First home buyer sentiment sinks as property prices climb: ME Bank


Australians looking to buy their first home are feeling increasingly negative about the property market thanks, in part, to skyrocketing house prices across the country.

That’s one takeaway from ME Bank’s latest Quarterly Property Sentiment Report, which outlines the attitudes Australians hold towards the residential property market based on a national survey of 1,000 first home buyers, owner occupiers and investors.

The report found that 34% of first home buyers are currently feeling negative about the property market - the highest level of negativity expressed since 2019 and a five percentage point increase on last quarter.

Unsurprisingly, levels of positive sentiment among the cohort dipped to a two-year low of 24%, while those feeling neutral remained relatively steady at 42%.

Overall, sentiment across all survey respondents also decreased. Positivity towards the property market has dropped from 49% to 42% since the start of the year, while negativity increased from 14% to 19%.

"When property prices and interest rates lowered last year during the pandemic, a unique buying opportunity opened up for confident first home buyers with cash savings and secure employment, while many investors became nervous,” said ME’s head of home loans and personal banking, Claudio Mazzarella.

“Now prices have rebounded strongly and affordability is going down, first home buyers aren’t feeling as positive.”

Affordability issue going nowhere

The issue of housing affordability is not a new topic by any means, but as Mazzarella noted, it’s a problem which is being put under an increasingly greater spotlight because of the rapid rate of house price growth.

In fact, according to ME’s survey, 91% of respondents agreed that housing affordability is a big issue in Australia.

And this isn’t an issue confined to major cities or certain parts of Australia. In the past six months home values have increased in major markets across the country, and by significant margins in smaller cities like Darwin, Hobart and Canberra as well as regional areas.

Corelogic’s latest figures show that national home values rose by 7.8% over the past year, leading to a national median home value of $624,997 and even higher figures in markets like Sydney ($950,457), Melbourne ($744,667) and Canberra ($734,107).

Growth rates have been particularly strong in the first few months of 2021, with the 2.8% monthly increase in March the fastest level of growth since October 1988.

As a result, it appears some prospective buyers are starting to be priced out, including first home buyers.

The latest lending indicators released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that while home loan commitments in general continued to grow in March, first home buyer commitments declined by 3.1% - the second straight month in which they’ve dropped.

Regional supply causing concern

Another one of the major issues troubling Australians is the rising concern about lack of housing supply.

Of those surveyed by ME, 60% believed that there isn’t currently enough choice or supply in the residential property market - up 17 percentage points on last quarter’s figure.

Interestingly, this sentiment resonated most strongly in regional areas. Nearly two in three regional buyers said that there ‘isn’t enough choice’, with the highest levels coming from those in regional New South Wales (71%).

That compares to 57% of metropolitan buyers who reported that there was not enough choice on the market.

“With more city dwellers moving to sea or tree change areas, supply is dwindling and adding pressure to prices,” said Mazzarella.

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Interested in reading more on the latest property news, including the newest measures to come out of the 2021-22 Federal Budget? Check out the Mozo home loans news hub for even more articles.

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