Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Valuer's view of Brisbane property

"Firstly, interstate migration is a long way off its heady peaks in 2003. It’s flat performance isn’t a total deal breaker for our state’s rising market, but certainly if these numbers were to pick up, you’d think good things are set to follow.

Recent sales evidence would indicate there has been a levelling of prices and values over the past quarter. There’s a little more urgency amongst buyers, which has led to growth in the 12 months to June 2014. Values are up around 10% for near-city detached housing, and entry level housing within 5 kilometres of the CBD remains a market that is outperforming other sectors.

We do seem to be entering a phase of upgrading – although this is taking form in increased sale numbers, and consequently values, for vacant land and renovating existing dwellings, not to mention the downsizers (but not downgraders) into the prestige unit market. The stagnation in the market during the 2010 to mid-2013 stalled the upgrader market – due mainly to them being unable to offload their existing residence before shooting for something a bit better.

Like the stone that drops in the pond, the ripple affect is real for Brisbane’s property market. Starting with inner/near city detached housing and extending from there, how far the wave travels is dependent upon the strength of the boom.

The only standout in the supply and demand equation remains the unit market. With a significant increase in supply on the way, coupled with low interstate migration along with existing tenants taking the opportunity to buy or enter the market, we believe this sector has potential for a rising vacancy rate in the short term."

Source:  HTW November 2014 Month in Review

Monday, November 3, 2014

October is a better month for Brisbane apartment median values

The RP Data CoreLogic Home Value Index registered a 1.0% capital gain across the combined capital cities over the month of October, however the annual rate of growth has continued to trend lower.
According to the RP Data CoreLogic Home Value Index, dwelling values across Australia’s capital cities increased by 1.0 per cent over the month of October. The data highlights that despite a slowdown in growth in September, values continued to rise, increasing by 2.2 per cent over the past three months. Although combined capital city home values were up by 1.0 per cent over the month, only Sydney (1.3%), Melbourne (1.9%) and Brisbane (0.6%) actually recorded value rises over the month.
Dwelling values rose by 2.2 per cent over the three months to October 2014 however, only half of the capital cities actually recorded an increase in values. According to Mr Lawless this result highlights weaker housing market conditions outside of Australia’s largest cities.
According to Mr Lawless, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide (which happen to be four of the five largest capital cities), were the only capital cities to record an increase in home values over the past three months. [Note - this does not apply to Brisbane apartments, which recorded a decline for this three month period.]  Sydney continues as a standout with home values increasing at a rate of more than 1 per cent a month, up 3.9 per cent over the past three months. He said that Perth and Canberra have clearly moved through the peak of their growth cycles.
Brisbane apartment prices (to 31 October 2014):
October 2014 - up 1.6%
Quarter - down 0.4%
Year to Date - up 2.6%
Year on Year - up 4.5%
Median price based on settled sales of Brisbane apartments over the quarter - $380,000

Tax for foreign investors on transactions involving taxable Australian property

On 31 October 2014, the Government released a discussion paper outlining the proposed design options for implementing the previously announced non-final withholding tax in relation to disposals by foreign residents of certain 'taxable Australian property' assets. The measure is proposed to commence from 1 July 2016.

The measure was originally contained in the former Government's 2013-14 Budget. The current Government announced on 6 November 2013 that it would proceed with the measure.

The release of the discussion paper will be of interest to those foreign investors who may be considering divesting their Australian real property or business assets over the next few years, as well as investors who are considering acquiring such assets from foreign investors over the same time period.

For full details, see King & Wood Mallesons publication

Saturday, November 1, 2014

No capital growth for Brisbane property over last six years

Most recent property investors in Brisbane are likely to have lost money.

From a recent report from RP Data:

"The next time you hear someone talk of the booming national housing market remember these statistics.  Yes combined capital city home values are rising and this is due to the influence of the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets where values are rising.  Real home values in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart are still lower than they were before the financial crisis and have seen no real growth in more than six years."

When we abandon traditional underwriting standards

"The regulators believe that lower loan underwriting standards promote homeownership and make mortgages and homes more affordable. The facts, however, show that the opposite is true. ...

After the financial crisis, Representative Barney Frank — the Massachusetts Democrat who led the House Financial Services Committee during the crisis, and a champion of credit programs for low-income buyers — admitted, “It was a great mistake to push lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford and couldn’t really handle once they had it.” Policy makers who support homeownership would be wise to consider who is hurt and who is helped when we abandon traditional underwriting standards."

See:  Underwriting the Next Housing Crisis

My view is that government policy that encourages people to buy rather than rent often leads to poor results.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Brisbane rental market

From an REIQ press release that was issued today:

Rental markets remain tight in southeast Queensland and the state’s major tourism centres according to the latest REIQ Residential Rental Survey, conducted at the end of September.

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said the survey showed vacancy rates remained relatively steady across most parts of the state, with improvements in some key regional markets.  Ms Mercorella said only four of the 16 major regions in Queensland recorded a significant change in vacancy rates, with something of a two-tier affect still evident in the State’s rental market.

Ms Mercorella said at the end of September, the Brisbane City local government area (LGA) recorded a vacancy rate of 2.3 per cent, relatively unchanged since the end of June.

“Brisbane’s middle to outer suburbs – those 5-to-20km from the CBD - recorded a slight easing in vacancy levels, up 0.2 percentage points to two per cent at the end of September.  The city’s inner suburbs, on the other hand, recorded a vacancy level of 2.9 per cent, down from 3.4 per cent at the end of June.  Median weekly rents from the Residential Tenancy Authority (RTA) for the September quarter show relatively steady rents across the Brisbane City LGA.”

Ms Mercorella said Queensland’s tourism centres continued to record tight rental conditions.

“On the Sunshine Coast, the vacancy rate is at one per cent, the lowest of any major region in the state,” she said.  “Population growth and a lack of investor activity are contributing to these tight conditions, particularly in hinterland areas where agents are struggling to find enough rental properties to meet demand.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Admiralty Towers 2 sales

Some recent sales in Admiralty Two, a tower on the Brisbane riverfront, at 501 Queen Street.  One of the better buildings in the city, which large apartments all with riverfront views that cannot be built out.  The building has two swimming pools, and direct access to the river boardwalk.

Reported sales since January 2014, with most recent sales listed first.

Apt 166, about level 29, 3 bedrooms, $979,900
Apt 58, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (116 sqm) - $785,000
Apt 19, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (116 sqm) - $770,000
Apt 115, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (116 sqm) - $755,000
Apt 127, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (116 sqm) - $750,000

The average price so far this year for the larger two bedroom apartment in this building is $765,000, or $6,594 a sqm.  If you are buying off the plan, you may wish to measure against this sqm price for comparison.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What does the future hold for Brisbane apartments?

My advice to those considering buying in a high-rise apartment block in Brisbane -- don't buy off the plan and don't buy for two years.  Why -- prices are likely to fall.  My reasoning:
  • There are a very large number of new apartments being built, which will settle in about two years.
  • Interest rates are likely to increase by then.
  • Rental vacancies will increase and rents will decrease as these new apartments come on to the market.
  • Banks will make it hard to get a loan.  My guess is that they will only fund 70% of the valuation.
  • The valuations are likely to be less than contract price.
  • Many people will be unable to settle.
  • Prices will therefore decrease, at least from the prices that new off-the-plan apartments are currently being sold for.
  • Second tier second hand apartments will be impacted as a result.  Why buy a old apartment in Charlotte Towers or Festival Towers, that have few redeeming features, when you can buy a similar sized apartment with a similar view in a new building for a similar price?
  • Apartments in some locations, and in some buildings (e.g., direct riverfront, larger apartments),  will suffer less negative impact.

Brisbane Skytower

Pre-marketing has commenced for Brisbane Skytower, said to be the tallest residential tower in Brisbane when it is completed.

It is being developed by Billbergia on the old Vision tower site (now called 111 + 222).

It has four sections, a downtown section, an uptown section, a skycity section and a skyrise section.  The starting price for what I guess is a one bedroom apartment starts at $425,000 in the downtown section and increases to a minimum of $595,000 in the skyrise section.

In less than a city block, there are more than 2,000 apartments coming online.  There are three towers, Skytower (at 222 Margaret Street), Abian (on the corner of Alice and Albert) and Camelot (on the corner of Albert and Margaret).  Seems like a glut to me.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Win an apartment in Soleil

RSL Art Unions are giving away, in an art union, apartment 5304 in Soleil.  This is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment, no balcony, at 83 sqm, located on level 53.

RSL Art Unions paid $570,000 for this apartment in June 2014.  They have included about $40,000 of furniture.  They estimate rental returns of $39,000 a year, which is $750 a week -- that is a little high in my view.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ray White Market Update for Brisbane City apartments

From Ray White CBD:

"The third quarter has seen prices remain stable after the growth of the first two quarters on 2014. Falling rents across the inner city in the last two months have halted price growth as large developments in nearby suburbs such as South Brisbane, Bowen Hills and Fortitude Valley have been completed. This has resulted in an over supply of rental accommodation causing rents to plunge.  With over 8,000 apartments approved for the city's inner suburbs rents look certain to remain soft for the next few years.

Michael Matusik released an article on his Linkedin page this week on the rental situation that has seen the rents for 1 bedroom units drop by $60 a week in recent months and 2 bedroom units drop by over $100 a week. https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20141019231540-170298265-brisbane-inner-city-apartments and following is a recent article in The Courier Mail http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/experts-say-outlook-is-not-pretty-as-fundamentals-in-inner-city-apartment-market-are-weakening/story-fnihsps3-1227024827411 

With the outlook for rents continuing to fall next year as more and more buildings are completed, it is doubtful prices will remain at their current levels.  Should you be considering selling, now is the time to do so."

Sounds like Ray White is saying now is not a good time to buy a Brisbane apartment.  Prices to fall!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Brisbane Still Behind

Chart from RP Data.  Brisbane market has under performed the combined capitals average since 2008.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rental Report

RP Data has recently released its quarterly rental review.  It shows that Brisbane apartment rents are flat.  My sources tell me that rents are declining.
  • Vacancy rates are longer.  My rough rule of thumb is that for every week a property is vacant, that is approximately $10 a week off the rent for a one year period.
  • Rental periods (e.g. 1 year, 6 months) are tending to be shorter, with tenants turning over more often
  • Actual rents are flat, or decreasing slightly.
  • New apartment buildings that have many empty apartments are offering rent free periods, which in effect is a rent reduction.  For example, if the weekly rent is $500 a week, but the landlord offers four weeks for free, then the effective rent for the year is $461 a week.  But the RP Data report will show the rent as $500 a week.

Invest in Brisbane

This report suggests that Brisbane is the best place to invest in property at present.

"Overall, it’s a decent set of numbers with promising signs of strength in new home loans and construction – the desired “rebalancing” – but owner occupier activity has highlighted the possibility of softening almost everywhere except for Brisbane and Queensland."

Student Accommodation and Serviced Apartments - Good Investments?

"In summary, it’s difficult to recommend pursuing an investment in either a serviced apartment or student accommodation. While they both provide good cash flow, investors are likely to encounter resistance in obtaining finance, plenty of fees, a weak aftermarket and a need for ongoing in investment."

See AFR article - the type of property to be wary of

At present in Brisbane, there is an oversupply of apartments built for investors to rent to students.  Rents are decreasing, vacancy rates are increasing, and there are less students looking for such accommodation.   And non-students are not interested in living in or buying such apartments.  Take care!

Another South Brisbane Apartment Complex

Opera, another apartment complex is South Brisbane, is being marketed off the plan.

One bedrooms from $385,000 and two bedrooms from $580,000.

South City Square in Woolloongabba

A new apartment development in Woolloongabba has been launched, called South City Square.  It is located on Logan Road.

Over 1,000 apartments, across 7 towers, are planned.  Pellicano are involved in this development.

See article here.

Legal Claim Against Meriton

A Meriton construction company is being sued by a body corporate for building defects.

"BILLIONAIRE developer Harry Triguboff is at the centre of a legal battle with a body corporate over who should foot a $2 million repair bill for one of his Southport residential high rises."

Meriton is also the developer of the Infinity and Soleil towers in Brisbane.

See Gold Coast Business News

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Index funds

There is often a debate whether it is best to buy shares or property.  My investment focus has been property.  When investing in shares, it seems that index funds (sometimes called exchange traded funds or EFTs) are the way to go.  See recent AFR article on this topic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Brooklyn or Brisbane?

I can buy a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn NYC for about the same price as a two bedroom apartment in Brisbane city.  See this listing for example.  Does that make sense?

Buy or Rent?

The AFR recently had an article on whether you are better off renting or buying property.  See article here.

For many people, I believe that renting is better than buying.  These are my reasons:
  • known fixed cost per week for renters
  • no cost for repairs, rates, property insurance or body corporate fees for rentals
  • flexibility and mobility for renters - too many times have I seen people stuck in a property type or location that they don't want any more.  Ownership also makes it harder to move to where better jobs are located.
  • purchasing property is for the long term (that is, seven years or more), and many people should not be committing to a property type or location for that period of time
  • entry and exit costs are high for purchasing (i.e., stamp duty and agent's commission)
  • you get a better property if you rent compared with buying, all outgoings and costs being equal (another way to say this is that most landlords are making a loss, or negatively gearing, and so you are better off than your landlord)
  • currently many good choices for renters, and competition by landlords is high
  • owners spend more time and effort wasting time and money on repairs, improvements, renovations and gardens, which are rarely recovered on sale; renters have more leisure time

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pain Report - Capital Losses

From RP Data:

The RP Data Pain & Gain report is a quarterly assessment of realised gross profit and loss based on dwelling re-sales over the June quarter of 2014.

  • 9% recorded a gross loss from the original purchase price.
  • Gross value of the losses associated with these loss making re-sales totalled $398.3 million
  • 91% of all June 2014 quarter re-sales recorded a gross profit relative to their original purchase price. The gross profit from these re-sales equated to $14.4 billion.
  • 9% of all homes that resold over the second quarter of 2014 recorded a gross loss compared with original purchase price - down from 9.7% at the end of the first quarter of 2014 and much lower than the 11.5% recorded over the June 2013 quarter.
  • The gross value of losses on homes re-sold over the quarter was recorded at $398.3 million
  • The average gross loss per loss making transaction was $63,097.
  • 91% of all re-sales over the June quarter of 2013 transacted at a gross profit, with 30.5% of all re-sales at least doubling their money compared with their original purchase price.
  • Gross profit on resales was $14.4 billion
  • Average gross profit per profit making transaction was $225,830.
  • Download the Pain & Gain report.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

High Court said builder not liable to body corporate

The High Court has unanimously held that listed developer Brookfield ­Multiplex, the builder of the $60 million Chelsea apartment tower in ­Chatswood Sydney, did not owe a duty of care to the Owners Corporation (in Queensland terminology -- the body corporate) which lost money from defects.  The Owners Corporation, which includes Mantra, appealed an earlier decision in the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of NSW and had won.  However, the full bench of the High Court has overturned that decision.

Lawyer Emanuel Confos, for Brookfield Multiplex, said the result would have significant consequences for the building industry.  "This is a landmark decision for the construction industry because it ­clarifies an issue that has been around for many years and that is whether a builder owes a duty in contract and tort for a commercial development," Mr Confos said.  "And I believe the High Court has unanimously decided that no duty in tort is required only duty in contract," he said.

Decision is here.

Spire at 550 Queen Street

After it failed to sell the land, Consolidated Properties has announced that it will be developing a 39 level tower at 550 Queen Street, called Spire.  It will have 340 apartments, which appear to be small one and two bed apartments.

Previously, an office building was planned for the site.  See SMH.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Large number of off-the-plan apartments being marketed in Brisbane

There are a large number of new apartments being marketed by developers in Brisbane at present.  Buyers beware!  Here is a list of just some of them.

Cinque at Kelvin Grove
FV in the Valley (Flatiron Valley?)
Light and Co at West End
CP Residences at Indooroopilly (Central Park Residences)
Arbor at West End
The Highgate at Highgate Hill
Mode at Newstead
Unison at Newstead
Rivers Edge at Breakfast Creek
Habitat West End
Citro at West End
Abian Skyhomes on Alice Street
Spire in the City
Grace on Coronation at Toowong
Boggo Road
The Hudson, at Albion
Spice Apartments, South Brisbane
The Milton
Skyring at Newstead
Newstead Towers
Broadway on Ann in the Valley
Central Village, the Valley
New World Towers in South Brisbane
Riverview Towers at Kangaroo Point
South Point in South Brisbane
Liberte, Kangaroo Point
Yungaba, Kangaroo Point
Hamilton Reach
Proximity Hamilton
Canopy at Bardon
Circa at Nundah
Basse at South Brisbane
Hope Street at South Brisbane
Soda at South Brisbane
Botanica at South Brisbane
Jade at Albion
OneBrisbane at Bowen Hills
The Yards at Bowen Hills
Keynote at West End
River Le at West End
Art House at South Brisbane
Opera at South Brisbane
Hercules at Hamilton

Oversupply of Brisbane Units

There have been a number of articles this year regarding an oversupply of apartments in Brisbane, especially new high-rise in areas close to the city.  A large number of apartment buildings have completed recently, but there are many more on the way.  Most of the new apartments are being sold to foreign investors, and will be rented.

At present, a higher than usual number of apartments are available for rent in Brisbane.  Agents are reporting that it is taking a long time to rent apartments, and that rents are falling.  For example, a very nice riverfront apartment was without a tenant for 4 weeks, and finally rented for $50 a week below the asking rent.  Some owners are offering 4 weeks free rent.  For third-tier apartments, the rents have dropped dramatically.  The situation is not likely to improve any time soon.

When the foreign investors come to sell, they will not be able to sell to other foreigners.  So the pool of potential buyers will be much smaller.  This will cause significant price decreases for resales of apartments.  Currently, many apartments that are not being sold by developers (i.e., not new apartments that have FIRB approval) are taking a long time to sell in Brisbane.

Some articles of note:
Bubble Deflating
Warning on Brisbane apartment boom
Not pretty
High-rise Oversupply?
Prices Down Due to Oversupply
Areas to Avoid
Yield Compression
Mixed Outlook
Prices Plunge

Friday, October 3, 2014

Poor Urban Design for South Brisbane and West End

As previously reported, the government has released a "master plan" for South Brisbane.

The plan has been widely criticised.  In my view, it is a risk buying off-the-plan in South Brisbane and West End at present.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recent Quay West Sales in Brisbane

Quay West is a great apartment building, overlooking the Botanical Gardens on Alice Street.  A one bedroom apartment in this building is over 70 sqm in total.

Recent sales of one bed apartments (some of these are fully furnished when sold):

Apt 803 - $440,000 Sold in July
Apt 405 - $460,000 Sold in June
Apt 504 - $460,000 Sold in April
Apt 1603 - $510,000 Sold in April
Apt 1705 - $510,000 Sold in April

Apt 605 is currently listed at $465,000, fully furnished, which looks like a good deal.

Spice Apartments at South Brisbane

The Spice Apartments development at South Brisbane is currently being sold off-the-plan.  According to the agents selling these apartments, most have sold.

It is a 14 level development, with two towers sharing a common podium.  The complex overlooks the onramp and tolling infrastructure for the Go-Between Bridge.  It is river front, sort of, with trees and and bikeway between the apartments and the river.  Many of the apartments will have no views, or will only have views of a busy road or industrial buildings (that will probably get redeveloped into apartment or office towers.)  Any city views are likely to be built out.

Example prices:
  • One bedroom on level 2 with car space, 54 sqm internal, with balcony and court yard, so total 78 sqm.  No view.  $429,000.
  • One bed, one bath, level 2, 49 sqm internal, with balcony and court yard, total 77 sqm, $420,000.
  • Two bed, one bath, 1 car, level 12, internal - 63 sqm, total 76 sqm, one bedroom is internal with no windows (so this is really a one bed plus study) - $526,000
  • Two bed, two bath, 1 car, level 3, internal - 83 sqm, total 101 sqm - $585,000
In my opinion, these are expensive prices for small apartments that are in a poor location.  Even though only 15 minutes walk to the city, there is not much currently in this area.  It is a long walk to South Bank, even though the sale brochure for the development has lots of South Bank photos.

The body corp fees for the first year are low, around the $3,000 a year mark.  My guess is that these are likely to increase substantially in subsequent years.

Rents for unfurnished apartments are provided by the developer:
  • 1 bed - $410 to $480 a week
  • 2 bed, 2 bath - $550 to $640 a week
  • 3 bed, 2 bath - $850 to $950 a week.
It will be interesting to see if these rents are actually achieved.  You can rent a 110 sqm two bed, two bath apartment at South Bank, with river and park views, fully furnished for $690, so it is hard to see how these rents are possible.

Before buying, I would suggest looking at Vue Apartments, which are diagonally opposite the bridge and river.  Compare actual sales prices and actual rents for similar apartments, and look at this building's financial performance.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Brisbane still under performs

RP Data reports that the Brisbane property market has under performed the combined capitals average since 2008 but is gathering some momentum.

Economic Data remains mixed - RP Data

RP Data reports the following:

Mortgage demand has started to level recently
  • The RP Data Mortgage Index (RMI) shows that mortgage demand has begun to level over the past couple of months.
  • ABS housing finance data shows a similar trend with the market largely driven by upgraders and investors.
Economic data flows remains mixed
  • Population growth is winding down but remains high on an historic basis.
  • Dwelling approvals have shifted much higher over the past year and are at their highest ever level on an annual basis.
  • With population growth slowing and building approvals remaining high (despite the recent fall) we may see a better relationship between approvals and population growth over the coming years.
  • Consumer sentiment has been weak since the Federal Budget but is slowly increasing.
  • The unemployment rate has hit 6.4% with employment growth quite slow.
  • Mortgage rates remain low with banks competing hard for their share of the home loan business.

W Hotels on old court site

It is reported that W Hotels will manage a new hotel that will soon be developed on part of the old State Courts site on George Street.  The three tower development will include residential apartments. Some may remember that Westin Hotels (a sister company) was to manage a proposed new apartment and hotel development on nearby Elizabeth Street, called Empire Square, that never went ahead.

Rental Pain

The Courier Mail has an article today about potential pain for rental property owners.  "A flood of new apartments being built in Brisbane spells bad news for property investors as rents are likely to soften in the competitive market.  New data from Urbis shows nearly 9000 new apartments will settle in Brisbane between now and 2017."  Confusingly, the article states that not all planned apartments will be built (so how could Urbis predict settlement of such apartments?).  Urbis goes on to say "So we are being cautious about predicting too much supply."

According to the article, Brisbane's inner north is by far the busiest precinct, with 1129 apartments predicted to settle in 2014 and a further 926 apartments next year.  It is claimed that 41% of apartments sold int he inner north in the June quarter were one bedroom apartments.

In my view, one must be careful to generalise here.  There may be many new apartments in certain areas, such as Bowen Hills, but few new apartments in other areas, such as downtown Brisbane or St Lucia.  There may be too many small apartments, and not enough 3 bedroom apartments.  So the oversupply may impact some and not others.

I would be careful buying in the Brisbane Showgrounds redevelopment area.  Although reasonably close to the city and the RBH hospital, there is not much within walking distance.  And there is a huge supply pipeline.  This weekend, Lendlease will release The Yards, the next stage of this redevelopment.  The development does not include any large parks, schools, kindergartens, supermarkets or the like.

Project Aparment

The Australian newspaper has a lift out regarding buying and investing in new apartments.  See ProjectApartment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Housing Boom No Big Economic Threat

From the AFR on Friday, 5 September 2014, p. 17:  "Rising housing prices in Australia require monitoring by regulators but the risk posed to the financial system, are nowhere near as great as in the UK, which is approaching bubble territory.  That's the view of Charles Dallara, who is chairman of the Americas region for the Partners Group.  ... The housing market in Australia is relatively self contained."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Which Properties to Avoid

This is a good article by Yardney that sets out which types of investment properties to avoid.  I agree with his lists:  Know Which Properties to Avoid.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sunland's Toowong Proposal - Grace

Sunland (who developed Q1 and Circle on Cavill on the Gold Coast, and who is developing Abian in  Alice Street) has released pictures showing three towers on its Toowong site.  This is the old ABC studio site.   The development is to be called Sunland's Grace.  (I would have thought that Sunland's Graceland would have been a better name.)

The three towers are a little out of place in Toowong in my opinion.

They are mostly apartments:

Tower A
  • 1 Bedrooms: 20
  • 2 Bedrooms: 66
  • 3 Bedrooms: 40
Tower B will be the same as Tower A.

Tower C 
  • 1 Bedroom - 130
  • 2 Bedrooms - 104

Brisbane Apartment Prices Down Slightly in August

From RP Data's months report for August 2014:

According to today’s results, with rental rates rising at a slower pace than dwelling values RP Data expects to see a compression in rental yields across each of the capital cities. The only regions where yields have moved higher over the past 12 months have been across the Adelaide and Hobart apartment markets.

Across the combined capital cities, the typical gross yield on a house has reduced from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent over the past twelve months. Mr Lawless said the most significant yield compression is taking place in Sydney and Melbourne.

Investors are currently comprising their largest proportion of new mortgage commitments since late 2003. In fact, investor loan commitments have accounted for more than 38 per cent of all mortgage lending for nine consecutive months, the longest period ever that investment lending has held above that level.

“Investors are mostly concentrated across the Sydney and Melbourne apartment markets where capital gains have been strong but yields have been pushed very low. Potentially there are better investment returns to be had in the smaller capital cities where the growth trend is less mature and yields are also healthier.” Mr Lawless said.

Brisbane apartment prices (to 31 August 2014):
August 2014 - down 0.5%
Quarter - up 1.6%
Year to Date - up 2.6%
Year on Year - up 5.6%
Median price based on settled sales of Brisbane apartments over the quarter - $389,250

The Milton

FKP's The Milton development is growing over Milton Station.  Workmen tell me you get a good view of the train line and the XXXX brewery from the apartments.  This is being marketed as a luxury development, but I wonder what residents will think when they move in.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Austin on Grey Street

Austin on Grey Street is almost fully built.  The rental campaign has started.  A 2 bed 1 bath apartment on a high floor with "breathtaking views" is listed for rent at $550 a week.  My guess is that this is a bait & switch offer, and that you will not be able to rent an apartment with "breathtaking views" at this rent.  I suspect that the photos in the advertisement are not from this apartment, because the same photos are used for all apartments advertised for rent.  A small two bedroom two bath is listed at "from" $640 a week unfurnished.  This building is very close to a major traffic intersection.

It is worth considering other established buildings, such as Arbour on Grey.  An excellent 3rd level, 2 bed, 2 bath with park & river views is listed for rent fully furnished at $690 a week, much better value in my opinion.

Australians Investing in Brooklyn

I recently came across an article from the NY Times from November 2013, discussing how Australians are investing in residential real estate in Brooklyn, NY.  It is titled G'Day from Bushwick.  It is worth reading.

South Brisbane Redevelopment

If you are thinking of buying in South Brisbane, you should first look at the Kurilpa Urban Renewal Master Plan, published by the Brisbane City Council:
This Plan will have a big impact on views, and it also gives an idea of how many apartments will be built in the next decade in this area.  See video.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rent Without An Agent

If you engage a real estate agent to look after your property rental, the costs can be rather high compared with the service actually received.  Typically, the cost is a weeks rent to find a tenant, plus GST, and then 8.8% to collect the rent and do the ongoing management.  On rent of $550 a week, assuming that you have a tenant change once a year, the cost is over $3,000 a year.

If you live near your rental property, and don't mind learning how to legally comply with rental laws (the RTA website has good information), then Rent My Estate is a good service for landlords.  It helps manage the realestate.com.au advertising process, and is expanding into other programs for landlords (such as recording rents received).  Readers of this blog will receive a $20 discount via this link shared by a reader - thanks John.  The savings year on year could be substantial, if you are prepared to put in the time yourself to do things properly.  There is also a good blog on that site.

Top Yields

Today's paper had a chart with the top rental yields for inner-city Brisbane.  All were apartments.  A summary of some of the data:

  • Spring Hill - based on 170 sales, median sale is $380,000, median asking rent is $485, so indicative gross yield is 6.6%
  • Brisbane city - based on 666 sales, median sale of $500,000, rent $600, so a yield of 6.2%
  • Woolloongabba - 86 sales, sale price of $400,000, rent $465 so yield of 6%
  • The Valley had an indicative yield of 5.6%
  • South Brisbane had an indicative yield of 5.4%
These figures are a little rubbery.  The apartments being sold may not be the same apartments listed for rent.  The rent is the asking rent, not the rent achieved.  The figures do not take into account vacancy.  And the sales price does not include stamp duty.

Take the following example, of an apartment sold for $431,000 and then rented furnished for $550 a week.  On a simple calculation using these numbers, the yield is 6.63%.  If stamp duty of $13,510 is added, the real sales price is $444,510, so the yield changes to 6.43%.  Once letting agents fees, body corporate fees and rates are taken into account, the yield drops to 4.5%.  And this does not include vacancies and repairs.

I recommend focusing on net yield, after expenses.  For a one bedroom apartment, you should aim for a net yield of 5%.  For a two bedroom, aim for a net yield of 4.5%.  For a three bedroom, 4%.

Blog Statistics

Looking at the number of views of this blog since 2007, December is the month with the lowest number of readers, year on year.  My guess is that less people are doing research or are considering buying an apartment in Brisbane in December.

When should I buy? When should I sell?

The Brisbane inner city apartment market is somewhat strange at present.  Some points to note:
  • I mentioned in a recent post that there were fewer apartments listed for sale than in recent times.  That is the case for resales of existing apartments.
  • There is a large potential increase in the number of inner city apartments, due to a large number of high rise apartments being developed.
  • With spring, more apartment owners are likely to list their apartments for sale.
  • Rents are down, vacancy rates are up.
  • Sydney and Melbourne are or have boomed.  Brisbane has not.  It is still behind its peak 5 years ago.
  • Future capital growth is uncertain, but apartments are currently selling at good prices due to lack of stock available and low interest rates.
  • My prediction is that in 3 months time, prices will decrease slightly.  So now may be a good time to sell, but an uncertain time to buy.

High-rise Brisbane

A newspaper article by Matusik in the Courier Mail today reflected on potential changes to the Brisbane inner city apartment market:

"Brisbane is set for an increase in the supply of new inner-city digs.  Brisbane could well face an oversupply of downtown apartment stock.  And that increase in stock might more resemble a tsunami in terms of its impart on the market and potential investment outcomes.

For the past five years, the Brisbane market has been undersupplied, with an underlying demand of about 9000 new dwellings across Brisbane.  However, when we break down future demand by market segment, going rental demand (those who occupy a significant percentage of inner-city apartments) appears likely to fall.  And Brisbane's future demand will more likely be deriven by the increasing downs and retirement markets.  Those folk are, for the main, not enticed by large, high-rise complexes.

Rents are down, the vacancy rate is increasing and some resales in recently completed inner-city apartment buildings are already selling for losses.

Currently, the vacancy rate in Brisbane city is 4.2%.  Two years ago it was 1.2%.

And there are now 276 properties (as at June) for rent in Brisbane/Spring Hill, compared with just 48 two years ago.  For the first time in five years, rents have fallen."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Buyer Misses Out Because Notice sent to real estate agent

A recent Supreme Court of Queensland case shows that it is important to be precise when following contractual provisions.  A buyer and seller sign an REIQ contract of sale.  The contract includes a provision that the buyer must give notice to the seller that the building and pest inspection has been satisfied by 5pm on a particular day, and if such notice is not given by this time, then the seller can terminate.  The contract says that notice can be given by fax to the seller or the seller's solicitor.

The buyer's solicitor gave notice at 4.57pm to the seller's real estate agent, not the seller's solicitor.  So the seller terminated the contract at 5.07pm.  This termination by the seller was considered to be valid.

See Simpson v. Jackson [2014] QSC 191

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Property Clock

"However I like Brisbane at the moment; it’s the capital city with the strongest potential for capital growth. It’s at about 7.30 on the clock, with plenty of well-priced stock around if you know where to look."

See MRD Partners

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dog v. Body Corporate Committee - Dog Wins Again

Harbour Lights [2014] QBCCMCmr 264 (21 July 2014)


In McKenzie v Body Corporate for Kings Row Centre, the scheme in question was a high rise building. Despite this, the Tribunal found the scheme could prima facie be suitable for the keeping of pets. Following this decision, I am not satisfied the unit in question is inappropriate for the keeping of this dog merely because it is a ‘unit’ (as opposed to a house or other dwelling type) or contained in a high density housing area. Further, I note that no evidence whatsoever has been presented to suggest that the dog in question is too large or otherwise inappropriate to be housed in the applicant’s unit. Accordingly, I am not satisfied these arguments form a reasonable basis to deny the applicant’s pet request.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Brisbane has under performed, but is gathering momentum

Double click on the above to make bigger.  Source:  RP Data

Arbour on Grey

One of the better buildings in the South Bank / South Brisbane area is Arbour on Grey, located on Grey St and Little Stanley Street.  It was developed by Mirvac, and is a high quality complex.  It has views of South Bank, and apartments on the higher floors can see the river.  (It is only 4 floors high.)

The two bedroom apartments are typically about 90 sqm internally, with a large balcony of about 20 sqm.  So much larger than many off-the-plan two bedroom apartments currently being marketed.

Some recent sales:

Apt 1307, located on level 3 - 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 car, facing the river - $735,000
Apt 1215, located on level 2 - 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 car, facing Grey St - $620,000
Apt 2204, located on level 2 - 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 car, facing Grey St - $467,250

Some apartments currently for sale in the complex:

Apt 1110, located on level 1 - 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 car, large apartment facing Grey St
Apt 2218 - under contract
Apt 2312 - under contract
Apt 2214 - 3 bedroom floor-through apartment on level 2

Limited Stock Available for Sale

In Brisbane (and also the Sunshine Coast), there are a limited number of apartments listed for sale by owners (excluding off the plan and developer sales).  Some agents are saying (for the first time in years) that there are more buyers than sellers for apartments.  In some suburbs, there are very few apartments listed for sale, and in some larger buildings, there are no listings at all.  That being said, prices are up, but not dramatically.

One could conclude that:
  • owners don't think it is a good time to sell
  • owners believe that prices will rise soon, following on from the trends in Melbourne and Sydney
  • owners are still underwater, and don't want to sell at a loss, and so are waiting for further price increases before selling
  • interest rates are low, and so holding costs are low -- why sell a cash flow positive property?
  • Brisbane is a good long term investment
  • buyers believe that the Brisbane market will improve
  • off the plan developments are overpriced, and so buyers are looking at existing apartments, which are better value

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Property Indices

RP Data's blog had a post responding to a Fairfax criticism of the RP Data property index,  It is worth reading.  One interesting graph shows property price index v. ASX index is included below.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Highgate in Highgate Hill

Pointcorp is marketing The Highgate located in Highgate Hill, next door to the famous Torbreck building.  Looks like it will have great views north to the city.  The complex will have 42 apartments starting at $1.5M.  The developer says that is sees a demand for premium apartments in Brisbane, in the $1M to $2M range.  The AFR below reports 108 sales in Sunland's Abian on Alice Street and good results for SouthPoint and Pinnacle presales.

Recent Brisbane Apartment Sales

iStay River City - 79 Albert St

Apt 1201, 1 bed, 1 bath - sold on 27 July for $335,000

Charlotte Towers - 128 Charlotte St

Apt 2404 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 27 July for $340,000
Apt 1201 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 18 July for $365,000
Apt 4403 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 29 May for $650,000
Apt 2803 - 2 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 2 May for $495,000

Skyline - 30 Macrossan St

Apt 53 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 27 July for $603,000
Apt 193 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 2 June for $618,500
Apt 31 - sold on 16 May for $750,000

M on Mary - 70 Mary St

Apt 1205 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 2 July for $322,500
Apt 4302 - 5 bed, 3 bath, 3 car - sold on 31 May for $1.9M
Apt 1009  - 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 26 May for $365,000
Apt 506  - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 10 May for $395,000

Festival Towers - 108 Albert St

Apt 3807 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 30 June for $516,000
Apt 1503 - 2 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 25 June for $460,000
Apt 4007 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 10 June for $541,000
Apt 704 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 5 June for $298,500
Apt 2610 - 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 3 June for $400,000
Apt 905 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 2 June for $319,500
Apt 2510 - 1 bed, 1 bath, no car - sold on 22 May for $350,000
Apt 2301 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 9 May for $525,000
Apt 508 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 8 May for $475,000

Felix - 26 Felix St

Apt 217 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 29 June for $580,000

Riverplace - 82 Boundary St

Apt 92 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 27 June for $645,000
Apt 147 - 2 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 23 June for $551,000
Apt 52 - 2 bed, 1 bath, 2 car - sold on 7 May for $650,000

Admiralty Towers One - 35 Howard St

Apt 44 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 8 June for $810,000
Apt 146, 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 12 May for $585,000

Infinity - 43 Herschel St

Apt 3807 - sold on 27 May for $400,000
Apt 4303 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 26 May for $630,000
Apt 6304 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 20 May for $640,000

212 Margaret St

Apt 82 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 26 May for $555,000

Admiralty Quays - 32 Macrossan St

Apt 137 - 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 cars - sold on 12 May for $1,100,000
Apt 34 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 2 May for $850,000

Riparian - 71 Eagle St

Apt 4302 - 1 bed, 2 bath, 2 car - sold on 8 May for $1.5M

Admiralty Towers Two - 501 Queen St

Apt 166 - 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 car sold on 28 April for $979,900

Aurora - 420 Queen St

Apt 301 - 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - sold on 26 April for $627,500

Quay West - 132 Alice St

Apt 103 - 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - sold on 24 April for $510,000

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meriton Soleil Resales - Some up, some down

It is interesting to see how resales have gone for off-the-plan purchasers in Meriton's Soleil (501 Adelaide St, Brisbane).  Some original buyers have profited, and some have lost.  I am not convinced that the risk in buying off-the-plan, when you can't see the view or quality or feel of the apartment, is worth it, when it seems that there is a good chance that you can buy the same apartment when complete for less.

Apt 5304 - Sold off-the plan in June 2009 for $543,000, resold in June 2014 for the same price.  This is a loss, because of stamp duty and agent's selling fees.

Apt 2403 - Sold off-the plan in August 2012 for $493,725, resold in April 2014 for $525,000.

Apt 5505 - Sold off-the plan in August 2009 for $669,240, resold in April 2014 for $600,000.

Apt 5604 - Sold off-the plan in November 11 for $586,000, resold in April 2014 for $565,000.

Apt 4404 - Sold off-the plan in April 2012 for $485,000, resold in April 2014 for $572,000.

Apt 4004 - Sold off-the plan in March 2009 for $502,000, resold in March 2014 for $570,000.

Brisbane Apartments outperforming Brisbane Houses

According to RP Data:

"Capital city dwelling values were 1.1 per cent higher over the three months ending July, taking the aggregate capital gain to 5.0 per cent for the year to date across the combined capital cities. The gain was mostly centred in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra where dwelling values rose 2.0 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively over the rolling quarter to offset the falls recorded in other capital cities. The Darwin market also recorded a capital gain over the past three months (+0.8%) while the remaining capital cities all recorded a drop in values (Brisbane -0.4%, Adelaide -2.6%, Perth -0.1%, Hobart - 1.2%)."

However, looking at the breakdown of the statistics, Brisbane apartments are doing much better than Brisbane houses.

Brisbane apartment prices (to 31 July 2014):
July 2014 - up 1.3%
Quarter - up 0.8%
Year to Date - up 3%
Year on Year - up 7.4%
Median price based on settled sales of Brisbane apartments over the quarter - $390,000

Lawsuit over carpark

A long running lawsuit about a car parking space reached conclusion recently, with a decision from the Queensland Court of Appeals.
See Hadgelias Holdings and Waight v Seirlis & Ors [2014] QCA 177
A person purchased an expensive apartment, and was told that there were 3 car parks, but in fact, there were only 2 carparks plus a storage space.  Damages were awarded in favour of the purchaser.

An interesting calculation quoted in the judgment, where it was stated that the value of the apartment at the time was falling at a rate of $45,000 month, independent of the car park issue:

"Using apartment 4404 as a basis for valuing the Seirlis apartment in April 2010, he deducted the following amounts from its January 2010 sale price of $2.65 million: $135,000, to represent the three months which had elapsed to April 2010; $50,000 for its superior fit-out; $60,000 for its additional two floors in height; and $100,000 as the estimated value of the third car space. That brought him to a figure of $2.305 million for the value of Mrs Seirlis’ apartment. From the sale price of apartment 4804 in October 2009, $2.9 million, he deducted $270,000 to represent the passage of six months, $180,000 to reflect the six floor difference, $50,000 for its superior fit out and $50,000 for the value of its storage facility. That gave a value for Mrs Seirlis’ apartment of $2.35 million as at the date of

Interest Rates and Housing Bubble in Australia?

Interest rates for residential housing are at lifetime record lows.  Banks are awash in cheap cash that they want to lend.  Lending standards have deteriorated, and money is being loaned out willy nilly.  Good established properties in Brisbane are selling quickly at good prices.  Those wanting to invest are turning to off-the-plan apartment developments, where it is an easier process to sell and buy -- but at higher than market prices.  Is housing price growth solid and sustainable, or a bubble?

When buying, questions to consider:
  • What will happen when quantitative easing ends in the USA?
  • Will there be inflation?
  • What is the risk of the Australian government removing negative gearing, and what impact will this have on property prices?
  • What will happen if China property prices collapse?  What will happen if Chinese buyers stop buying in Australia?
  • In a year, will all off-the-plan buyers be able to settle?
  • Why are off-the-plan prices for apartments much higher than similar properties that the developers have sold, and the first owner is reselling?
An interesting article re the possible bubble is here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Housing Price Supply and Demand

From the AFR on 30 July 2014, p. 28

"Recent house price appreciation has been driven by more than simply a strongly growing population.  Low interest rates have encouraged domestic investors to allocate assets into housing.  Foreign investors have also been buying.  A reduced rental return on housing would eventually discourage domestic investors but probably comes with a lag.

The apparent equalisation between an undersupply of housing versus strong demand for dwellings in major metropolitan areas comes as the official cash rate remains at a record low of 2.5%, and as the major banks lower their fixed rate home loans in an attempt to entire more people to borrow more."

This article applies more to the Sydney and Melbourne markets than Brisbane.  It is important to look at individual markets, and not take southern trends and blindly apply them to Brisbane.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

RP Data June Index Results

Capital city dwelling values have shown a 1.4 per cent capital gain over the month of June 2014, with all cities apart from Adelaide and Darwin recording a rise in dwelling values. According to RP Data research director Tim Lawless, the strong result has partially reversed last month’s 1.9 per cent fall and provides a - 0.2 per cent decline in dwelling values over the June quarter.

Mr Lawless said, “With interest rates remaining low for the foreseeable future, it is doubtful that housing values will start to slide, at least not at a macro level. What is more likely is that natural affordability constraints will start to dent buyer demand, as will the low rental yield scenario’s that are very much evident across the largest capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

Other indicators such as clearance rates are holding relatively firm which, according to Mr Lawless, further reinforces the notion that the housing market isn’t set to show a market correction. 

Brisbane apartment prices (to 30 June 2014):
June 2014 - up 0.7%
Quarter - up 1.4%
Year to Date - up 1.7%
Year on Year - up 5.4%
Median price based on settled sales of Brisbane apartments over the quarter - $385,000

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Not out of the woods yet

I was speaking with a U.S. homeowner recently who handed her keys back to the bank.  She bought a house in NY State about 5 years ago, substantially renovated her house, but it was still way underwater today.  From what she told me, there are many other homeowners who are still in negative equity in the U.S.  And there are a large number of homes still going through the foreclosure process in some states.

One company that has been buying up U.S. homes is Waypoint.  Have a look at the Waypoint website  to see their rental homes.  They list and manage directly, without agents.  An interesting story about Waypoint is here.  There is consolidation occurring in the buy-to-rent market in the U.S.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

China Impact

Four recent articles in the AFR are of interest in relation to the impact of China on Australian property.

"Spike in approvals for foreign investment in housing" (AFR, 12 June 2014, p. 36): The FIRB has approved a big jump in applications to buy Australian housing.  In dollar terms, the investment approved is up 67%.

"Chinese buyers key to market: Triguboff" (AFR, 12 June 2014, p. 36):  Meriton raised the issue of whether those who were allowed to buy homes because they were temporary residents, sold them when they ceased to be Australian residents.  In the 2012-13 year, 43.7% of FIRB approvals were for temporary residents to buy established dwellings, because foreign buyers who do not have permanent residency, can only buy new homes.  Meriton pointed out that the annual report of the FIRB did not report on compliance.

"We are part of the Chinese market.  The buyers compare me [Meriton] with the prices in Shanghai and Beijing.  If the price falls in China, that will affect us," Mr Triguboff said.

"China's housing vacancies signal property bubble" (AFR, 12 June 2014, p. 10): A report estimates that there are 49 million vacant homes in China, resulting in a vacancy rate of 22.4%.  "Once expectations change, the high vacancy rate will puts lots of pressure on prices and we could see them collapse."

"President targets naked civil servants" (AFR, 11 June 2014, p. 14): A group of Chinese bureaucrats, dubbed the luoguan or naked officials have become the latest target of President Xi Jinping.  They move their families and money to foreign countries.  "No one know how much this new approach will affect universities and real estate markets in favoured destinations like Australia as the numbers are hard to pin down.  But they are not small."  There are estimated to be about 1.2 million naked officials at the end of 2012.

"House prices second highest in the world" (AFR, 12 June 2014, p. 5): Australia may have the world's second-most expensive housing market behind Belgium, according to the IMF.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

McGrath's View of Brisbane

Chief executive of McGrath Estate Agents and founder of the Australasian Real Estate Conference, John McGrath, said residential property in southeast Queensland had years of price increases ahead of it.
“Sydney and Melbourne have a couple of years to go (with price growth) and I think the market here (in Queensland) has three to four years to go of price growth,” he said.
Chinese property investment was also set to become increasingly important to southeast Queensland.
“It hasn’t yet hit southeast Queensland anywhere near the degree I expect it to,” Mr McGrath said. “At this point southeast Queensland has not been explored thoroughly and I think you’ll find huge Chinese buying coming into the Gold Coast and Queensland over the next few years as well.”