By Herron Todd White
September 2020

Sydney is a large and diverse property market with multiple submarkets and many suburbs all with their own intricacies. As such, an overall increase or decrease in weekly values doesn’t paint the full picture as Sydney’s property market runs at different speeds and different timetables.

Spring has always been considered an excellent time to sell, particularly if you have a detached dwelling with a garden; the blooming plants and warmer climate make an attractive prospect for buyers.

With the effects of COVID-19 still playing out, we feel that properties that offer landscaped gardens and study rooms will further attract keen buyers as people continue to spend more time at home, either working or relaxing.

CBD/Inner East

Spring is traditionally a very active time within the inner Sydney market. Typically this is because properties present well in spring with nice gardens, natural light and warmer and dryer presentation of properties. Timing is also important as many families look to move during upcoming summer holidays, although ideally before Christmas.

Until COVID-19 struck in March 2020, the market was trending upwards, appearing to almost reach peak 2017 price levels in some areas. However since the pandemic took hold, market activity has been subdued and prices have ebbed lower to varying degrees across different market segments, with inner city, one-bedroom units and Company Title apartments appearing to be the hardest hit.

Generally, agents are reporting that listing numbers are down, however a prominent inner- city agency appears to still be generating good volumes, recently publishing that they sold “78 homes in July compared with 44 for the same period last year”. Other agents within the inner city have told valuers that they are turning down listings, particularly of one-bedroom units, to avoid flooding the market.

Typically the inner city is an investor-heavy area and it is understandable that there are going to be some investors who need to liquidate, however in other areas of the inner city, such as Zetland and Waterloo, where many recently completed units are now worth similar to (or less than) their off the plan purchase prices, many investors appear to be holding on.

Whilst prices have ebbed lower to varying degrees across different market segments, the most resilient product appears to be family homes in good quality areas such as Paddington and Woollahra. For example, 171A Windsor Street, Paddington (below) transacted for $5.675 million towards the start of the pandemic, surpassing its previous sale amount of $5.15 million on 20 December 2017, despite broader market conditions weakening during this time frame.

Inner West

Spring generally sees a large amount of stock come on to the market especially in prestige areas of the inner west including Balmain, Annandale, Glebe and Newtown. Discussions with local agents within these suburbs indicate that more listings are in the pipeline for spring 2020.

Both listing and transaction numbers are down from 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic has had its impact on the market. Due to the historically low levels of stock, the market for dwellings across the inner west has remained heavily unchanged and in some cases has seen some slight increase in sale prices. Transaction numbers have been down and the number of properties withdrawn from the market has increased which may indicate that people are waiting for overall market sentiment to improve.

As previously stated there hasn’t been too much of a decline in capital values within the inner west, therefore a rebound is not expected in spring. It has been observed that during mid-July and August, sale results have been slightly weaker in comparison to the beginning of 2020. If the predictions of local real estate agents of more listings in spring are realised, it is more likely that the increased competition could see downward pressure on sale prices, particularly where vendors are determined or motivated to sell.

Generally dwellings priced above $2.5 million have seen more listings withdrawn as vendors are more likely to be in the position of not needing to sell. In other cases however, owners may need to sell having committed to another property or needing to relocate. We have seen the final sale price of properties in the inner west in this price range discounted by as much as ten per cent on offers being made at the beginning of March prior to the lockdowns. On the unit side, there has been pressure on prices in areas with large levels of supply. A unit at 303/65 Shaftesbury Road, Burwood sold in June for $710,000. The selling agent advises that the unit market in Burwood, Strathfield and Homebush has been heavily impacted by the pandemic with large stock levels and flattened buyer demand. A similar unit within the same complex, 210/65 Shaftesbury Road, Burwood, sold for $823,800 in January this year. This anecdote signifies the weakened market conditions for strata units and apartments in higher density areas within the inner west where development in recent years has caused a current oversupply and the threat of weakened capital growth in the short to medium term.

Another example was the developer sale of 601/35B Upward Street, Leichhardt for $1.215 million in July. The sale was significantly lower than the other three-bedroom sales the same developer had completed at the beginning of the year and end of 2019, which ranged from $1.35 million to $1.55 million. The developer reasoned the decrease in price was due to limited demand due to the pandemic and negative sentiment towards brand new or off the plan strata units.

The market which has performed strongest is for dwellings priced above $1 million up to $2.5 million. Areas such as Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Rozelle, Balmain, Marrickville, Five Dock, Concord, Abbotsford and Drummoyne have seen steady value increases over the course of 2020.

A recent example of a strong sales result was an ex-Department of Housing owned property in Glebe (pictured below) which had been extensively fire damaged and was in need of a full refurbishment. We valued this property for a client prior to the auction. They were expecting the property to sell for somewhere around the $700,000 to $750,000 range (and they were not prepared to bid higher than this), due to the condition of the property and the price guide being within close proximity to this range. At our inspection of the property a few days before the auction, we observed several groups of potential buyers inspecting the property and after talking to our client and the selling agent, it was evident that there was likely going to be strong interest come auction day.

After carrying out our research and taking into consideration the condition of the property (we were also provided with a building report), we advised our client a value range of $750,000 to $850,000 and explained that the strong interest in the property and lack of similar stock available at this price point were likely to push the sale price to the upper end of this range. Our client contacted us just after the auction on Saturday, 22 August to advise that unfortunately they did not purchase the property as it ended up selling well above everyone’s expectations for $916,000 with a crowd “busier than the footy”.

This example illustrates that there is still strong demand for certain property types and price points, particularly when located within close proximity to the CBD, parks, restaurants and cafes, especially when there is a shortage of supply.

Western Sydney

Traditionally, the warmer months in western Sydney have been an ideal time to sell your property. Spring highlights the greener gardens and general appeal of ancillary improvements such as swimming pools. Buyers are usually more motivated in this period and there’s usually an uplift in listings.

These are extraordinary times though. With a decrease in consumer confidence due to some expectation of a second wave plus federal government initiatives helping to maintain the market, supply has remained relatively low which has contributed to alleviating the downward pressure on property prices. Heading into spring, this is not expected to improve much with the potential for more downward pressure on prices as the pandemic increases the pressure on paying off mortgages which could increase supply in the short term.

In the current market, some suburbs in western Sydney are now seeing increased levels of supply of new units. This factor coupled with current negative market sentiment towards residential units has resulted in some recent sale prices below the off the plan purchase price. An example is 309/63- 67 Veron Street, Wentworthville, NSW, 2145, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit which sold off the plan at $565,000 in 2016 and resold this year at $485,000 with even more new supply being introduced to the area.

Areas that have performed better are in the growth areas and the land around the Western Sydney Aerotropolis at Badgerys Creek. With a transformation from cow paddocks into a new economic hub, those who owned land prior to rezoning saw prices increase significantly from the original purchase price. Suburbs connected to this precinct such as St Marys, which is set to be a major transport intersection connected to the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, could potentially see an increase in activity in spring as investors and home buyers look to invest nearby. Sales activity in the area has shown an increase compared with 12 months ago.

North and North-West

Spring listings equated to approximately 30 per cent and 25 per cent of the overall Northern Beaches listings in the 2018 and 2019 periods (source: sqmresearch.com.au), so whilst it is one of the stronger seasons, the general shortage of property results in stock levels remaining fairly consistent throughout the year.

Listing numbers were down approximately 12 per cent throughout the first half of 2020 (6,590 listings) compared to 2019 (7,452 listings) (source: sqmresearch.com.au), although June and July recorded strong listing numbers of 1009 and 1060 compared to the same period in 2019 of 850 and 743. This is indicative of current market sentiment; vendors and buyers have adjusted to COVID-19 conditions and are gaining confidence transacting in this market. Without another significant COVID-19 outbreak and as capital values begin to stabilise, we are anticipating listing numbers to continue to rebound.

As rental yields have been most impacted by COVID-19, we anticipate investor driven stock to remain one of the weaker sub-markets. Owneroccupier stock has been well sought after across the board. We have seen several scenarios of local buyers upsizing, as well as expats returning home during the pandemic, driving the prestige markets, particularly in Palm Beach and Manly.

In the north and north-west of Sydney, the impact of COVID-19 has been varied. A renovated 1920s Californian Bungalow in Lindfield recently sold for $4.25 million. This was $900,000 above its previous sale in September 2018. Since then, the property has been reconfigured internally with a new kitchen and ensuite bathroom. This is considered a good result and supported by the lack of comparable listings on the market which has been holding up prices.

Not so far away in Epping, another updated 1925 Californian Bungalow recently sold for $2.375 million. Of particular interest is that it sold for $500,000 less than its previous transaction in May 2017. This highlights that some parts of Sydney have still not recovered from the lofty heights of 2017, whereas others have stabilised or slightly improved.

Further west in Castle Hill, a two-bedroom unit in the Atmosphere development recently sold for $860,000. The unit is located on level four and provides one car space. This represents the same sale price as that paid off the plan in 2015. This is not uncommon for new units being sold off the plan. The premium attached to the new product may not always be absorbed upon settlement, particularly if the market weakens after the deposit is paid.

We consider any price growth to be limited for this asset class given the upcoming supply of new residential units in the local area under construction and proposed.

Southern Sydney

With the region popular for its beaches, rivers and parklands, the spring season is traditionally a very busy time in the Sutherland Shire and St George area. The spring season has always been the most popular time for vendors to list their properties for sale.

Agents have advised that although the market is slightly down for this time of year, it has picked up over the past couple of months and they expect the spring season to be reasonably strong.

Whilst there has been a considerable amount of pessimism around new units in suburbs with large amounts of supply, government stimulus measures for first home buyers look to be hitting the sweet spot for this product in the Sutherland Shire. A local agent in Miranda who specialises in off-the-plan unit sales recently advised one of our valuers that nine out of ten current buyers are first home owners.

In May, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in South Village, Kirrawee sold for $733,000 after being purchased from the developer six months earlier for $715,000. Whilst we haven’t seen too many examples of resales of modern units which have sold for more than their 2016 through 2018 off the plan purchase price, an increase in first home buyers into this market will help make up for the drop off in investors who have been hit by falling rents and increasing vacancy rates.

Prestige

Higher value properties on Sydney’s North Shore follow the seasonal cycle, just as most other submarkets do. Spring is usually when we start to hear a buzz about prominent homes coming to the market, but obviously this year is going to be an unprecedented one.

Since March, the prestige sector of the market on the Lower North Shore has experienced reduced listing and transaction numbers. This reduction has actually balanced the market equilibrium, with the reduced supply lining up with reduced demand. With some vendors deciding to sell over the past few months due to various reasons, buyers have been relatively active waiting for a quality property to come to the quiet market. In some circumstances, this has led to excellent results, bucking the trend of what most market observers expected to see.

Looking at some recent data, the past three full months (May, June and July) have yielded ten sales in Mosman over $5 million. The same period in 2019 resulted in 19 sales over the $5 million mark, so roughly double the transactions according to RP Data records. Interestingly, and supporting the notion of a currently balanced market, the median house price in Mosman has increased since the start of the pandemic volatility period in Australia. As at 1 March this year, the median house price in Mosman was $3,525,500. The current median price has now increased to $3.7 million (sourced via Realestate. com.au). Although median house prices paint a very broad picture, it seems that prices are holding up under the current conditions.

In looking to the upcoming spring selling season, you would have to be extremely brave to predict exactly what will occur. In saying that, early signs are showing that the prestige market on the Lower North Shore is continuing to remain resilient. The obvious reason surrounding this would be the lower percentage of households under mortgage stress in this affluent area coupled with the share market having recovered and showing strong results.

One major concern for both prices and rentals is the large reduction in overseas buyers and tenants, and this has been highlighted by multiple selling agents in the area, however it appears that this concern is currently being off-set by a large number of expatriates returning home to the relatively safe haven of Australia during this time of turmoil. An example of this was Domain.com.au reporting the withdrawal of 8 Burran Avenue, Mosman in late March due to issues surrounding the pandemic. In a sign of market confidence in this prestige sector, spurred by returning expatriates, this property was re-listed at the end of July.

All things taken into account, the market is headed into some uncharted territory this spring. There are many factors, some known and others unknown, which could impact the market in coming months. Although we expect the prestige market on the Lower North Shore to remain relatively resilient, only time will really tell.

Activity in the prestige market of the eastern suburbs has remained strong with expectations of this continuing throughout spring. At the time of writing, since the beginning of June, Bellevue Hill had 14 sales above $5 million, the same as it saw over the same period in 2019. Vaucluse has had 12 sales above $5 million since June, double the amount sold in that period last year. Median house prices in these two larger suburbs in the east have increased slightly from March through to July, bucking the trend in the wider Sydney market. Bellevue Hill saw its median price of $5.79 million increase to $6 million from March to July, while Vaucluse went from $4.92 million to $5.2 million (source: Realestate.com.au).

In the south, the prestige market above $5 million has been fairly subdued in activity over the past six months. This has mainly been due to a lack of stock hitting the market, however some recent waterfront sales indicate that strong prices can still be achieved. Three marketed sales above $5 million have occurred since June: a Dolans Bay sale at a tick over $5 million and two Burraneer sales at $7.3 million and $7.1 million. The latter, which sold in late August, was the record auction result for a property in the Sutherland Shire. These strong results, along with the warmer months being more suited to selling waterfront properties, are likely to see some increasing activity in this space throughout spring.

Shaun Thomas
Residential Director

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