Monday, March 30, 2015

What to do in Brisbane?

Travel & Leisure magazine has an interesting blog post about Brisbane.  See post here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Arbour on Grey - recent sales

It is hard to find out recent sales prices for a number of South Bank apartments in Brisbane.  This is because the land is leased on a 999 year lease.

Arbour on Grey is one of the better apartment buildings in Brisbane - developed by Mirvac about 12 years ago..  Some apartments on levels 3 and 4 have river views.  It is hard to compare apartments in this complex, because the floor plans and aspects are often very different.  There are two buildings - the north building and the south building, which are low arise, with about 6 entries in total.

Grey St is named after Earl Grey, who once had a tea storage facility on the street.

Some recent sales from Arbour on Grey (all two bed, two bath, 1 car park):
  • Apt 1110, 172 Grey St - level 1, north building - $660,000  (This apartment is a very large apartment looking over Grey St -- 96 sqm internal, with a 50 sqm balcony.  See
  • Apt 1307, 172 Grey St - level 3, north building - $735,000 (109 sqm overlook South Bank Parklands and Little Stanley Street, with river views)
  • Apt 2202, 186 Grey St - level 2, south building - $662,500 (100 sqm overlook South Bank Parklands and Little Stanley Street)
  • Apt 2218, 180 Grey St - level 2, south building - $655,000
  • Apt 2312, 182 Grey St - level 3, south building - $735,000
There is a three bedroom apartment with a good floor plan currently for sale for $1M plus.

Before buying elsewhere in South Brisbane, it is worth comparing what you get in Arbour on Grey.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Brisbane the laggard, says Macquarie

"Brisbane is still very much the laggard for this cycle given the sluggish domestic economy, with periodic price falls still common particularly for the Brisbane unit market," Macquarie's latest report noted.
It was in part because Queensland continued to show population growth moderation as the recent mining boom subsided.
The lagging occurs even as prices emerge back into recovery and should exhibit strong price growth into 2015, it noted.
In my view, another big reason for zero growth in Brisbane is income growth has been negligible, and other costs (especially food and entertainment) have increased faster than salaries.  As a result, rents in Brisbane have basically been flat for two to three years.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brisbane Apartment Glut, then Crash

Queensland University of Technology property economist, Professor Chris Eves, has warned a glut in apartments in Brisbane's CBD, South Brisbane and West End would cause a price crash for apartments in 2016.
"I know of one construction company [Hutchinson] that currently has contracts out for 3000 units in those locations and basically when you are looking at those sorts of numbers, you are looking at a serious oversupply, he said.
Professor Eves said research showed there had been a 9% increase in the number of approvals for apartments in inner-city Brisbane in the past year.
"But we are not seeing the same sort of increase in the population," he said.
The crash will hurt major developers, off-the-plan buyers and some banks, but deliver a bonanza for renters and buyers.
"If we see those approval numbers continue, we are looking at the potential of another Gold Coast/Sunshine Coast glut in the unit market."  
He said the glut in Brisbane CBD, South Brisbane and West End apartments would peak in 2016, causing prices to drop sharply.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Advice from Warren Buffett

Forget what you know about buying fair apartments at wonderful prices; instead, buy wonderful apartments at fair prices. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Developments in Brisbane

A good website to look for future developments in Brisbane is the Brisbane Development website.  It demonstrates that there are many large apartment buildings in the pipeline for Brisbane.  Some examples:
  • CavCorp's proposal for 366 apartments at Newstead Gasworks.
  • Walker Corporation has plans for 433 apartments on Ann Street in the Valley.
  • Aria plans for 84 apartments in Vulture Street in the South Brisbane
  • Plans for 353 apartments on Brunswick Street in the Valley
Before buying, it is worth looking to see if your views will be blocked by any proposed new development.  And keep in mind that there is likely to be an oversupply of new apartments in Brisbane in the next 2 years.  Maybe wait until these buildings all settle, and you may then get a better price.

The Brisbane Development website has a good interactive map showing developments.

Troubles within Body Corporates

When buying an apartment, it is important to understand whether the body corporate committee is professional and sensible, and whether the building owners are cohesive.

An example of a building with major troubles in this area is Admiralty Towers Two at 151 Queen St. This is a prestigious riverfront building, with large apartments and great facilities, is in a really super location.  However, onsite management company (that was once run by real estate agent Tavis Callard) went bankrupt a few years ago, and the receivers are trying to sell the management rights (that is, the contract for the caretaker for the building and onsite rental office).   The current body corporate is opposed to management rights as a concept -- some sort of religious like zeal.  The management rights were sold, and at an AGM the owners narrowly approved the sale to the new caretaker, but the committee is trying to block the sale.  The committee is spending owners money to engage a lawyer from Sydney to fly to Brisbane on this issue -- a lawyer who has publicly stated he is against management rights.  Fights and more fights.  Lawyers everywhere.   Uncertainty over who will be the caretaker.  This has and will impact the value of apartments in this building.

Another building where a fight is brewing is Quay West, where the management rights contract will come to an end in a few years.  Some committee members in this building are also opposed to management rights.  The committee is doing illogical things, just to make the onsite manager's life as difficult as possible.  One example:  the onsite manager offered to buy a new smoke detection system for the building at the manager's own cost to bring the building up to standard, but the committee rallied owners to vote against this.  Does this make commercial sense?

And in Admiralty Towers One, one owner keeps bring legal action against the body corporate and has been regularly unsuccessful.  See this decision and this decision and this decision for example.  This one owner is causing all the other owners to waste money on lawyers, rather than improving the quality of the building.

Another example is The Phoenician at Broadbeach.  The committee at this building has been hostile to a succession of onsite managers for years.  One example -- the committee got into a trade mark litigation with the onsite manager, and lost, having to pay the legal costs of the onsite manager!  What a waste of owners' money.

One common threat running through all this is the Unit Owners Association of Queensland.  Buildings listed above that have had internal disputes often have committee members from UOAQ living in the building or on the body corporate.  It is not uncommon for committee members in such circumstances to push the views of the UOAQ with religious like zeal, often to the financial detriment of residents and lot owners.

(Click on letter below to make bigger)

Recent Sales - Admiralty Towers One and Two

Recent sales in Admiralty Towers One (35 Howard Street)
  • Apt 145, 2 bed, 2 bath, river views from side (not direct riverfront) 105 sqm - $600,000 in January 2015
  • Apt 101, 2 bed, 2 bath, no river views - 104 sqm - $577,000 in January 2015
  • Apt 146, level 24, 2 bed, 2 bath, no river views (same floor plan as Apt 101) - 104 sqm - $575,000 in September 2014
  • Apt 54, level 8, 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - no river views - 74 sqm - $426,300 in September 2014
  • Apt 44, level 6, 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - full river views - 132 sqm - $810,000 in June 2014
Recent sales in Admiralty Towers Two (501 Queen Street)
  • Apt 72, 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 car - full view views - 151 sqm - $1,050,000 in October 2014
  • Aprt 133, 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 car - full view views - 175 sqm - $1,250,000 in October 2014
  • Apt 95, 3 bed, 2 bath, 2 car - full view views - 151 sqm - $1,048,000 in August 2014

Austin Apartment Sale

Aria developed a property at 77 Grey Street, South Brisbane, overlooking the Queensland Museum, called Austin.

Apartment 1807 is currently listed for sale at just less than $700,000.  The apartment has a nice view of the roof of the museum (which is not so attractive) as well as the river and city skyline.  This part of Grey Street is busy, often with traffic jams.  The location is a very short walk to downtown Brisbane.

The apartment has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and is 80 sqm internal, with a small 9 sqm balcony.    So this works out to be over $7,850 a sqm.  To me, that is very expensive.

If you are considering buying an apartment off-the-plan, it is worth looking at this apartment to see what an 80 sqm apartment is like.  For example, look at the photo below -- there is no place to put a TV, unless you put the TV or the couch in front of a window, and the coffee table has been pushed up against the couch to make the room seem bigger.  The kitchen is not really a room, but a row of floor tiles.  The bedrooms are tiny, at 3m by 3.1m; or 3.05m by 3.3m.  Typically, you would not want a bedroom less than 3m x 4m.

Keep in mind that two bedroom apartments with good views can be as large as 130 sqm, so remember to compare apples with apples when looking at apartments.  That is why price per square metre is a good comparison measure.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rental Yields Decreasing as Prices Increase

From RP Data CoreLogic:

"CoreLogic RP Data February Home Value Index results released today showed that Australia’s combined capital cities have seen dwelling values rise by a further 0.3 per cent in February taking home values 8.3 per cent higher over the past twelve months.
According to CoreLogic RP Data head of research Tim Lawless, dwelling values continued their upwards trajectory over the month of February by recording a 0.3 per cent gain over the month. This now takes combined capital city dwelling values 2.5 per cent higher over the rolling quarter and 8.3 per cent higher over the twelve months to the end of February.
Over the past twelve months the CoreLogic RP Data Index shows dwelling values across the eight capital city aggregate index are up 8.3 per cent. Sydney is once again the clear standout with dwelling values 13.7 per cent higher while Melbourne values are 7.4 per cent higher. Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, recorded the third highest rate of annual capital gain with dwelling values up 5.9 per cent. In contrast, dwelling values have increased by less than four per cent in every other capital city over the year.
Evidence of compressed rental yields is continuing across each of the capital city markets. A year ago the gross rental yield for a capital city dwelling was averaging 4.3 per cent; by the end of February the typical gross yield has been eroded down to just 3.7 per cent - due largely to the consistent high rate of dwelling value growth relative to rental growth."

Brisbane apartment prices (to 28 February 2015):
February 2015 - up 0.5%
Quarter - down 2.3%
Year to Date - up 0.3%
Year on Year - up 0.5%
Median price based on settled sales of Brisbane apartments over the quarter - $385,000

So, Brisbane apartment prices over the past year have barely increased, and increased much less than detached houses in Brisbane.  Brisbane is still under performing compared with Sydney and Melbourne.  And if you purchased at the peak of the market in about 2008, you would still be well underwater.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Quay West Brisbane Resales

Recent sales for Quay West in Brisbane, at 132 Alice Street
  • Apt 37, 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - 72 sqm - $456,000 in October 2014
  • Apt 134, 3 bed, 2 bath, 3 car - 172 sqm - $1,350,000 in September 2014 sold to a QC
  • Apt 68, 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car - 126 sqm - $695,000 in September 2014
  • Apt 43, 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - 72 sqm - $440,000 in August 2014
  • Apt 47,  1 bed, 1 bath, 1 car - 72 sqm - $440,000 in July 2014
Rumour has it that Ken Woodley, who lives in this building, recently purchased a 1 bedroom apartment (402) in Quay West for himself or a family member, at $435,000.  Mr Woodley is an owner and managing director of developer Metro Property Group.  I wonder why Mr Woodley is not purchasing in a Metro building, but is buy an older apartment in a Mirvac building?  Does that tell you something about the market?