What is going on in the Sydney housing market?
Sydney home values have increased by 17.6% over the 12 months to August 2015 and by 14.0% over the first 8 months of 2015. Sydney home values have been trending higher since they reached a low point in May 2012 and since that time Sydney home values have increased by a total of 49.5%. To put that growth in perspective, a home worth $500,000 in May 2012 would now be worth $747,704. The data presented shows that home values have been trending higher at a fairly rapid pace however, more recent data may point to a slowing of the rate of growth. Home values rose by 1.1% over the month of August however, data for September is showing a much more sluggish rate of growth in home values with values -0.3% lower over the twenty eight days to 20 September.
Unfortunately sales transactions are not a timely indicator of the market’s performance due to delays in receiving the full population of settled sales transactions. Furthermore, off-the-plan sales are entered into sales counts at their contract date however, the record is not received until settlement which could be several years down the track for large projects. As a result, when you have heightened off-the-plan sales activity as we currently do, unit sales in particular are inclined to be undercounted. The latest sales data to June 2015 shows that over the second quarter of the year there were 23,432 sales. Compared to the same quarter in 2014, house sales were -5.5% lower and unit sales were -16.5% lower.
Time on market
At the end of July 2015 the typical Sydney home was selling after just 25 days. At CoreLogic RP Data we’ve been tracking the time on market since the beginning of 2005 and this is the quickest rate of sale recorded over this period. The combination of strong value growth and a rapid rate of sale suggests that demand is still quite strong across the city.
Auction clearance rates
The preliminary auction clearance rate for Sydney last week was 73.2% which was virtually unchanged from the final auction clearance rate the previous week. Importantly, in most instances the final auction clearance rates are revised lower. Auction clearance rates have shifted from their peak of almost 90% in April of this year to their current level. At the same time a year ago clearance rates were recorded at a higher 78%. It is important to note that over recent weeks the number of properties being taken to auction has been significantly higher than the number taken to auction a year ago. Nevertheless it is clear that the auction market which represents slightly more than a quarter of all Sydney home sales has weakened over recent months and has not rebounded so far during the Spring Selling Season.
The latest weekly listings data which tracks houses, units and vacant land for sale across Sydney shows that over the past 4 weeks there were 8,525 new listings and 20,121 total listings. New listings are now at their highest level since the week ended 30/11/14 and total listings are at their highest level since the week ended 14/12/14. Comparing listings to levels at the same time a year ago shows that new listings are currently 19.0% higher and total listings are up 5.0%. In the early part of the Spring Selling Season there is much more stock available for sale in Sydney than there was at the same time a year ago. Heightened stock levels at a time when auction markets are softening and value growth has shown some early signs of slowing may contribute to a further slowdown in the rate of capital gain over the coming months. This is due to the fact that active buyers are afforded more choice and may not have to pay such a price premium to secure a home.
The CoreLogic RP Data Mortgage Index tracks pre-purchasing activity and has shown some clear weakness over recent weeks. While the Index remains at quite high levels it has fallen by -2.0% over the past couple of weeks at a time when, seasonally, the trend should typically be rising. At the same time last year the index had risen by 1.2% over the previous two weeks. With mortgages, particularly investment mortgages becoming more difficult to obtain, we are potentially seeing the first signs that this segment of the market it is starting to slow resulting in an easing of demand.
The latest building approvals data for July 2015 shows that there was a record high 5,159 dwelling approvals over the month. This was comprised of 1,655 house approvals and 3,504 unit approvals. Over the 12 months to July 2015 there have been 15,213 house approvals and a record high 30,921 unit approvals. Sydney has consistently approved more units for construction than houses since early 1993. With a record pipeline of new housing stock it is going some way to alleviating housing shortages across the city. It also affords buyers much more choice when they are looking to purchase a new home
The latest housing finance data for New South Wales to July 2015 shows that demand from the owner occupier segment is starting to ramp-up while investor demand is starting to wane. Importantly, owner occupier demand includes refinances so if we look exclusively at new lending (excluding refinances) we also see owner occupier demand ramping up while investor demand seems to be waning. Investors still account for the greatest proportion of new lending (58.0%) however, two months ago investors accounted for a record-high 62.4% of all new mortgage lending in NSW.
Rents and yields
Over the 12 months to August 2015, rental rates across Sydney have increased by 2.3% which is the slowest annual rate of rental growth since May 2013. With rental growth sluggish and value growth remaining very strong, gross rental yields across Sydney have shifted to record low levels. Yields were recorded at 3.3% in August 2015 which is the softest yields on record. We’ve already mentioned that investor activity across NSW has recently hit record highs and remains elevated. It appears that many investors are having little regard for rental returns and are largely focussing on the future capital growth potential and the subsequent benefits from a negative gearing strategy.
Although the data is still generally undoubtedly strong, it appears there are signs that the market could be showing the first sign that growth rates are peaking. Record high new housing supply at a time when mortgage demand is seemingly slowing along with auction clearance rates and listings are rising points to potentially softer value growth conditions for the city. While we expect the rate of growth will likely start to slow, the significant stimulus of low mortgage rates is expected to ensure that home values continue to rise albeit at a more moderate pace.