Housing Retrospective: Thirty years of Australian property trends

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Dude, 1991 was wild. NASA launched the Hubble space telescope, printed jumpers were king, and houses near Bronte Beach in Sydney only cost $307,729. Them’s were simpler times. 

But if that hasn’t blown your mind already, a new progress report from Aussie Home Loans reveals just how much the Australian property market has evolved over the last thirty years. 

So dial up your modems, grab a Capri-Sun, and prepare to enter the time vortex. What have we learned about property since 1991?

Every market ‘up’ has a ‘down’ if you zoom out enough

A white cartoon house riding an upwards trending graph line on a blue background.

It’s inevitable that housing prices will escalate overtime, but it’s still staggering to comprehend that the overall capital growth in Australia over the last thirty years was 381.2%.

In that period of time, there were 7 booms and 7 busts, demonstrating the continuous ebb and flow of the market. The sustained value increases (booms) lasted an average of 41 months and saw +34% in growth, while the peak-to-trough declines (busts) usually only lasted a year, with average falls of -4.3%.

The current housing market upswing (which started in Oct. 2020) has lasted at least 17 months and produced the highest annual growth rate in housing values for the last thirty years.

Despite the heat, though, there may be cooling wobbles in the near future.

Housing affordability and interest linked to movements in the RBA cash rate

A hand pushes up a colorful bar on a bar graph. Background is deep purple.

The property market is highly influenced by the cost of housing finance, which the RBA cash rate directly affects.

The cash rate is like a handbrake the central bank uses to control inflation: if they pull the brake by raising the cash rate, they’re encouraging people to conserve their money to halt inflation. If they release the brake and lower the cash rates, interest rates across the board tend to lower – especially on home loans. This encourages consumers to pump money into the economy instead of saving it. 

Thirty years ago, the cash rate was as high as 12% due to high inflation. As of March 2022, the cash rate has been fixed at a record low 0.1% for 17 consecutive months.

However, now that inflation is on the rise again, many experts expect the RBA will lift the cash rate as early as August. This would be the first cash rate increase since November 2010.

RELATED: Will interest rates go up in 2022?

Remote working has risen due to the pandemic

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The pandemic has certainly accelerated the trend towards remote work, which greatly affects people’s housing preferences. The ABS has noted an increase in city-to-country migration as workers seek out calmer locales, while migration away from regional Australia hasn’t been nearly so eager. 

According to Corelogic, this demand in the regions has pushed up prices by almost +40%, compared to +21% in the capital cities.

Climate change and extreme weather influencing property purchasing decisions

A cartoon wind turbine beside a city on a field of blue.

Big weather and rising temperatures have affected property preferences enormously, and are poised to drive up home insurance premiums in the near future. This is one of many factors making home-ownership prohibitively expensive for some buyers.

Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Australians

A scared piggy bank caught between a house and rising red graph arrow and coins.

Surging prices and strong capital growth means that many Australians have been left behind in the property scramble. The latest figures from REIA show that housing affordability has dropped as much as nearly 6% in some areas, with many Aussies directing between 37-46% of their incomes towards mortgage repayments.

There are many other factors worsening the property gap, too, such as the rising cost of living affecting peoples’ ability to save for a deposit. As a result, there have been many cries for the federal government to make relieving housing stress a top priority.

Foreign investors and population growth driving extreme demand in Australian property market

A hand drops coins into a green model house. Purple background.

Australian property has been a magnet for overseas migration, with many advantages appealing to foreign investors and new migrants. 

ABS migration data reveals that the combined population of the eastern states increased by 50% over the last thirty years (an influx of around 6.9 million people). The eastern states saw the majority of this growth, with the coastal markets around major metropolitan hubs presenting attractive opportunities. This combined with remote work has put great upward pressure on coastal property prices.

Where will the property market go next?

An hour glass on a red background.
Photo by Daniele Franchi.

While it’s impossible to predict the next thirty years, this retrospective report highlights the importance of long-term thinking. 

“Trying to pick what the market will do in the short-term can be distracting,” says CEO of distribution of the Lendi Group, Brad Cramb. “The last thirty years have shown us that property prices will invariably go up over time, so we encourage Australians not to get caught up in this short-term thinking.”

Keeping a finger on the pulse can predict where we’ll go for now, but unforeseen winds of change (like the pandemic) will always buffett us in new directions. So despite grim predictions about housing affordability, there is always hope for first-home buyers.

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