The markets not following the national decline – Louis Christopher

As property listing numbers slip nationally, Louis Christopher tells us that consumer sentiment is taking a real hiding at present.  Surprisingly, there are markets that are running counter to the national trend and he tells us where.


Kevin:   Well, no doubt, there’s a lot of consumer sentiment happening in the market now, that’s driving it, and it’s not driving it in a good direction. A reflection of that would have to be a study that was conducted recently by Louis Christopher, from SQM Research, that revealed that property listings are slipping nationally. He joins us. Good day, Louis, how are you doing?

Louis:   Good day there, Kevin.

Kevin:   You’re seeing a drop in listings, well, right around the country. Are there any areas that really stand out for you more than others, Louis?

Louis:   Ah, Kevin, yes. So the national result was a decline of 0.3 of a percent in the month of October, which is a little bit of a surprise, because normally, you get a seasonal rise in listings in October. But the citywide city result was quite varied. So on one hand, we had, for example, a 4.9% drop in listings in Darwin.

Louis:   On the other hand, we had a 10.3%, whopping increase, in Canberra. And then, the major cities, so Brisbane was unchanged, and in Sydney, we had a rise of 2.4%, and then, Melbourne also had a massive increase of 5.9%. So, it’s actually varied quite a lot, depending on which city we’re talking about, Kevin.

Kevin:   If we look at some of the major cities, even a, like a 2% or 3% downturn in numbers in say, Sydney, is massive, isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t take much to turn the market around.

Louis:   No. So, in Sydney, yeah, it was a rise of 2.4%. The yearly change for Sydney is that listings are up by 18.2%. Now, I think, Kevin, just to be clear for your listeners, how we view all this information is that we generally find it, when we see a rise in listings over the long term, say, over the year, it’s generally not good for the market.

Louis:   It means that stock’s not selling, and it’s going to pile up against each other, whereas, when we see year-on-year declines in listings, it generally suggests that the stock’s getting absorbed by buyers. And listings are falling and falling and falling, because there’s less sellers in the market, which is, generally pushes prices up.

Louis:   When we look at the year-on-year result, for example, Melbourne, it’s up by 24%, and that’s definitely implying to us, that that market is rapidly slowing down as we speak.

Kevin:   The dynamics, which we should look at, and we’ve discussed already in this show, if you look at days on market are starting to blow out. Success rates at auctions are falling.

Louis:   Yeah.

Kevin:   Yet we’re seeing, as you’re saying here, in some areas, particularly around Sydney, we’re seeing a growth in stock numbers, which is going to have a downward pressure on prices.

Louis:   That’s right.

Kevin:   Which is obviously what we’re seeing now, Louis.

Louis:   Yeah, that’s right. I mean, the reality is, in Sydney right now, prices on an annual basis have fallen by about 7% over the past 12 months. And we think it’s going to keep falling, unfortunately, for existing owners over the next 12 months. I’m not seeing any indicators or triggers or events right now that’s going to change that outlook, unfortunately.

Kevin:   Well, it probably will get worse. We’re coming up to an election next year, as well, and if Labour win, then, obviously, their threats of fiddling with negative gearing is … we’re probably already seeing the effect of that, with a breakdown in consumer confidence, or buyer confidence.

Louis:   Absolutely. I’m pretty convinced that investors, or potential investors and existing property investors, are now seriously factoring in a Labour government win, where negative gearing comes in very shortly afterwards.

Louis:   Our view, it’s likely, assuming that we go to the election in May next year, we think what will happen thereafter, assuming Labour wins, is that they’ll call a mini-budget, somewhere around August, and they’ll adopt the actual negative gearing changes from, probably, 1 July, 2020.

Louis:   That’s our view of the type of timeline they’re going to take, but I would say, from this point onwards, Investors are now starting to factor this into their equation.

Kevin:   Yeah, just playing a devil’s advocate for a moment, I would have thought that, given the fact that Labour have said that they’ll grandfather any past arrangements, there should be a rush to market, if people really believe that Labour are going to win, and make those changes. Or are we likely to see that happen, leading up to the election?

Louis:   There could be a rush, Kevin, and that may well still happen in the lead-up to the election, or the lead-up to the D-Day itself, or when these changes actually come in. I think, for now, there’s a little bit of uncertainty, in terms of exactly when it will actually come in. I’m not entirely convinced there will be a surge in investor demand, because-

Kevin:   Okay.

Louis:   The market right now, as you know, is depressed. So it would take a lot for investors to overcome, they’d be buying into a falling market, in Sydney and Melbourne. Of course, we know that banks have still got a choke hold on the investors, in terms of actually getting access to the credit.

Louis:   So, yeah, I’m just not so sure this time round, Kevin, we’re going to get that surge.

Kevin:   Another graph that I want to talk about in your latest report, too, and that is, not a graph, but a table. The capital city average asking price, there’s a little bit of red ink in there, I notice, around Sydney and Darwin. Is this sellers sort of coming to terms with the fact that it’s a falling market?

Louis:   Yes, it is. It’s sellers adjusting to the market, and I note, it’s also happening in Melbourne, as well. So, yeah, we like to follow what vendors are doing. It gives us a good indicator, in terms of vendor confidence, whether they’re confident enough to list their asking prices. Or are they losing their confidence, and then, having to drop their price?

Louis:   At the moment, in Sydney and Melbourne, and, as in the case with Darwin, as well, they’re dropping their asking prices. And indeed, I got to say, Kevin, looking at Darwin, the picture there isn’t good at all. Basically, the state, the Northern Territory government has stated that, effectively, they think the city’s going to go into recession next year.

Louis:   So it’s already had a pretty big downturn on the housing market, and it’s not looking too good there right now, at all.

Kevin:   Yeah, and nationally, of course, still looking at your graph, or your table, once again, all houses … pretty stable, really. There hasn’t been much movement annually, or the rolling month change is almost level.

Louis:   That’s right, yes. And look, it’s important, Kevin, to note that … Look, it’s not all negative everywhere.

Kevin:   No.

Louis:   So, Hobart, at the moment, is just firing along. Far more buyers than sellers. We’ve looked at the, what’s coming into the market, in terms of new stock. There’s not that much stock coming into the market at all. Vacancy rates are below half a percent in Hobart, and rents have lifted in Hobart, in the last 12 months alone, by 13%. Which is an incredible number.

Louis:   Then, we’re also seeing some positive signs on the rental market for Brisbane. So we think that surplus stock in the Brisbane CBD now is getting absorbed, by occupiers, tenants.

Kevin:   Yeah.

Louis:   And vacancy rates seem to be falling in most regions in Brisbane right now.

Kevin:   I’ve got to say, Canberra seems to be soldiering on quite well, too, doesn’t it? I mean, the growth in that market over the last 12 months, it’s been quite phenomenal, yep.

Louis:   Yeah, we’ve seen very strong growth, capital-wise, as well as rents. Rents are now seeing the real pickup, by over 5% per annum, which is very strong rental growth. I’d just note that, gee, we recorded a big surge in listings last month for Canberra. It was up by 10%, so all of a sudden, a large number of property owners wanted to sell. Not sure whether that’s just a blip, or whether that’s a sign of things to come.

Kevin:   Well, we’ll watch very carefully. SQM Research, that’s the place to go, if you want these sort of stats and these details on the market. Always a great indicator for us, what’s ahead.

Kevin:   Louis Christopher, from SQM Research. Louis, thanks for your time.

Louis:   Good to be here, Kevin.

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