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Sydney real estate is like gold and in my opinion, despite the phenomenal boom of 2012-2016, Sydney property prices will continue to rise.

McGrath Report 2017: Sydney prices still to rise

John McGrath
7 November 2016

In our just released 2017 McGrath Report, we take a look at all the major east coast capital city markets and discuss the dominant trends going on in each of them.

The stand-out market – as always, is Sydney. It remains Australia’s strongest and most enduring market powered by long-standing fundamentals of undersupply and population growth; and providing every type of lifestyle possible including beachside, harbourside, CBD living and suburban neighbourhoods for almost 5 million residents.

Sydney real estate is like gold and in my opinion, despite the phenomenal boom of 2012-2016, Sydney property prices will continue to rise.

Figures from CoreLogic RP Data* tell us that Sydney property prices have risen 64% in four years. This is spectacular growth and well ahead of the second best result in Melbourne at 44%.

For many Sydney property owners, the boom has delivered extraordinary gains for those in the market. But how do you best capitalise on this newfound wealth?

Meantime, the market is showing signs of plateauing but price growth has continued due to a significant undersupply of stock and strong demand buoyed by further falls in interest rates.

According to CoreLogic RP Data*, the pace of price growth in Sydney has halved this year but median property values are still up 12.8% to $880,000 for houses and 7.5% to $665,500 for apartments over the first eight months of 2016. Pretty impressive for a slowing market.

Record low listing numbers have contributed to very strong auction clearance rates between 70% to above 80% all year.

Local upgraders have been the greatest buying force, aiming to use new equity to upgrade their homes and potentially refinance while interest rates are so low. However, fear of selling and not being able to buy back in is resulting in a determination to buy first, so stock remains low.

Many would-be upgraders are staying put and renovating instead, with Sydney and Melbourne owners spending more than twice the money of owners in other capital cities, according to the ABS and Domain research.

While investors are still out there, we have definitely noticed a drop-off due to tighter lending criteria. The APRA-led changes introduced in early 2015 aimed to limit growth in the banks’ property investment lending to less than 10% per year and this has now been achieved.

The top end of the market is improving this year. The lower dollar has encouraged expats and foreign buyers; and locals who purchased wisely post-GFC are now looking to cash in and upgrade.

In Sydney, Eastern Suburbs owners who bought in the $2 million-$4 million bracket are now selling for $7 million and upgrading to $10 million. In the Lower North Shore harbour suburbs, young families are selling for $4 million -$5 million and upgrading to $8 million - $10 million.

Affordability remains an issue across Sydney. The traditional migration west for cheaper housing continues, with the greatest population growth over the next 20 years expected in Camden, Parramatta, The Hills and Liverpool regions, according to new figures from the NSW Department of Planning#.

However, limited greenfield development space on Sydney’s western fringe means we need to get creative in housing a predicted 1.7 million new residents over the next two decades.#

Among the options is subdivision of traditional blocks in established suburbs to enable more terraces, townhouses and dual occupancies; and more high rise apartment living around suburban CBDs.

Meantime, a growing cohort of young families are leaving Sydney altogether in favour of affordable lifestyle locations, with ABS figures showing the most popular spots are the Richmond-Tweed region, Mid-North Coast, Central Coast and Hunter Valley**.

Chinese buyers remain a force in Sydney, however new fees levied by both federal and state governments on top of tighter lending criteria for foreigners has resulted in reduced demand and settlement risk on new apartments.

There’s a two-year pipeline of 82,000 new apartments to be completed in Sydney, according to CoreLogic RP Data^^. To put that in perspective, 43,500 apartments are sold in Sydney per year but that includes established apartments, which represent a bigger share of the pie.

This wave of new supply will be concentrated around the inner city and suburban employment and shopping hubs such as Strathfield, Parramatta and Ryde. This is where young people want to live and over the next few years, they will be spoilt for choice and finally have some negotiating power on their side.

We see a bright future for the Sydney property market. There is plenty of long-term price growth ahead even as we approach a major affordability hurdle for younger buyers today.

We believe the burgeoning global audience for Sydney real estate will be a key contributor to future price growth; and the long term stability of the market and opportunity to create significant personal wealth will sustain the aspirations of Sydneysiders to own their own homes for generations to come.

*Hedonic Home Value Index, CoreLogic RP Data, published September 1, 2016

#NSW Population Projections 2016 Update, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, published September 12, 2016

**Is family-led sea and tree change back in vogue? CoreLogic RP Data, published April 18, 2016 and Migration, Australia 2014-15, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published March 30, 2016

^^Record high unit construction increases settlement risk, CoreLogic RP Data, published May 16, 2016

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