able to check whether or not a buyer’s advocate has been awarded any recognitions, so if they have awards or something pertaining to their expertise as a buyer’s advocate.
Ideally, you absolutely want them to be a member of REBAA, the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association, because they’ve invested and they meet minimum standards in the industry and they work to a code of conduct.
As I said, testimonials, success stories: you want evidence to the outcomes they’ve been able to get for clients to support what they’re saying. Yes, things like a book or media commentary do identify expertise, but it obviously depends on the content of the book.
And you really want to be comparing apples with apples. Not every buyer’s advocate is the same. The questions you ask of one, you need to ask of another if you’re going to compare, and see what you’re getting form that point of view.
But one thing I will say is people often think they know what buyer advocacy is and their focus becomes about price and price alone, and that’s where they frequently make a mistake, because it’s not so much about the price but the value delivery of what they offer. And more importantly, you get what you pay for in life, as we all know.
Kevin:  That’s right.
Miriam:  And to sign off on that, I frequently see situations where people think it’s easy – “I’ll do it myself” – but if they’ve been searching for six months and they haven’t bought in that time, and the market has escalated and risen in that time, frequently it has cost them more in terms of the market increasing and the shortfall that they now have than if they had employed a buyer agent at the beginning. They would have paid less, got a really good outcome in a timely manner, and they now wouldn’t be behind or potentially missing out on getting into the market.
Kevin:  You raise some very good, valid points there. Miriam Sandkuhler has been my guest, CEO and buyer’s agent. She’s at Property Mavens. Miriam, thank you so much for your time.
Miriam:  Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate it.

Teach the kids some life investment lessons – Philippe Brach

Kevin:  I’m delighted to have back on the show the author of a book we have mentioned on a few occasions, Property Wealth in Any Market: How You Can Build a High Performance Property Portfolio. It was written by Philippe Brach. Philippe is the CEO for Multifocus Properties & Finance and joins us once again.
Philippe, nice to have you on the show. Thank you.
Philippe:  Thank you, Kevin.
Kevin:  I wanted to talk to you specifically about how investors can fast-track their child’s financial future, maybe by teaching them a few lessons. What are some of the things that you could tell us about that, Philippe?
Philippe:  The first thing is in terms of helping your kids build a financial future, the best thing you can do – and it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your children – is actually empowering them to be successful. That works through education about financial matters, which unfortunately, lacks a bit at school, so parents have the responsibility to actually help their children to understand the big, wide world out there.
That can go initially through teaching them how to build up savings and then probably also talking to them about how compounding works. A great part of the education is as they grow into young adults, you can start discussing with them the various ways they can get ahead in life. That includes, obviously, the possibility of investing in property, either being a home or an investment property or even both.
Kevin:  There are many topics, aren’t there? You talked about compounding, but also building equity in property and using it to get some gearing. These are all good lessons for you.
How soon can you start teaching kids this, Philippe?
Philippe:  It will depend on the maturity of the child, but when you are starting to teach them about savings and their pocket money, etc., you can start fairly young. Some parents would disagree, saying a child shouldn’t become a young adult too soon, but at the end of the day, the sooner they get the good habits that will help them in life, the better it is.
Kevin:  I suppose we need to understand, too, that they’re like sponges. They absorb information, so you have to be very careful around the dinner table how you talk and what you talk about. You may not even be talking to them, but they’re going to be listening and absorbing that all the time.
Philippe:  Absolutely correct. The topics you can teach them, as you said, because they are sponges, the earlier you start, the better it is and the better it gets into their mind. Everybody wants to have successful kids, and you want them to start thinking long term rather than just short term.
Kevin:  Philippe, help me here. Let’s just take one of those topics and talk about how we can educate young people. You mentioned compounding. How would you describe that to a child?
Philippe:  It’s a good question. Once you get to talk to a child, it depends, obviously, on the age you start talking to them about compounding, but trying to explain to them that if you put $1 in and that $1 grows at a certain rate, it will double in a certain time.
Probably the best way to do that is to talk to the kids about the famous Rule of 72, which I think from memory, Einstein was playing with in his spare time. Pretty much, it says if you put $1 in the bank at 7.2%, it will double in value in ten years. Conversely, if you put $1 into the bank in your savings account at 10%, it will double in value in 7.2 years. You can play with little games like this to make sure it sticks in the child’s mind.
I think that notion of saying “7.2% doubles in ten years,” then you can extrapolate. What if it’s not 7.2%, but it’s less? Then you can start interesting the child in finding out. If it’s only 5%, it’s not going to double in ten years, but you do your calculation and it ends up doubling in 15 years.
The other thing you can do, using that same example, is to say, “If that $1 doubles in ten years, and you keep pushing that calculation, you actually get another $1 after 15 years.” The compounding means that the longer you invest, the more it accumulates and the better it works for you.
Kevin:  I love that. That’s fantastic, the Rule of 72, 7.2%. We can apply that to a market, too. If a market is growing at 7.2% annually, then the property will double in value in ten years.
Philippe:  That’s right. That’s why it’s common out there when people talk about property growth, they say, “Oh yeah, it’s going to double in ten years,” because we’ve been used to having these rates of growth around the 7% or 8% mark, so it makes sense. Nowadays, in the current market, excluding Sydney and Melbourne, you’re talking on average about 5%, which means your property will double in 15 years.
The important thing is for an adult and a young adult to understand how this works, that the difference between 5% growth and 7% growth makes five years difference into your investment objectives. Therefore, the younger you start, the better it is.
Kevin:  Philippe, it’s great talking to you. Thank you so much. Philippe’s book is Property Wealth in Any Market: How to Build a High Performance Property Portfolio. It’s a great book. I’ve read it. I recommend it to you. Philippe is the CEO from Multifocus Properties & Finance. I’d love to have you back again on the show. You make so much sense.
Philippe, thank you for your time.
Philippe:  Thank you, Kevin.

Vacancies and what it means to investors – Louis Christopher

Kevin:  Data released by SQM Research this week revealed that the number of national residential rental vacancies was just over 71,000 in August, giving a national vacancy rate of 2.2%, down slightly. What does that mean for property investors? Joining me to talk about this, Louis Christopher from SQM Research.
Louis, thank you for your time.
Louis:  Good day there, Kevin.
Kevin:  Is this good news?
Louis:  For existing property investors, yes. I must state that it is still a mixed market out there. We still recorded some elevated vacancies in Perth, but overall, most capital cities actually recorded a decline, and overall, I would say that the market moderately is a landlord’s market.
Kevin:  When you look at Hobart, I think you’ve recorded 0.4%. That’s a pretty tight market.
Louis:  That’s the lowest vacancy result we’ve recorded for any capital city since our records began. Yes, things are really tight in Hobart. It’s a very strong landlord’s market. We’re recording some big rises in rent there, as well.
Kevin:  That always does happen.
So, across the nation, 2.2%. Would you say that that’s definitely in favor of landlords?
Louis:  Yes. Moderately in favor of landlords, but it varies when we speak of each individual city. Perth, for example, is recording a vacancy rate of 4.6%, so that’s still a tenant’s market, though I note the vacancy rate is starting to tighten after years of rises following the mining downturn. Then Hobart we’ve just mentioned before is 0.4%.
When we look at the big capital cities such as Brisbane, which we have at 3.1%, I would say that’s moderately in the tenant’s favor. In Sydney, at 2%, that’s very modestly in the landlord’s favor. And then when I look at Melbourne at 1.7%, that’s definitely a landlord’s market there.
Kevin:  Obviously from what you’re saying, I can take that the tipping point is around 2%.
Louis:  Yes. Look, we put guidance out there that a market that’s in equilibrium is somewhere between 2% to 3%, but it also depends on the relative direction. So, if the market is tightening – if you’re seeing vacancy rates fall form, say, 5% to 3% – I would suggest to you that’s a market increasingly turning towards landlords even though the absolute number is still 3%.
And vice versa, if you see a city where the vacancy rates go from, say, 1% to 2%, the mere fact that they’re rising means that it’s increasingly becoming a tenant’s market and it becomes more difficult for landlords to increase the rent.
Kevin:  If you look at, say, Brisbane as an example, the vacancy rate dropped from 3.3% to 3.1%, but still a lot of vacant properties – almost 11,000 – when you look at how many there are in Sydney, 12,700.
Louis:  Yes, that’s exactly right. There’s still a lot of stock in Brisbane to absorb, particularly the inner-city apartment market where everyone knows now we’ve had a major over-supply issue for a number of years. So yes, Brisbane still has some stock to absorb before there will be any real rental pressure there.
That said, though, it depends which area in Brisbane we look at. If we look at, say, Wynnum/Manly we’ve seen fairly tight vacancy rates, well under 3%, and that is a local market there that is favoring landlords.
Kevin:  Another stat that I’d like to look at in your report is the asking rents. You mentioned there about Hobart and how it’s climbing rather dramatically, obviously. What are you seeing around Australia in terms of asking rents? How are they going?
Louis:  Once again, it depends on each city. Yes, in Hobart, rents are up 14.5% from 12 months ago.
Kevin:  Wow. That’s big.
Louis:  If you were a tenant there or you’re looking to try and lease a property, that’s a really tough and tight market to lease into right now.
On the other hand, when we look at, say, the Perth rental market, Perth rents have fallen by about 6.5% over the last 12 months, and the total accumulated falls from their peak back in 2013, is some 33%. So, a heavy tenant’s market there in Perth, as discussed before.
Yes, it does vary from city to city. One market that seems to be starting to accelerate again in terms of rent is Canberra. Canberra rents are up 6.8% for houses, 4.2% for units over the last 12 months, and also has recorded a very strong monthly rise of over 1% just for the month. So, that’s a market that was a tenant’s market about two years ago, and it’s definitely switched around now to being a landlord’s market.
Kevin:  Interesting when you look at the national figure, houses compared to units and then you look at the cap city figure. They’re a mirror reverse in terms of growth in the asking rents, aren’t they?
Louis:  Yes, that’s exactly right. The national results, units seem to be performing a little bit better than houses right now on a yearly basis. When we look at the capital city result, houses have been doing better than units on a yearly basis.
I think the national result has been influenced by the regional townships, because we’re covering the whole country including the agriculture-based townships, the mining towns, the regional areas such as the Gold Coast, and that market is recording more modest increases in rents, and I think the result has been dragged down by the downturn in the mining towns, etc.
The capital city rents, of course, are just a little bit above the CPI at the moment, so the capital cities are delivering rent rises above inflation at this point in time.
Kevin:  When you look at the cap city average, obviously what’s holding the units back from houses would have to be that potential over-supply of units in those inner-city areas.
Louis:  Yes, correct. Particularly Brisbane, which has been holding it back. There have been a few years in the past that Melbourne and Sydney would have an over-supply of apartments in the inner-city areas. That hasn’t materialized for those cities, and I think the reason why that has not actually really materialized is the faster than expected population growth rate for those two capital cities over the past 12 months.
Melbourne has been rising at 2.4% per annum, Sydney at 1.7% per annum. For those two cities, that’s basically the size of an Olympic stadium each and every year in terms of their population increase, and that’s what’s actually absorbed the additional stock that has come into the market.
So, there has been more supply in those cities, but given the excessive population growth rates, all that additional stock has been absorbed.
Kevin:  To see the report for yourself, go to Louis’s website, SQMresearch.com.au. Louis Christopher has been my guest.
Louis, thanks again for your time.
Louis:  Thank you, Kevin.

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