Biggest lift in Australian home prices in 17 years: CommSec’s Ryan Felsman

Biggest lift in Australian home prices in 17 years: CommSec's Ryan Felsman

EXPERT INSIGHT

The records have continued to tumble for the Aussie property market in early 2021. National home prices surged 2.1 per cent in February – the most since August 2003. Regional home prices also gained 2.1 per cent – the most in 17 years. And capital city home prices rose by 2.0 per cent – the biggest lift since September 2003.

Home prices are at record highs in Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart. Canberra home prices (up 1.9 per cent) rose the most in 13½ years; Perth home prices (up 1.55 per cent) lifted the most in 14 years; Brisbane home prices (up 1.5 per cent) gained the most in 13 years; and Hobart home prices (up 2.5 per cent) surged the most in 17 years. And it was the biggest lift in Sydney home prices (up 2.5 per cent) and Melbourne (up 2.1 per cent) since late 2019. 

But it’s regional Aussie housing markets – benefiting from lifestyle choices, remote working arrangements, internal migration, closed borders and better affordability – that are seeing massive price gains during the pandemic. Regional home prices climbed by 2.1 per cent in February – the biggest lift in 17 years. Regional home prices surged 9.4 per cent in the year to February – the strongest annual growth rate in 16½ years. CoreLogic data also shows that median home prices are at record highs in 53 of the 88 SA4 regions with just Townsville (down 0.6 per cent) and the NSW Riverina (down 0.3 per cent) posting price declines in February.

Biggest lift in Australian home prices in 17 years: CommSec's Ryan Felsman

Can home prices lift further from here? Absolutely. Preliminary CoreLogic capital city auction clearance rates hit 81.9 per cent last weekend with buyers keen to borrow to upgrade or buy another home.

The smaller capital cities are leading home price gains with Sydney and Melbourne still lagging. In fact, dwelling prices in Sydney are still 1.1 per cent below the July 2017 peak and Melbourne home prices are 1.7 per cent below the March 2020 peak. And resources boom towns – Perth and Darwin – still have a lot of catching up to do. In fact, Perth home prices are still a huge 17.4 per cent below the June 2014 peak and Darwin prices are 23.4 per cent below the April 2014 peak.

While slower population growth and rising supply of detached houses could slow price momentum, Commonwealth Group (CBA) economists forecast national home prices to lift by around 8.0 per cent in 2021. 

What do the figures show?  

Home prices – February 2021

The CoreLogic Home Value Index of national home prices rose by 2.1 per cent in February to be 4.0 per cent higher over the year. 

In capital cities, prices rose by 2.0 per cent to be up 2.6 per cent over the year. House prices climbed 2.3 per cent and apartment prices rose by 1.1 per cent. House prices were up 3.6 per cent on a year ago, but prices of apartments decreased by 0.1 per cent.

In regional areas, home prices jumped 2.1 per cent with house prices also up 2.1 per cent and apartment prices up by 1.9 per cent. Regional home prices were up 9.4 per cent on the year with houses lifting 9.7 per cent and apartments up 7.9 per cent.  

The average Australian capital city house price (median price) in February was $723,607 and the average unit price was $581,652.

Home prices were higher in all eight capital cities in February: Sydney (+2.5 per cent); Melbourne (+2.1 per cent); Brisbane (+1.5 per cent); Adelaide (+0.8 per cent); Perth (+1.5 per cent); Hobart (+2.5 per cent); Darwin (+0.7 per cent); Canberra (+1.9 per cent).

Home prices were higher than a year ago in seven of the eight capital cities in February: Sydney (+2.8 per cent); Melbourne (-1.3 per cent); Brisbane (+5.0 per cent); Adelaide (+7.3 per cent); Perth (+4.6 per cent); Hobart (+8.7 per cent); Darwin (+13.8 per cent); Canberra (+9.7 per cent).

Total returns on national dwellings rose by 7.6 per cent in the year to February with houses up 8.5 per cent and units up by 5.0 per cent on a year earlier. In contrast, the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries Accumulation Index rose by 9.6 per cent over the year to February.

Conclusion

Australia’s property market is strong, driven by record-low borrowing costs, government stimulus, low housing inventories and an improving labour market backdrop. Of course, the lift in home prices is good for the household ‘wealth effect’ and consumer confidence – pivotal for continued retail spending. The lift in home building supports jobs in the construction sector with ‘brickies’ in short supply. But housing affordability is becoming an issue with Sydney the third least affordable and Melbourne the sixth least affordable housing markets according to recent reports from Bloomberg, Urban Reform Institute and Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

That said, the Reserve Bank’s private sector credit or loans data released last Friday suggests that housing sector credit growth (up 3.6 per cent over the year to January 2021) remains subdued when compared with historic levels. CBA Group economists expect housing credit growth to remain low and do not expect macro‑prudential policies to be implemented in 2021. But the lift in household mortgage debt will unnerve policymakers.

Australia’s factory sector is in good shape. According to the AiGroup, production rose to multi-decade highs in February. The AiGroup gauge hit 3-year highs with surveyed purchasing managers suggesting that government stimulus is driving up demand as the economic recovery gains traction.

Biggest lift in Australian home prices in 17 years: CommSec’s Ryan FelsmanRyan Felsman  |  Mar 1,2021

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