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While Sydney and Melbourne’s property markets suffered from months of decline, Brisbane rose as the “value for money city” for investors and homebuyers alike. Should they continue putting their money into the Queensland capital moving forward?
Herron Todd White said that the year 2019 was a year of two halves, with the May federal election being the turning point.
The beginning of 2019 saw the fallout from the royal commission, with the tighter credit restrictions resulting in falling housing prices. Due to the fear of reforms in negative gearing, institutional investors proceeded to leave the market, which further negatively impacted the housing market.
Then, the federal election in May led to “returning the Liberal-National Coalition government to power in what was a Steven Bradbury-like performance”, Herron Todd White noted.
Eventually, the relaxation around lending led to an uptick in the housing market.
While the bigger markets of Sydney and Melbourne bore the brunt of the decline, Brisbane, as well as several regions of Queensland, was seen by many as the “safe choice” for its stability and consistent, albeit underwhelming, growth through the years.
Over the past five years, the annual median house price for Queensland increased by 12.5 per cent, from $425,000 in September 2014 to $478,000 in September 2019, according to the Real Estate Institute of Australia.
Gladstone and Fraser Coast saw the strongest growth in terms of annual price increases, with Gladstone growing by 3.7 per cent to $280,000, and Fraser Coast growing 1.6 per cent to $325,000. The Ipswich region also retained positive growth at 1.5 per cent to an annual median house price of $350,000.
Meanwhile, Greater Brisbane presented marginally improved performance for the house market over the year, while the unit market continued to underperform, resulting in negative 1.2 per cent growth for the year.
The annual median house price for Brisbane LGA fell slightly by 0.4 per cent for the year to $675,000, while Logan, Moreton Bay and Redland followed a similar trend.
Due to stagnation and decline in some parts of Queensland and the Greater Brisbane region, Herron Todd White advised investors to practice “restrained optimism” and ultimately do their due diligence before investing in the state and its capital city.
Housing affordability is expected to deteriorate even further in 2020 following the rise in dwelling values through December 2019, which capped off a “strong finish” for the property market in the 2019 calendar year.
According to CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless, the deterioration of housing affordability as dwelling values outpace growth in household incomes signals a setback for those saving for a deposit.
As a result, there could be significant slowdown in activity across price-sensitive segments of the market, particularly in Sydney, where dwelling values are already sitting 8.2 times higher than gross annual household incomes halfway through the year.
The expected rise in investors who are attracted by prospects for capital gains and a positive spread between mortgage rates and rental yields “should [help offset] a reduction in activity from more price-sensitive buyers”, Mr Lawless said.
Smaller cities where housing is more affordable and economic conditions are improving are likely to emerge as winners in the coming months as they “offer some insulation” for investors who will see advertised stock levels rise.
REIQ’s Quarterly Market Monitor found that across Queensland, the annual median house price sits at $478,000 for houses and at $400,000 for units.
While jobs growth and population growth are slowing across NSW and Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are seeing improvements. Combined with low housing prices and higher migration rates, these socioeconomic improvements could help these smaller markets improve over time.
The year 2020 may ultimately see a “change in the growth dynamic”, according to Mr Lawless.
While larger cities are expected to see a slowdown in the rapid rate of growth recorded through the second half of 2019, smaller capitals such as Brisbane and, as well as key regional centres and lifestyle markets, could see an improvement in conditions as buyers are attracted to affordable prices coupled with job opportunities and lifestyle factors.
According to REIQ, annual listings for Queensland’s housing market decreased by 1.6 per cent over the year from 105,015 listings in 2018 to 103,371 listings in 2019.
The regions that experienced the largest increases in house listings for the year were Ipswich, Gold Coast and Mackay. In particular, Mackay’s house listings grew 23.2 per cent from 2,422 in 2018 to 2,985 in 2019.
While there are more options for buyers and investors in the state, the days on market increased from 45 days to 56 days and the median vendor discount grew by 0.6 per cent.
The quickest selling region was Brisbane LGA at 37 days on market for houses to reach contract of sale, while Rockhampton was the slowest selling region at 69 days.
Coast LGA offered the smallest median vendor discount of 4.3 per cent, closely followed by Moreton Bay at 4.4 per cent, while Rockhampton offered the largest vendor discount of 9 per cent.
Over the quarter, Queensland’s rental market tightened compared to the corresponding period last year, which indicates that demand for rental accommodation continues to remain high, according to REIQ’s Quarterly Market Monitor.
Brisbane LGA’s vacancy rate tightened to 1.6 per cent, which marks the lowest rate for the region in over a decade and “enters the tight range (less than 2.5 per cent) for the first time since September quarter 2018”.
The Greater Brisbane market also recorded its lowest vacancy rate in over a decade at 1.7 per cent, placing it well within the tight range, while Ipswich and Moreton Bay-were the only areas to have fallen within the healthy rage at 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively.
In the coastal markets, Gold Coast remained in the healthy range with a vacancy rate of 3 per cent, while Sunshine Coast SD and Sunshine Coast LGA both moved into the healthy range with new figures at 2.6 per cent and 3.3 per cent, respectively.
All other coastal markets remained in the tight range except for Noosa, which experienced a sharp increase to 4.4 per cent, placing the region within the weak range for the first time since March 2017.
Meanwhile, Gympie has been deemed the tightest rental market for the quarter, reporting a vacancy rate of 0.3 per cent.
Further, the highest vacancy rate for the quarter was recorded at 6.8 per cent for the Cassowary Coast.
Mr Lawless said that properties within a 10-kilometre radius of the Brisbane CBD are tipped to boom in 2020 as oversupply issues that have plagued the market disappear.
In fact, he expects Brisbane to emerge as the big winner in the property market this year.
“My first option would be buying a detached house within Brisbane, an established home within 10 kilometers of the CBD, at least 607 square meters of land, that’s your classic 24 perch block there,” according to him.
“And you’re going to be renting it out for 650 to 750 bucks a week, so classic 5.5 per cent yield. Really good value there. Values haven’t really moved too much in that bracket, and you got inherent scarcity there as well.”
While Brisbane’s apartment market has already peaked four years ago, certain parts of the capital city remain as better buys compared to other farther suburbs.
Pure Property Investment’s Paul Glossop agreed that Brisbane’s freestanding established housing market will continue to show real value over the coming months.
However, Mr Lawless reminded investors to be careful as most experts have been waiting for the Brisbane property market to peak for a number of years now.
“I’ve probably done my fair share of suggesting Brisbane would show a much better performance, to be honest, so I need to be careful what I say. But, once again, I think it’s probably one of the best options to be buying into around Australia at the moment. It’s incredibly affordable,” Mr Lawless highlighted.
“Look at the last 10 years, values have risen less than incomes. They drop like 1.5, 2 per cent per annum, mixed with some subtle rises, some subtle falls. So it’s a very affordable market, Australia’s third-largest city, very strong population growth.”
For those looking to invest in properties at entry-level prices, Rocklea, located, 14 kilometres from Brisbane CBD, boasts a median house price of $407,000.
Meanwhile, for those looking to capitalise on growth opportunities, Brisbane’s inner-city suburb of Hawthorne emerged as the fastest-growing suburb, moving up by 6.0 per cent for the year.