When the COVID pandemic hit, the doomsdayers and naysayers made bold predictions that Australia’s housing market was about to hit a swift downhill slide.

Amid the merry-go-round of lockdowns, restrictions, mask-wearing and working from home, some property experts forecast hefty real estate price drops of more than 30%. But that prediction didn’t translate in 2021. In fact, it couldn’t have been further from reality.

In contrast, the national residential property market went into overdrive on the back of record low interest rates, a shortage of supply and heavy rental demand – all putting upward pressure on prices and resulting in record growth for average homes.

It was a similar story for land sales and the building and construction sector with government stimulus creating incredible demand across the sector, particularly from first homebuyers keen to swoop in and make the most of the incentives and attractive interest rates.

And only now are some housing markets starting to soften slightly.

While the latest CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index shows Australian housing values increased by 1.3% in November, marking the 14th consecutive month of positive value growth, economists say the pace of growth has been slowing down.

CoreLogic data shows that Australian house values increased 22.2% in the year to November, with over half of its capital cities recording annual growth rate of more than 20%. Brisbane and Adelaide are the only capital cities yet to experience a slowdown.

According to CoreLogic’s research director, Tim Lawless, the key driving factors to housing slowdown is a rise in listings and mounting affordability pressures.

In the residential construction space, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Building Approvals October 2021 report shows the number of new residential dwellings approved across Australia increased in October 2021 to 10,799 in comparison to 10,168 in September.

Total dwelling approvals decreased by 12.9% in October, largely due to a decline in private sector unit approvals of -37.5%.

Across Australia’s rental markets, a dire shortage of stock and extremely high demand for houses has pushed rental prices to dizzying heights.

High demand for houses and a lack of supply due to previous historically low levels of investor activity has led to a dramatic increase in Australia’s rental prices with rental growth continuing reasonably strong since April. An imbalance in rising house values and costs associated with owning a home has resulted in gross rental yields falling to a new record low in November, reaching 3.23% nationwide.

Brisbane

As most Australian property markets start to experience a degree of cooling, Brisbane real estate is angling for a podium finish as the city prepares to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

Latest CoreLogic figures show Brisbane was the fastest growing market in November with house values up 2.9%. The city has seen spectacular growth of 25.1% for houses in the past year with the median house price now sitting at $757,194.

In fact, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland claims first homebuyers have snapped up real estate in the Sunshine state at the fastest rate in 13 years.

Analysts say the post-pandemic boom is likely to continue for a while yet, with some estimating up to 15% price growth in the coming year, more than doubling the median to $1.5 million by the time the Olympics starts.

In the new home construction sector, approvals have increased for the month of October for both units and houses. ABS data shows that the number of dwelling unit approvals in Queensland increased by 2.2% in October, while approvals for houses increased 3.3%.

In the rental market, Brisbane experienced price growth of 9.7% in the 12 months to September, including the country’s strongest quarterly rental growth of 2.6% during the September quarter. The median weekly rental price is $491.

Perth

Perth’s house prices may have been in the doldrums for the past decade, but 2021 has never been brighter.

Houses in the western capital saw 14.5% growth in the past year to November, and a 0.2% increase for November, after values dipped marginally by 0.11% in October - Perth’s first negative monthly result since June last year.

CoreLogic says Perth’s median house price is now $528,540 – a figure the Real Estate Institute of WA says is on par with the last peak in December 2016.

New housing dwelling approvals have jumped by 16.3% for the month of October, ABS data revealed, while approvals for units fell by 2.7%.

Satterley Property Group’s Chief Executive, Nigel Satterley, expects housing growth in WA to continue into 2022, with house prices tipped to increase by a further 10% in Perth.

“WA remains one of the most affordable housing markets in Australia and one of the strongest economies in the world. The home building grants played a significant role in keeping the construction industry afloat during COVID and after several years of low activity,” said Mr Satterley.

WA recorded 79.6 per cent growth in construction over 2020, with 23,840 expected starts in 2021 and a further 20,220 starts forecast for 2022.

Mr Satterley said the state had benefited from a rise in interstate relocations as people chose WA as their preferred destination to live and work during the pandemic, however noted that further interstate and international migration is required to meet the growing skilled labour shortages experienced across industries including construction, hospitality and agriculture.

Perth’s rental market has appeared to stabilise since it began its upward trajectory in June 2020, with just a 0.3% rise in the September quarter. Overall, rental growth has skyrocketed 14.5% in the year to September, with rental prices currently at a six-year median high at $478 a week.

Melbourne

Relentless lockdowns in the past year may have frustrated locals, but they have done little to put the kybosh on Melbourne’s property market.

Melbourne saw significant growth in the year to November, with CoreLogic statistics showing a 16.3% boost in house values to net a median house price of $986,992.

PropTrack data shows new listings have reached their highest level on record in Melbourne, up 11.2% in November compared to the previous month. The influx of new listings has brought total available stock to their highest level in three years, as the market makes up for lost time after months of lockdowns.

In the rental market, Melbourne is Australia’s second most affordable market for tenants, with median weekly rent at $450 across all dwellings. The market saw the least change nationwide, with just a 1.8% increase in rental prices in the 12 months to September.

In the new build sector, ABS data shows approvals have picked up in October after experiencing a slump in September. The number of house approvals in Victoria increased by 6.4% in October, a positive sign for the construction industry.

Housing Industry Association executive director Fiona Nield said there had been a clear shift towards lower density housing during the pandemic and this trend showed no sign of abating.

“This shift is not just those in units moving to detached housing but includes a shift to fewer people per household. As a result, we have seen a significant change in the volume, type and location of new homes,” she said.

“Leading indicators show that the demand for new detached homes remains strong and suggests that the current boom in home building will be sustained throughout 2022.”

This is promising news for new homebuyers in Victoria, given industry constraints on the availability of land, labour and construction materials across the country.

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