Surging property prices push Australian household wealth to record high

rooftops-and-cityscape-melbourne

The wealth of Australian households has increased at the highest rate in over a decade, and the largest contributing factor is unlikely to come as much of a surprise: rising property prices.

New figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that total household wealth rose by 4.3% to a record high of $12,033.5 billion in the December quarter - the largest quarterly rate of increase since 2009.

Residential assets, which includes land and dwellings, accounted for more than half of the quarterly increase in wealth, followed by superannuation balances and directly-held shares.

“The December quarter growth in household wealth was driven by rising residential property prices, reflecting record low interest rates, support through government programs such as the First Home Buyer and the HomeBuilder schemes, and pent up demand from buyers,” said ABS head of finance and wealth, Katherine Keenan.

“The growth in residential assets was seen across both owner-occupier and investor housing in the December quarter. Owner-occupier housing loans grew 1.9%, which was the strongest growth seen in four years, while investor housing loans grew 0.4%, which was the first positive growth recorded in the past two years.”

Despite the strong uptick in the December quarter, year-on-year growth in household wealth (7.0%) was actually marginally lower than the ABS’s long-term average of 7.3%. 

Of course, it's worth noting that these figures represent a picture at the macro level and don’t reflect the financial positions of many Australian households around the country.

Property values rise across the board

So how much have property values been rising of late?

Well according to data released earlier this month by CoreLogic, Australian home values ‘surged’ in February by 2.1% - the highest month-on-month change recorded in Corelogic’s National Home Value Index since August 2003.

Increases were recorded in all capital cities during February, with the largest being in Sydney (2.5%), Hobart (2.5%) and Melbourne (2.1%).

“The last time we saw a sustained period where every capital city and rest of state region was rising in value was mid-2009 through to early 2010, as post-GFC stimulus fueled buyer demand,” said CoreLogic research director, Tim Lawless. 

As Corelogic’s figures in the table below show, despite significant fluctuation and uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, home values have actually risen significantly in many areas over the past year - the exception being Melbourne.

Home value changes - Corelogic Home Value Index (February 2021)

QuarterAnnualMedian value
Sydney3.6%2.8%$895,933
Melbourne3.5%-1.3%$717,767
Brisbane3.5%5.0%$535,618
Adelaide2.7%7.3%$478,587
Perth4.2%4.6%$491,795
Hobart4.8%8.7%$535,994
Darwin5.5%13.8%$438,645
Canberra3.7%9.7%$706,454
Combined regional5.4%9.4%$438,815
National4.0%4.0%$598,884

And with home loan rates at record lows, incentives for first-time buyers - like the FHLDS - still being keenly accessed and responsible lending laws set to be loosened in the near future, demand for property may not be letting up anytime soon.

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