From Four Corners copied for the record! It’s crook! (ed)
Going, Going, Gone: What’s driving Australia’s property frenzy
“I just don’t believe how much prices have jumped. These prices are far exceeding what I think is a fair and reasonable market price.” Buyer’s agent, Sydney
Across Australia, property prices are going through the roof, pushing the total value of residential real estate to a staggering nine trillion dollars.
“It is definitely the hottest market I’ve ever seen with the low supply, the lower interest rates and the cost of borrowing, money being so cheap.” Real estate agent, Brisbane
When the pandemic hit in 2020, there were fears the property market would collapse. Instead, house prices have risen at the fastest pace in at least three decades.
“We thought it would stop for a pandemic, but it hasn’t. I think it’s gone against all the experts and predictors out there; it just keeps going.” Auctioneer, Melbourne
City prices are eye watering, and the phenomenon is spreading. As people seize the chance to work from home, a stampede of buyers has sparked a property buying frenzy in regional Australia as well.
“Properties in Tasmania are literally selling within around about 48 hours. I’d say that for every property that we sell, we could probably sell it 10 times over.” Real estate agent
On paper, it’s made many homeowners across Australia millionaires. In reality, it’s seen buyers mortgaged to the hilt, while others are priced out altogether.
“The great Australian dream has been about home ownership. It’s now become a lot of people’s nightmare.” Housing policy expert
On Monday, Four Corners tracks the property price boom that’s fuelling risky and irrational behaviour and investigates what is driving it.
“People are buying property sight unseen from another state. People are waiving their rights to finance…they’re not doing building inspections…there’s a lot of people taking a lot of risk.” Buyer’s agent, Tasmania
For many people, the housing market has become unaffordable and it’s creating a generational divide. Home ownership among those under the age of 45 has plunged to levels not seen since the 1950s.
“For my generation it means a lot less home ownership. I feel it’s very unfair.” Sydney home hunter
There’s a sense of despair and disillusionment from many who have worked and saved, only to see their dream slip out of sight.
“I did everything right. I did everything that every politician has ever told us to do… The situation’s left me feeling completely defeated.” Nurse, Tasmania
As the divide between the haves and have nots grows, housing experts warn there will be consequences.
“Housing has become, rather than a place of security where you raise a family, something that you seek to create wealth from and speculate on. So, that is a really big shift over the last 40 years. And it’s one that I don’t think will serve the future well.” Housing expert
Going, going gone, reported by Stephen Long, goes to air on Monday 1st November at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 2nd November at 1.00pm and Wednesday 3rd at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
1st November, 2021
GOING. GOING, GONE.
ADRIAN PISARSKI, EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL SHELTER: The great Australian dream has been about home ownership; it’s now become a lot of people’s nightmare.
ELLY CLARK, HOMEBUYER: The last zoom auction we were on, we had 28 people registered to bid and it went nearly a million dollars over the guide.
STEPHEN LONG, REPORTER: At the start of the COVID outbreak, economists warned house prices could fall by 10 to 30 per cent.
How wrong they were.
CLARENCE WHITE, AUCTIONEER: I think that buyers have seized the opportunity in lockdown to pounce and to purchase right now.
JEREMY TYRELL, AUCTIONEER: We thought it would stop for a pandemic, but it hasn’t, and I think it’s gone against all the experts and predictors out there, it just keeps going.
AGENT: What was asking price on that again?
2nd AGENT: 1.38, offers over.
ADRIAN KELLY, PRESIDENT, REAL ESTATE INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA: Properties in Tasmania are literally selling within around about 48 hours.
I’d say that for every property that we sell we could probably sell it 10 times over.
STEPHEN LONG, REPORTER: This year house prices have risen at the highest rate in at least three decades.
ELIZA OWEN, HEAD OF RESEARCH, CORELOGIC AUSTRALIA: When you have a rapid rise in house prices, it widens the gap between those who have property and those who don’t have property.
ELLA BLACKBURN, HOUSEHUNTER: Sometimes people go through, and they actually say like, ”Oh, this is
going to be my fourth investment property.”
And it’s, it’s hard, it’s pretty gut wrenching.
STEPHEN LONG: Nine trillion dollars is now sunk into Australian homes, three times the entire pool of money in superannuation.
Housing has become the great divide between the young and the old, the well off and the less so.
PAT LUANGSANGTHONG, FIRST HOMEBUYER: For my generation it means a lot less home ownership.
I feel it’s very unfair.
SAUL ESLAKE, ECONOMIST: I’m surprised there isn’t more anger among younger people about the way in which the housing market has been rigged against them and their life chances by their parents’ generation.
ASHLEY MAY: The situation’s left me feeling completely defeated, I did everything right, I did everything that every politician has ever told us to do.
AUCTIONEER: And it goes, we sell, we sell, welcome home.
STEPHEN LONG: Tonight, on Four Corners, the extraordinary cost of home ownership in Australia.
We take the pulse of prices, and hear from people frozen out of the market, as we investigate what’s causing the housing affordability crisis.
STORY TITLE: GOING, GOING, GONE.
AGENT: Good afternoon how you going?
HOUSEHUNTER: I’m good thank you.
Thanks for taking the time to book in the inspection.
STEPHEN LONG: Welcome to real estate COVID lockdown style.
AGENT: So, this is 7 Eullabah Avenue in Earlwood.
It’s a 3 bedroom double fronted bungalow, it was built in the 1940’s, it’s in a nice little cul-de-sac street.
STEPHEN LONG: Agent Adrian Tsavalas is showing a prospective buyer through this bungalow at Earlwood, about 15 kilometres from the CBD in Sydney’s inner southwest.
ADRIAN TSAVALAS, REAL ESTATE AGENT: There’s a shortage of stock at the moment.
So, buyers are forced to compete a little bit harder, due to less opportunity.
The average number of bidders at our auctions has increased from five to 10, since going into lockdown and the number of properties that we’re carrying on the market is about 50%.
STEPHEN LONG: Earlwood is classic, middle-class suburbia – for decades seen as the domain of your average family.
ARCHIVE: Earlwood is a nice middle-class electorate, not quite the bluest of the blue but nonetheless held comfortably by the Liberals for the last 28 years.
STEPHEN LONG: It’s the suburb where former prime minister John Howard grew up.
Now if you own a house here outright, at least on paper, you’re almost certainly a millionaire.
ELIZA OWEN: Across Earlwood, a typical house value has gone up about 66% since mid-2019 so, you’re talking about a median house value that’s gone from about 1.1 million to 1.8 million.
AUCTIONEER: Thank you so much for joining us in this brave new world of digital auctions online on Zoom this evening, our offering tonight is the personification of the Australian dream, isn’t it?
It’s a home that retains charm and character of its era with soaring ceilings, ornate cornices the dark timber boards.
STEPHEN LONG: On auction day the agents are working prospective buyers and bidding for one on the phone.
AGENT: 135 Clarence.
AUCTIONEER: Let’s start it away there at a million, three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, it’s cheap and cheerful should be easy buying easy bidding at that level.
BIDDER: One and a half…
STEPHEN LONG: Bidding climbs to one point five million, more than double what it sold for 10 years ago – but it’s not enough.
AUCTIONEER: I understand big decisions for our vendors, big decisions for our buyers, surely you don’t let it go for that, chips are down, ownership beckons.
AGENT: Clarence, we’re selling.
AUCTIONEER: There you go, the magic words.
Once, twice, third, last chance, is there any better bid?
We let it go we sell it though at one million 710 thousand dollars, it is sold!
Congratulations well bought.
STEPHEN LONG: Go back a year, would you have imagined that a bungalow like this, in this suburb, would be selling for more than 1.7 million?
ADRIAN TSAVALAS: No, definitely not, if, rewind 12 months ago, I’d say this would probably be a 1.2, $1.3 million house, by way of, the way it’s configured.
When we took on the job, we thought 1.5, maybe 1.6, and that was consistent with our feedback, throughout the campaign.
STEPHEN LONG: Across the nation house prices have skyrocketed.
ELIZA OWEN: Australia-wide housing values have gone up 20% over the past 12 month and that’s the strongest annual growth rate we’ve seen in about 31 years.
STEPHEN LONG: In June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics put the price of the average Australian dwelling, apartments and houses combined, at 836 thousand dollars.
In the cities, it’s even higher.
LOUIS CHRISTOPHER, PROPERTY ANALYST, SQM RESEARCH: On our numbers, it’s actually just a little bit north of a million dollars now, that’s a huge amount of money it is a significant, I never would have thought I’d see that in my career as effectively being the average across the capital cities.
SAUL ESLAKE: For a majority of Australians, the property market has been an escalator to ever-greater levels of personal wealth and if you’ve been able to get on that escalator at the bottom, you’ve done exceptionally well over the following 30 years.
If you’ve been able to hop onto it at different points during that period, you’ve also shared in those gains.
But if you’re part of an increasing minority of Australians who haven’t been able to get the first foot on that escalator, you’ve missed out.
JASON FALINSKI LIBERAL MP, CHAIR, HOUSING AFFORDABILITY INQUIRY: We have created some of the least affordable housing in the world.
That isn’t just a failure, that is equivalent to intergenerational theft.
STEPHEN LONG: Since the early 1990 s, house prices have risen about 550 percent.
Home ownership’s now fallen to its lowest level since the mid-1950s.
SAUL ESLAKE: What’s really striking is the decline in the home ownership rate among people under the age of 45, which at the 2016 census was lower than it had been at the census of 1954.and I suspect when the 2021 results come out, that the home ownership rate among younger Australian adults, that is say between their 20s and mid 30s, will be lower than it was at the census of 1947.
STEPHEN LONG: And the affordability problem has spread beyond the biggest cities.
Housing in Hobart used to be cheap, no longer.
Median house price $726,955
12-month increase: 27.2%
SAUL ESLAKE: It now costs more to buy an average-priced house in Hobart, population 220,000, than it does in Adelaide, Brisbane or Perth, which are cities that have between five and ten times as many people as Hobart does.
But, at the same time, average wages in Tasmania are about 15% below those on the mainland, so, the difficulty that people face in getting into housing in Tasmania has deteriorated quite dramatically.
STEPHEN LONG: It’s a picture postcard Hobart home.
Buyer’s agent Kafka Dornom-Tassell is house hunting on behalf of interstate buyers who want to move here.
Her boss Jasmin Rankin is stuck in Melbourne amid the Covid lockdown.
VIDEO CALL: Hello
How you going?
JASMIN RANKIN: How did you go?
KAFKA DORNOM-TASSEL: Yeah, it’s a really good example of a 1900s Federation home, 200 square metres, the front portion of the home is currently occupied as an Airbnb and grossing about 50k per annum.
JASMIN RANKIN: Ok
STEPHEN LONG: Mainlanders, and expat buyers have been fuelling a frenzied market.
JASMIN RANKIN, BUYER’S AGENT: Oh, I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s ridiculous, most of the time properties are listed on a Thursday or Friday and it’s not uncommon for them to be under contract before the weekend’s open home has even been conducted.
The competition is fierce and yes, it’s crazy out there.
STEPHEN LONG: To compete, buyers are throwing caution to the wind.
JASMIN RANKIN: People are buying property sight unseen from another state.
People are waiving their rights to finance even though they clearly require financial approval in order to be able to proceed.
They’re you know, they’re not doing building inspections, just basic checks and balances people don’t have the time to, to conduct.
So, you know, there’s a, there’s a lot of people taking a lot of risk.
ADRIAN KELLY: Properties in Tasmania are literally selling within around about 48 hours, I’d say that. for every property that we sell we could probably sell it 10 times over and I’m not exaggerating.
The demand is through the roof and, and people are just, just paying well over the odds in order to secure a piece of Tasmanian real estate.
GRAPHIC: Bridgewater, TASMANIA, 7030
STEPHEN LONG: About 20 k’s from Hobart is this “renovator’s delight”.
A potential first home for a young couple.
AGENT: I’ll just grab your contact details, have a wander though, so this one is being advertised for the first time in just over 45 years.
GRAPHIC: JONATHAN MITCHELL, 32
ELLA BLACKBURN, 28
JONATHAN MITCHELL: Definitely with a renovation I could see ourselves living here, It’s a nice place.
ELLA BLACKBURN: Yeah, the further out of town you go the bigger you can get obviously, and this is about as big as we can get for our price range.
STEPHEN LONG: Jonathan and Ella have been looking for more than a year.
Like many of their generation, they’re employed on short-term contracts, which made it hard to get approval for a loan.
JONATHAN MITCHELL: Yeah, it’s stressful because you don’t know what’s going to happen in a year’s time, whether you’re still going to have a job, and whether you’ll still be able to pay your mortgage or pay your rent.
ELLA BLACKBURN: But we’re afraid that if we wait another year, when we might have more stable income, we won’t be able to afford anything.
STEPHEN LONG: The only way they’ve been able to save a deposit is by living with Ella’s dad because rents in Hobart are sky high.
ELLA BLACKBURN: All my friends have done the same thing, they lived with their parents or their in-laws, and then went from their parents’ place to buying a house.
I don’t know anyone that has rented.
STEPHEN LONG: Another open home and this house looks like it could be the one.
JONATHAN MITCHELL: I really like it really nice view, really nice street.
ELLA BLACKBURN: Offers over 419 for this house
JONATHAN MITCHELL: and our limit is 500,000 so I think we can put in a competitive offer for this place,
ELLA BLACKBURN: Hopefully we can get it.
JONATHAN MITCHELL: Yeah, I think we are in with a good shot if we put an offer on this place.
STEPHEN LONG: Jonathan and Ella offer 46 thousand dollars over the asking price and miss out.
ELLA BLACKBURN: I think it’s pretty dire if like Jonathan has a PhD and I have a master’s, and we can’t break into the market.
Like, I feel bad for people, like, you know, single parents, like I don’t know how they are meant to get into the market if we can’t.
SAUL ESLAKE: I’ve often said, over the last 15 years, that I’m surprised there isn’t more anger among younger people about the way in which the housing market has been rigged against them and their life chances by their parents’ generation.
But it would seem that instead of taking to the streets and demanding change in Australia’s housing system, Australia’s younger adults are taking out their revenge on their parents’ generation by refusing to move out of their homes.
GRAPHIC: ASHLEY MAY, 29
ASHLEY MAY: I’m the intake coordinator and educator for a small mental health hospital here in Tassie and I’m also a carer for my mother when I’m not at work.
I don’t have a bank of mum and dad; my mother was disabled since I was a child.
When I first came into nursing, you know, everyone was like, “Oh, you know, now you’re a nurse, you’ll be able to save a deposit, get a house” and in my suburb, houses at the time were going for $200,000 so a five per cent deposit was nothing, those prices have doubled in the past eight years easily.
So now, it’s just, unless I suddenly produce, you know, thousands of dollars out of
nowhere, it’s probably never going to happen.
STEPHEN LONG: Ashley lives with her mother in social housing.
She yearns to buy a home for them both.
ASHLEY MAY: Owning a house would mean the world, the absolutely world to me.
I mean, I don’t want a luxury apartment in the CBD, I just want a place to call mine.
I would feel safe, I would feel secure, I would be, I would feel like I had a future because I wouldn’t have to worry about what would happen in 20 years’ time, if, you know, I had a house.
STEPHEN LONG: But as prices soar, she’s had to accept she may never buy a home.
ASHLEY MAY: I did everything right; I did everything that every politician has ever told us to do.
We were told, growing up, that, you know, the Australian dream, owning your own house, all you have to do to get that is you go to school, go to college, go to university, get a good job, and boom, Bob’s your uncle, you’ll be able to get it, but it’s just not turned out that way.
ELIZA OWEN: Even trying to save as hard as you can to get into the market, doesn’t tend to matter anymore.
It’s more about who your parents are and what kind of wealth they have in their home and can help first-home buyers with.
ADRIAN PISARSKI, EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL SHELTER: Only the children of people who already have wealth, will be able to acquire homeownership in the future.
People who come from poorer backgrounds won’t.
It’s really become a class divide.
ARCHIVE: Just as the English have been called a nation of shopkeepers, so Australians might be called a nation of homeowners.
STEPHEN LONG: The cost of housing is undermining what was once a defining characteristic of Australian society.
ARCHIVE: Despite the twin penalties of mortgages and lawnmowing, Australians crave a home of their own, our national monument may well be a suburban cottage on a quarter acre block for this is what most Australians spend their lives working to pay off.
REPORTER: How important is it to a woman to have a home of your own?
HOMEOWNER: Very important, it’s a wonderful feeling to have your own home, I think it would be terrible not to have your own home.
STEPHEN LONG: At the end of World War Two, only about half of Australian households owned a home – then government made lifting home ownership a national priority.
ARCHIVE (ELECTION AD: Our choice on December the 10th is between a socialist government and a Liberal government.
Prime Minister Menzies saw it as a bulwark against communism, applauding the instinct to have a little piece of earth with a house and garden to call our own.
ELECTION AD: The Liberal Party believes that every worthwhile Australian wants to own his own home.
ADRIAN PISARSKI: In the Menzies era, they started out by making loans available from the Commonwealth to the states, which built housing for returning soldiers and various other lower-income households to get into home purchase.
SAUL ESLAKE: And the home ownership rate rose by about 20 percentage points, from 52%, at the 1947 census, to a peak of 72% at the census of 1966 and the reason why we were able to achieve such an extraordinary increase in home ownership was because governments focused on boosting the supply of housing and didn’t do anything beyond running a high immigration programme to inflate the demand for housing.
In particular, governments built quite a lot of houses themselves, either for rent to people on low incomes, or, after the election of the Menzies Government, for sale to people who had modest incomes, but not quite high enough to qualify for loans from the private savings banks.
PROF. CHRIS LEISHMAN, HOUSING ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: I think in many ways, that was a sort of golden era, in which Australia was seen as a place that, for people living here or, or moving here, migrating here, it was actually a realistic possibility to work hard, save money, buy a piece of land and build a house.
It was actually attainable for, for most people, so, housing was actually a method of attaining equality in that era.
STEPHEN LONG: No longer, these days you can’t escape the headlines about crazy house prices.
Wages can’t possibly keep up.
It’s creating a kind of mania where people think, if I don’t buy now, I’ll never be able to.
PROF. SHUPING SHI, ECONOMIST, MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY: What’s important over this period is the sentiment, is the worry of missing out, it’s the fear of missing out, it’s the panic buying behaviour.
STEPHEN LONG: Professor of Economics, Shuping Shi calls it housing fever.
PROF. SHUPING SHI: They probably want a house in the near future, but they worry that in the near future, the price will go up so much that they won’t be able to afford it, therefore they decided to purchase now.
STEPHEN LONG: So, you get a diabolical situation where people jump in for fear of missing out and that pushes up prices even further?
PROF. SHUPING SHI: That’s exactly the self-excitation process that we’re seeing at the moment in the market.
They hear all the exciting stories that’s going on in the market and the media report about how house price, auction results, exceed owner’s expectation and those reinforce the expectation of the market and attracted more and more people to go into the market.
STEPHEN LONG: With a colleague at Yale University, she’s devised an economic model to take the temperature of housing markets.
Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane are running hot.
Median house price: $731,392
12-month increase: 24.8 %
ADRIAN KELLY: Brisbane and Southeast Queensland are extremely popular markets at the moment largely because, people are wanting somewhere, safe to live as we come out of the pandemic, due to limited supply in those markets, property prices are just going up and up and up.
GRAPHIC: COORPAROO, QUEENSLAND, 4151
AUCTIONEER: Folks a very good afternoon, we’ll get this afternoon’s auction underway.
At one million 286 thousand and playing for ownership.
At one million 300 thousand dollars.
We sell, welcome home.
Sold to you at one million three hundred thousand dollars.
SCOTT NIVEN: Went hard yeah; we had a good crack but not enough in this market really.
ELLIA HENDRY: It’s been insane, honestly, it’s been insane, but you can only do what you can do.
SCOTT NIVEN: The one next door sold for 120 grand less – it’s a five-bedroom compared to this 3 bedroom, a month ago, markets going up.
ELLIA: HENDRY: it’s been insane.
SOLOMON MICHAEL, REAL ESTATE AGENT: It is definitely the hottest I’ve ever seen with the low supply, the lower interest rates and the cost of borrowing, money being so cheap.
Median house price: $972,659
12-month increase: 19.5%
LOUIS CHRISTOPHER: In Melbourne we’ve just come out of a period where buyers were not able to actually inspect a property.
Private property inspections were not allowed, let alone public property inspections.
Despite these restrictions, the market has continued to rise, which I find very surprising indeed.
JEREMY TYRELL, AUCTIONEER: Not too many people like to go and purchase a property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars without actually inspecting it and seeing it now that buyers can access properties that has really opened up the marketplace once again and the buyer interest is stronger than we’ve ever seen.
AUCTIONEER: Buyers the ball is in your court how much would you like to pay?
We have a seller who wants to sell so put your bids up on the chat.
STEPHEN LONG: For nearly 40 minutes, people with their heart set on this Melbourne home nudge the price higher and higher.
AUCTIONEER: At one million seven hundred thousand we are selling and playing for keeps.
One million 715…
Final call at 1, 759 about to go…
Going twice, third and final call…
This is an absolute marathon of an auction ladies and gentlemen, 791 is the price.
Hammers up, I will sell…
(hammer comes down) Sold at one million, 791,000 dollars.
JEREMY TYRELL: That was amazing competition, gruelling, and tiring and I’m done, just ferocious bidding that we’re seeing on property at the moment, yeah crazy.
Median house price: $1,333,767
12-month increase: 30.4%
LOUIS CHRISTOPHER: Sydney, for example, to get into the market right now, you would have to be earning close to at least $100,000 per annum, it’s proving very difficult for those who are below the average income.
ADRIAN KELLY: Sydney is obviously the least affordable city in Australia at the moment requiring something like 44% of, of average income to service a loan.
ELIZA OWEN: At that middle-income level, only 30% of dwellings are comfortably affordable for households, it’s even more staggering when you look at low-income earners; people who are on lower incomes can only afford about 1.9% of properties across Sydney.
STEPHEN LONG: Rob Stanley works as a buyer’s agent in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Today, he’s off to meet some clients and look at a three-bedroom semi.
It’s up the hill from the beaches in a backstreet of Bondi.
ROB STANLEY, BUYER’S AGENT: Been basically a buyer’s agent for 15 years and there’s been some waves, but the last two years have just been, I use the word incredible, that I just don’t believe how much prices have jumped and these prices that have been seen recently, are far exceeding what I think is a fair and reasonable market price, but it is, because people are paying it.
So that’s where the market is now.
STEPHEN LONG: The last time 8 Bennett Street Bondi changed hands was back in the post-war years.
NICHOLAS ARMSTRONG-SMITH, REAL ESTATE AGENT: It’s an original semi and first time offered since 1953.
So, 68 years of continuous family ownership.
This owner purchased this property for a thousand pounds or thereabouts and so it’s an interesting story from a thousand pounds all these 68 years later to a guide of $2.2 million.
So that’s quite an increase over those years.
STEPHEN LONG: Rob’s clients have a two-year-old and want to upgrade from a unit to a house.
AGENT: Great thank you, have a look through.
STEPHEN LONG: They’re willing to spend about 2.5 million, leaving aside some money for renovations.
ELLY CLARK: That to me is a really reasonable budget, so I don’t know whether it’s just a crazy spike in the market and, maybe we’re looking at the wrong time or whether this is just the way forward, but it seems quite unreasonable that you know looking for an average house that you were looking up to spending up to $3 million is seems quite bizarre.
STEPHEN LONG: The unrenovated home is a window on how much housing costs have soared.
On auction day, Rob’s clients had no luck.
ROB STANLEY: We were expecting 5 or 6 registered bidders there turned out be 17.
We were expecting the magic number to be like 2.5 to buy it, that’s what we heard through the agent.
We started off the auction at 2.4 million, 2.5, 2.6 it ended up hitting 2.7 twelve.
We weren’t surprised, clients were slightly disappointed, but with that much interest it just kept going, just kept going, and the fear of missing out was there.
STEPHEN LONG: Had this 2.7-million-dollar-plus property merely tracked the inflation rate over the past 68 years, it would be worth about 37 thousand dollars.
STEPHEN LONG: What do you think is causing this?
ELIZA OWEN: I mean the big one would be low interest rates.
The lower the cost of debt, the more people are incentivized to borrow and buy, so that’s put a lot of additional pressure on the housing market.
STEPHEN LONG: Old houses are full of stories.
In another semi, we find a little piece of history.
STEPHEN LONG: When they pulled up the flooring in this room, they found a bunch of old newspapers and have a look at this one, have a read of that headline.
This is the Sunday Telegraph from August 11, 1963, it’s extraordinary to think that all the way back then, the headlines were about young people being frozen out of the housing market.
But the issue then wasn’t high prices, it was strict lending standards.
Banks were very conservative about how much people could borrow.
ARCHIVE (Bank MANAGER): This will leave you approximately 950 pounds which you haven’t got and is commonly known as the deposit gap.
ARCHIVE (reporter): To buy most consumer goods on long term repayment requires very little if any deposit but to buy a house the purchaser needs up to a third of the total price.
LOUIS CHRISTOPHER: We had an issue of rationing of credit, perhaps too much rationing of credit at that time.
But after the deregulation of the financial sector, lending really opened up.
No doubt when we consider the past 30 years, the deregulation of the financial sector has been one of the key drivers behind the rise in dwelling prices over that period of time.
STEPHEN LONG: Generous tax concessions for property investors – including the halving of the capital gains tax under the Howard government – have also played a part.
SAUL ESLAKE: What of course that’s done, has been to put investors in competition with would-be home buyers for what’s a limited supply of housing.
People who might otherwise have been able to buy, can’t afford to do so, in competition with investors who get their interest cost subsidised by other taxpayers through negative gearing and who pay less tax on the capital gains they ultimately intend to make, than the tax people pay on their wage and salary income.
STEPHEN LONG: Labor took a policy to wind back these tax concessions to the last two federal elections…and lost.
Now it’s dropped the plan.
ADRIAN PISARSKI: We were extremely disappointed in Labor for doing that.
We don’t think that you can do anything meaningful about rebalancing homeownership in Australia without addressing those tax settings.
STEPHEN LONG: To compete against investors and break into the market, first home buyers are having to take on eye-watering debts.
GRAPHIC: PAT LUANGSANGTHONG, 28
FIRST HOME BUYER
PAT LUANGSANGTHONG: You see a listing that you like, and you know you start imagining what it would be like to live there or start imagining living in that particular suburb and where you would put certain furniture and you go from there and perhaps sooner rather than later you realize the price guide is way beyond what you initially hoped it would be.
Pat Luangsangthong is looking for a one-bedroom flat within reasonable distance of her work in Sydney.
AGENT: So, we can only have one time through at a time.
STEPHEN LONG: Do you think it’s going to go within your price range?
PAT LUANGSANGTHONG: Probably on the edge of.
STEPHEN LONG: Her family are stumping up half the deposit.
But she’s still going to have to borrow so much that beyond basic needs, there won’t be much left for anything else.
PAT LUANGSANGTHONG: With the maximum borrowing power and current interest rates, I’m looking at 40% to 50% repayment which would be really difficult.
STEPHEN LONG: 40% to 50% of your income?
PAT LUANGSANGTHONG: Yes, yes, and that’s taking into account the current interest rates so if that goes up, I’m going to be put in a really difficult position.
PROF. CHRIS LEISHMAN, HOUSING ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: It wouldn’t take much of an increase in interest rates to put some people in real trouble, I think it’s a huge concern, not just for individuals but for the economy.
STEPHEN LONG: Fearing soaring housing debt could destabilise the economy, regulators have intervened.
Banks must now ensure borrowers have a bigger buffer against rate rises but that won’t help first home buyers.
LOUIS CHISTOPHER: Ultimately, what they intend to do is to make it harder to take out a loan, given your level of income that you’re earning right now.
ELIZA OWEN: It’s going to stop as many people overextending themselves, but it also means that people on lower incomes, first-home buyers, won’t be able to borrow quite as much and may stop some people from getting into the housing market.
STEPHEN LONG: For decades, both sides of politics have responded to concerns about affordability by offering grants and subsidies to first home buyers – a strategy embraced by the Morrison government.
Yet the Coalition MP chairing Parliament’s latest housing affordability inquiry concedes such measures often make things worse.
JASON FALINSKI: We have tried to fix the problem over time by stimulating demand, by tipping the scales in favour of first home buyers and what that has ultimately resulted in is that we have forced up prices in the major markets.
So, the beneficiary has not been the home buyer, it’s actually been the home seller.
SAUL ESLAKE: On every occasion during the past 30 years, when it seemed as though house prices might fall, governments have intervened by providing ever-larger grants to would-be first-home buyers, on ever-more generous eligibility criteria, and the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates to, in every cycle, new-record lows.
The result of those steps has been to reignite the property-price fire on every occasion when it’s looked like going out.
STEPHEN LONG: The heat in the market extends to regional areas, especially the coast.
GRAPHIC: Noosa Heads, QUEENSLAND, 4567
STEPHEN LONG: Beautiful beaches, a stunning natural environment, and a warm climate have made Noosa and the Sunshine Coast a mecca for holidaymakers.
The area’s become a magnet for people no longer tied to city offices.
TOM OFFERMANN, REAL ESTATE AGENT: As people have found that they can work from home and their employers allow them to work from home, it’s become a very viable option to move to a coastal region, not necessarily Noosa, bring the children with you, have them enjoy the lifestyle that maybe you grew up with and you know, happy days.
AGENT: I think some national advertising is really important for this one.
STEPHEN LONG: Tom Offerman and his daughter Rebekah work in a tightly held market that’s been deluged by buyers.
TOM OFFERMANN: I started in real estate in the mid ’80s and if someone had told me where prices would be today, I would’ve laughed.
I think everyone would have, we’ve been through some very strong cycles before, and I think this is unprecedented.
This is the strongest market that I’ve experienced in over 30 years.
AGENT: So, can you tell me a bit about what you’re looking for and I’ll see what we have that might suit.
REBEKAH OFFERMANN, REAL ESTATE AGENT: I guess it’s this period where people have had time to really reconsider where they want to be, and Noosa is coming to the top of the list for a lot of people.
GRAPHIC: JAMES SUMMERTON, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
MEG SUMMERTON, FINANCE MANAGER
SEACHANGERS FROM SYDNEY
MEG SUMMERTON: My role in Sydney was already working remotely, so being able to move to Noosa was actually quite an easy transition.
STEPHEN LONG: For James and Meg, finding a house was far from easy.
JAMES SUMMERTON: We were going to open houses, and they’d already been sold to sight unseen from Melbourne or sight unseen from Sydney.
MEG SUMMERTON: We looked at one property that I inquired on, it had come on the market that day, and by the time I had made the inquiry that afternoon, it had already gone under contract, so things have been going same day.
STEPHEN LONG: They tried to rent while they were looking to buy – that was even harder.
MEG SUMMERTON: There’s also a huge shortage of rental properties up here so, even trying to rent a place for a while the market cooled, that wasn’t really an option either.
JAMES SUMMERTON: The prices of rent, and the fact you might need to give six months’ rent in advance just to get a look in on a property, that’s very hard for people when they don’t have that much of a cash reserve, if they’re young and just starting out.
STEPHEN LONG: In the end, the Summertons found their Noosa home and have no regrets.
MEG SUMMERTON: It’s been great, it’s been really good, financially, we managed to reduce our mortgage significantly by taking the sale price from our house in Sydney and converting that up here.
So, you get quite, your money goes quite a long way.
SAUL ESLAKE: Since the onset of COVID there’s been a significant reversal of the longstanding population flows from regional centres to cities, instead, people are moving in the other direction, and that’s the main reason why, since the onset of COVID, property prices in regional areas have risen at a faster rate than in the capital cities, and rents even more so.
ADRIAN PISARSKI: It’s meant that higher income people are moving into regions which have traditionally been occupied by lower income people, and those lower income people get displaced and that’s happening in rental markets, in ownership markets all over Australia, we’re seeing it as a really noticeable effect.
STEPHEN LONG: Adrian Pisarski is the executive officer of National Shelter, which advocates for the housing needs of people on low and modest incomes.
He also happens to live in Noosa, and he’s watched the ripple effect from rising house prices extend along the Sunshine Coast.
ADRIAN PISARSKI: The place that I live in, we purchased about nine years ago.
It has nearly tripled in value over that period of time.
People on the Sunshine Coast and right throughout regional Australia and also in our capital cities are just priced out of the market.
So, more and more people are therefore reliant on rental housing and that puts more pressure on the rental market, and it means that, ultimately, there’s going to be more homelessness at the end of the day.
STEPHEN LONG: Parliament’s latest housing affordability inquiry is putting the emphasis on boosting supply.
STEPHEN LONG: What do you think is at the root of the problem?
JASON FALINSKI: I think the root of the problem is that we haven’t allowed people to build enough houses for those who want to buy it.
Both zoning and the application of zoning and whatever else is going on in the marketplace has meant that you don’t have as much housing getting built as you have demand for housing.
STEPHEN LONG: It’s not quite that simple.
Economist Cameron Murray has studied the financial accounts and annual reports of the big property developers – which show that they limit the supply of new land and homes to maximise prices and profits.
CAMERON MURRAY, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: I don’t see that private land and property markets have any incentives anywhere in the system to rapidly supply housing and depress the price.
He’s also crunched the numbers on claims we can build our way out of the affordability problem.
CAMERON MURRAY: So, if we doubled construction, hypothetically for 10 years, we’re talking about a 10 to 15% price reduction, and we’ve seen prices rise by more than that in the past nine months.
So, you can see the futility in many ways of trying to tackle prices through the supply side.
LOUIS CHRISTOPHER: It’s going to take a number of solutions to resolve it, and we’re not going to solve it over the short term in my view.
We’ll have to make reform in taxation, we’ll have to make reform in housing supply, we’ll have to make reform in terms of housing credit.
We’ll have to make some big decisions in terms of what we wish to do with big Australia because there’s no doubt about it when you have a booming population, that can hurt affordability as well.
STEPHEN LONG: Whether politicians will have the will to tackle affordability is another question when millions of Australians accumulate so much wealth by doing nothing other than owning real estate.
CAMERON MURRAY: The attitude we have to housing, not just investors and landlords, but every homeowner in Australia is really, it’s about speculation at the end of the day and you’ll hear it at barbecues about people’s homes being an investment.
The stock of Australian dwellings is worth nine trillion dollars and if you create interventions that reduce the value, you are wiping trillions of dollars of value off the balance sheets of Australian homeowners.
Now, I don’t see any political appetite for that.
SAUL ESLAKE: Politicians shed crocodile tears for the difficulties faced by young, aspiring home buyers.
There’s an awful lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by politicians of all political persuasions, as to how difficult that’s become.
Yet politicians keep doing the same things, you know, it kind of reminds you of Einstein’s definition of madness, that’s doing the same thing over and over again, expecting that this time you’ll get a different result.
ADRIAN PISARSKI: I think there’s been a shift in the Australian psyche where because so much wealth is generated from housing over time, housing has become rather than a place of security where you raise a family, something that you seek to create wealth from and speculate on.
So, that a really big shift over the last 40 years and, and it’s really one that I don’t think will serve the future well.
STEPHEN LONG: Unless things change, Australia is on course to become a more unequal society, with a growing gulf between the wealth and the lives of those who own homes, and those who never will.
ELIZA OWEN: Maybe we’re only really talking about housing affordability or being concerned with housing affordability when it starts to affect middle to higher-income first-home buyers and we are not really looking at the long-term and saying, “What do we do to stop that bigger divergence in homeownership rates between low-income households and high-income households?”.
ASHLEY MAY: The situation’s left me feeling completely defeated, you know, like there’s no point, “You’re not rich enough, you know, and we’re just going to keep letting the prices rise and rise and rise and, you know, you’re just going to have to put up with it.”