Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Values Steady, but Headwinds Loom: RP Data

"Dwelling values were up a modest 0.3% in seasonally-adjusted terms during October. Yet the November rate rise, bank top-ups, declining clearance rates, and a rising stock of unsold homes hint at tougher times ahead.

According to RP Data-Rismark’s market-leading Hedonic Home Value Index, Australian capital city dwelling values continued to consolidate in the month of October with a small seasonally-adjusted rise of 0.3% (+0.6% raw). In the first 10 months of the year, Australian capital city dwelling values have risen by a modest 4.3% (s.a.) (or +5.7% raw), which is broadly in line with disposable income growth. Capital gains in the twelve months to end October have been a solid 6.5% due to the double-digit annualised growth recorded in late 2009 and early 2010. Based on the RP Data-Rismark Index, the market peaked in May 2010 with capital city home values tapering since that time (-0.7% s.a., -0.6% raw). ... RP Data’s research director, Tim Lawless, commented, “Since the market started to cool in June the cumulative decline in dwelling values to the end of October has been less than one per cent across the capitals, suggesting a market that is slowing at a controlled pace. Of course, the October data doesn’t include any effect from the November interest rate rise, which we expect will have caused conditions to cool further.” ... Market conditions remain diverse across the key cities. Perth and Brisbane have been the weakest performers. These are the only capital city markets where home values have declined over the twelve months to October (-1.8% and -0.7%, respectively). Both cities have continued to lilt over the three months to end of October with home values down -3.8% s.a. in Perth and -1.6% s.a. in Brisbane. ...
While capital gains slow, RP Data-Rismark’s Indices show that rental markets have realised some gains across most capital cities. Over the 12 months to October gross weekly rents are up 3.7% or $15/week to $433/week for the combined house and unit market. According to Mr Lawless, “The increase in rental rates hasn’t been enough to impact greatly on yields just yet. Across the combined capitals gross rental yields are at 4.0% for houses and 4.8% for units, however there is typically a spike in rents around January and February as a large number of leases are renewed which is likely to see a more noticeable shift in yields.” ... Leading indicators in the market continue to foreshadow weak market conditions going forward. According to RP Data’s Tim Lawless, “capital city auction clearance rates are generally bobbing between 50% and 55% week to week suggesting that vendors still need to adjust their price expectations in order to make a sale. The average selling time for private treaty sales has increased to 48 days for houses from a low of 39 days late last year and sellers are now discounting their listed prices by about 5.7% on average to make a sale compared with 4.1% earlier this year.” Potentially the most concerning leading indicator is the build-up of properties available for sale. Compared with last year there are currently 23% more homes available for sale than there were 12 months ago. RP Data is tracking 126,860 unique properties available for sale within the capital cities, which is 23% higher than at the same time last year. Total listings are now just 1% lower than the previous peak which was recorded in the last week of October, 2008. According to Mr Lawless, “the escalation in stock levels is due to the combination of a higher than normal number of homes being added to the market at a time when market activity is slowing. The result has been a fairly rapid increase in the number of homes for sale. That’s great news for buyers who can take their pick and negotiate hard, but for sellers this is far from an ideal time to be listing your home.” Rismark’s Ben Skilbeck added, “Rismark’s national Dwelling Price-to-Disposable Household Income Ratio Index, which will be released later this week, was sitting at around 4.6 times in the second quarter of 2010. This was in line with where the ratio of homes price-to-incomes had been for the preceding seven years. The good news is that the current flat-lining in home values should result in a moderation in the national price-to-income ratio and present patient buyers with interesting opportunities in the year ahead.” Mr Lawless believes the outlook for residential property is likely to be fairly sedate over the coming 12 months. “If we use market conditions after the 2000 to 2003 property boom as a guide, month to month value changes saw a mixture of small upwards and downward movements over the following two years with total value growth just 4.7% between December 2003 and December 2005. Unemployment at that time was 5.9% and trending downwards and the resources sector was heating up. In the years ahead the RBA is forecasting very strong household income and employment growth. These two factors should help mitigate the impact of higher rate rises and prevent any material decline in prices.”

Source: RP Data

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why Are Colliers Optimistic?

In The Australian this week, a story about the Colliers Real Estate Agents Brisbane Apartment Report:

"Its Brisbane apartment report for the September quarter found a 56 per cent surge in the number of inner-ring unit sales, compared with the September quarter last year, for the area within a 5km radius from the central business district.

"Broadly speaking, the Brisbane apartment market is in a similar position in the property cycle as it was more than a decade ago," Colliers International Brisbane-based research analyst Lachlan Walker said. At that stage, "the market was looking more positive and just a few years from a major property boom".

The resounding theme was that the Brisbane apartment market had made strong progress in recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis."

Source: The Australian

Now my personal view: You have to take what Colliers says with a grain of salt. They are real estate agents, who are hired by developers and apartment owners to sell apartments. Of course they would sprout a positive outlook. The Brisbane inner city apartment market at the moment is not strong. Comparing this year to last year (which wasn't a great year) doesn't really say much. There has been little to no capital growth in recent times, and probably a decease in value. At present, there are more sellers than buyers; prices are not rising; it is uncertain what the rental market will be like in 2011, particularly if students do not come to Brisbane. The smart money is waiting on the sidelines -- buying an existing apartment in six months time (when prices will not be more, and will likely be less) looks like a good thing to do.


See www.mystratamanagement.com.au for an apartment buyer's guide and building checklist.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trying to Get Out of an Off-the-plan Contract

Here is a decision regarding an investor trying to get out of two off-the-plan contracts for apartments in The Oracle at Broadbeach. The judge decided that the case will have to go to trial. As purchasers at Tennyson Reach have found out, it is not easy to get out of off-the-plan contracts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Felix Auction

It is always good to see what happens at normal auctions. An apartment in Felix, 307/26 Felix Street, went to auction today. See listing. It is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment on a higher floor, with decent views (some river glimpses) but a little lack of privacy due to Waterfront Place, and the possibility of being built out if the building next door or behind is developed. 78 sqm internal floor area, 91 sqm total.

There were 3 registered bidders. The highest bid was $482,000. The apartment is now listed at $525,000. This gives a range of between $5,300 and $5,700 a sqm -- which is good to keep in mind if you are buying an apartment off the plan.

"Chinese love the Sunshine State"

Story from the AFR on Friday last week -- "Chinese love the Sunshine State". The article states: "Half a dozen significant high-rise properties on the Gold Coast and Brisbane, which are believed to have secured a significant proportion of foreign investors, are due to settle in the next 12 months."

See also Gold Coast Bulliten

Gold Coast Collapsing

Story from the AFR on Friday last week - "Banks judge Gold Coast apartments as vulnerable".

"Westpac Banking Corp has a particularly cautious view, especially of luxury properties worth more than $3M on the Gold Coast, which is described as a key area for 'additional risk management focus'. There are hundreds of apartments on the Gold Coast priced at more than $3M. At the Oracle development at Broadbeach, there are at least 50; at two other projects coming to completion - Juniper's Soul and Brookfield's Hilton - there are more than 100."

Story from The Australian today: "Gold Coast High Rise Stress Underestimated"

"MAJOR bank Suncorp estimates that less than 10 per cent of buyers are defaulting on several major apartment projects on the Gold Coast.

Gold Coast property agents have claimed the estimate was extremely optimistic. ...

"They'll be celebrating in the streets if it's only 10 per cent default," one Gold Coast agent said.

"There's a lot of rumours around about settlements, but it's all looking very slow."

Soul has been on the market for five years and, while the market boomed for the first three of those years, the global financial crisis cut the value of these units substantially."

Riverpoint Auction - No Result

A new Riverpoint apartment at West End failed to sell at a high profile Ray White auction. The highest bid was $3.5M. This is less than $4000 a sqm.

This apartment is back from the river, with terrace houses and a pool between the apartment building and the river. See Auction video.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rental Returns - from RP Data Property Pulse

"... During the five years to September 2010, the Australian residential property market has experienced a variety of conditions, modest growth conditions in 2005/06, rapid appreciation in 2007, falling values in 2008 followed by another strong growth phase in 2009/10. Despite the range of conditions over this five year period, overall property values have increased at the average rate of 7.1% year on year. ...

In dollar terms, house values have increased by a total of almost $140,000 over the last five years and unit values have increased by approximately $123,000. ...

Over the same period rental rates have also ramped up and, similar to the capital gain performance, the growth has not been uniform from year to year. Between September 2005 and the end of 2008, rental rates were typically trending upwards at the rate of almost 11% year on year. In 2009 capital city rents increased by just 0.9% and we are now seeing the first evidence of rental growth once again returning to the market. ...

For units, Darwin has again recorded the strongest value growth during the past five years (99.8%) followed by Adelaide (69.6%). Unit rental growth has well and truly lagged in Sydney (27.8%) and to a lesser extent also in Brisbane (44.8%).

Unit rental growth over the last five years has also recorded significant increases in Darwin (84.0%) and Perth (61.7%). The three largest cities have recorded the lowest levels of rental growth at 39.6% (Melbourne), 40.6% (Brisbane) and 42.8% (Sydney). ...

Overall the results highlight the virtues of having a long-term hold strategy in relation to property purchases with property values, rents and subsequently yields having historically proven to increase over time. Over the next 12 months we are anticipating fairly flat growth in property values however, we do expect that rents and yields will improve. With an insufficient supply of homes, upwards pressure will remain on housing prices over the long term, however price inflation will be offset by affordability constraints which will hamper prospective purchaser’s ability to enter the residential market.

As a result, competition for rental accommodation is likely to intensify and weekly rents will rise. These conditions highlight just how imperative it is that Government’s find a solution to housing supply issues, as the national graphs highlight, over the last five years conditions have been such that either property values have increased, rental rates have increased or both have been climbing. Supply is clearly a large contributor to these prevailing conditions."

Pet Friendly Apartments

A resident of an apartment recently filed a dispute resolution request to an Adjudicator within the Body Corporate Commissioners Office in Brisbane, disputing the current status of the by-law in the residential high-rise building 212 Margaret Street, BRISBANE QLD 4000. The resident was protesting the total pet ban in the buildings by-laws.

Basically, the Adjudicator has upheld the protest that the 212 Margaret by-laws, which did not permit any pets at all, were invalid and unenforceable, and has ordered them changed to a permissive by-law. This dates back to a CCT ruling in 2008 (Tutton v Body Corporate for Pivital Point Residential) where the CCT magistrate ruled that total pet bans were unreasonable since certain species of animal could on no rational basis cause any difficulty to any other lot owner.

The Adjudicators have been ruling that total pet bans are invalid since that time (there are quite a few decisions it seems), and have forced Body Corporate's in every case since to alter their by-laws back to standard (animal/pet) permissive ones when an owner applies for Adjudication.

In addition, it appears there has been a further QCATA ruling in September 2010 -- McKenzie v Body Corporate for Kings Row Centre 28/09/2010 -- in which the tribunal decided that even by-laws that attempt to ban only a certain type of pet (cats and dogs) are also so unreasonable as to be effectively invalid and unenforceable. In that case, the disputed by-law was permissive of pets in general but attempted to outright ban only 'cats and dogs' specifically.

Essentially this all comes together to mean that a (or any! within a Community Titles Scheme) Body Corporate can no longer expect to ban pets (or any kind of pet) outright, even if they have already done so by voting in a ban/restrictive by-law, or even if the building was originally set up with a pet ban/restrictive by-law.

It also means that if anyone protests such a restriction, the Adjudicators will uphold their protest, allow the pet (if it's a reasonable request and there is no evidence of a reasonable reason the pet would be unsuited to the property), and forcibly change the by-law back to a permissive one. Just like they just did with 212 Margaret.

The flow on outcome from these rulings are clear: the face of Community Titles Schemes must now change - pets can no longer be banned, and Committees and Body Corporate's can no longer expect to stop people from bringing their pets to live with them in apartments, units or townhouses - unless they can provide reasonable grounds or evidence that the particular pet would be unsuited to the lot. From what I understand, this new thinking has already been tested multiple times in the Appeals process and the Adjudicators subsequent interpretation of this has also been made abundantly clear.

212 Margaret is now (forcibly) pet friendly.

Which is probably a good thing, because statistics I have seen show that apartment buildings that are pet friendly have more owner occupiers and have greater capital appreciation.

SouthPoint Coming Soon?

Will the SouthPoint apartment and hotel development at SouthBank ever get started? Reported to start later this year. (But they have said that before!) It is a project of the Anthony John Group. Designed by Jackson Teece.

Fairfax is Getting Dumber


Recently, the Domain property website had an offer -- Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald and the Sunday newspaper delivered in hardcopy for $10 total for 10 weeks. I thought that this would be good, so that I could look at the real estate advertised for sale in Sydney. So far, about 5 weeks into the subscription, I have received only 2 newspapers. And the Saturday SMH that is delivered does not include a real estate section. No wonder Fairfax is going backwards.

Will Mosaic Go Ahead?

ONE of Australia's biggest developers has continued to sell units in a proposed $150 million Brisbane tower even though city planners have rejected the project.

Since marketing started a year ago, Leighton Properties has sold just over half of the 212 apartments in its planned Mosaic development at the corner of Ann and East streets in Fortitude Valley.

More than $4 million in deposits has been paid by 107 buyers - many of whom were told the 18-level residential and retail complex would be completed by late 2012.

But Brisbane City Council threw out the development application because of height concerns, forcing Leighton to file an appeal with Queensland's Planning and Environment Court in August.

Leighton state manager Andrew Borger said he met with council planners this week and the two sides were ''narrowing down the issues''.

If no deal is struck, a five-day court hearing has been set down for March next year.

Mosaic unit buyer Wagner Higgins said she recently learned about the question mark hanging over what could be one of the Valley's biggest developments.

''It does concern me because I would really like to live at that address,'' Ms Higgins said. ''But I don't think my money is at risk. The worst-case scenario is I get my money back.''

Ms Higgins, who paid a 10 per cent deposit, said Leighton representatives had been ''very forthcoming'' about the lack of approval and told her they were ''very confident'' it would proceed.

Yet she fears that her penthouse may disappear if height issues force a redesign of the project.

Council records reveal that planners also raised concerns with Leighton about the building's engineering, architecture and landscaping design.

Despite these hurdles, a Mosaic salesman last week claimed that approval was ''imminent'' and construction work would kick off in the first quarter of next year. A crane is already on site working on a neighbouring property.

In its appeal, Leighton said the Mosaic knockback had been ''overtaken by events'' since projects of ''greater building size, bulk and height'' had secured approvals in the Valley.

Among these were a council depot on St Paul's Terrace and a 20-level residential tower at Ann and McLachlan streets, the company said. But a council spokesperson said it was up to buyers to inform themselves before acquiring a property.

''Council strongly recommends people who are interested in buying units off the plan to satisfy themselves that the development has received all relevant development approvals prior to finalising their purchase,'' the spokesperson said.

Source: Courier Mail

Albert Street Railway

Royal on the Park (the old Park Royal Hotel) owned by the Sultan of Brunei is to be resumed to build an underground train station. How will this impact Sunland's proposed development on Alice Street at Albert Street?

"ONE of Brisbane's major inner-city hotels will be resumed with 38 other properties for the city's first underground rail line, it has been revealed. ...

Under the plans the Royal on the Park hotel will need to be resumed, alongside 38 other commercial and industrial properties in Salisbury, Rocklea, the CBD and Bowen Hills."

Source: Courier Mail and see also Brisbane Times

At least you will be able to get free WiFi here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spring Hill - Trilogy Apartments

There were 3 auctions last weekend of 2 bedroom apartments in the Trilogy complex at Spring Hill (namely, apartments 226, 330 and 334)

This complex was heavily marketed (at high prices) by Which Property? who was also related to the developer.

The Courier Mail reported that apartments were passed in for $400,000 and $420,000 (about $150,000 less than the prices that the developer was seeking about 2 years ago).

These are relatively decent apartments, some with good views, and a large pool area. The apartments are not large (about 75 sqm internal) but are well designed. Not far from the downtown.

Listing at $490,000 (Apt 334, 51 Hope Street)

Listing at $490,000 (Apt 226)

Listing at $550,000 (Apt 330)

Listing at $680,000 (Apt 354)

A 2 bed, 2 bath sold in 2009 for $540,000.

A furnished 2 bedroom is available for rent for $650 a week. See also here.

Apartments or Hotels

"... Mr Punch alleged in his statement of claim that the original disclosure statement received from Niecon subsidiary South Sky Investments revealed that he was buying 'a lot in a residential building'.

If he were buying today, that disclosure statement would have to declare it was an 'apartment in a hotel', he said in the claim. ..."

From GoldCoast.com.au

This is a warning to developers who build apartment buildings (such as Aurora) and then sell the management rights to Oaks to operate a residential building as a hotel.

Flats Are Flat

There are head-winds for investors in the Brisbane apartment market:

  • slowing population growth
  • foreign investors selling, because they profit from the high Aussie dollar
  • foreign investors not buying due to the high Aussie dollar
  • less foreign students, so less renters
  • higher interest rates

Recent articles set out some of these concerns....

"QIC chief executive Doug McTaggart has painted a grim picture of the residential market in South East Queensland. ... "Population growth in Queensland is suffering." ... Herron Todd White estimated there had been a 30 per cent drop in volumes from 2008. ... vacancy rates are trending up at the moment ... the current Brisbane market is showing some oversupply... " Australian Financial Review, 4 November 2010, page 60

"Overseas students and retirees are fuelling population growth in Brisbane's inner city, with nearly 13,000 people now calling the CBD home. While Brisbane's fastest-growing suburbs are in the city's east and south, the growth of inner-city living is the perhaps the most visible change.

"A lot of the accommodation now is just built for students and they have just small kitchens," Ms McLean said. She said five of the unit buildings in Brisbane's CBD were mostly student accommodation.

"Some of them where the students are living are turning into ghettos," Ms McLean said.

"Down Albert Street, Mary Street, at the Parklands (apartments) there at Roma Street," she said.

Source: CBD bulges as more move in

Units in Brisbane are among the cheapest in the country as property prices in the city continue to slide, according to analysts.

The Australian Property Monitors September House Price Report, released today, shows the median unit price in Brisbane fell 2.8 per cent from $366,533 to $356,352 in the last quarter.

Source: Brisbane unit prices on the slide

Brisbane's property market woes look set to continue for the forseeable future due a slump in migration and an oversupply in the market.

Analysts have tipped prices to remain stagnant or dip further at least until the middle of next year. ...

Property analyst Michael Matusik has long refuted claims of an undersupply in the owner-occupier and rental markets.

"Queensland's population growth is slowing - and significantly," he said. The state's net migration in 2008 was 84,275 people, with 21,228 arriving from interstate.

At the end of March this year, net migration fell to 55,845, with just 11,012 people coming from interstate.

"Our preliminary estimates suggest that more people are leaving Queensland now than arriving from interstate [due to the state economic downturn]," Mr Matusik said. Of the rental market he said: "The amount of vacant stock available is not only greater than most realise, but it is getting larger."

Mr Matusik said about 13,500 new rental properties were required to house 35,000 new residents to Queensland last year.

"Yet, 33,000 new rental digs became available - or over twice as many as was needed," he said. "This is not how I would define 'undersupply'."

Source: Property price slump