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Property oversupply an opportunity for buyers

John McGrath
28 March 2016

By John McGrath

As reported in the media recently, forecaster BIS Shrapnel is holding firm to a view they’ve had for a while – by 2017, every city excluding Sydney will have a significant oversupply of apartments; and it will probably be worst in inner Melbourne and inner Brisbane. 

Oversupplies happen after a boom. Time and time again, they happen. Let me explain. 

During a boom when the market is hot, developers race to acquire land, lodge building applications, prepare sites and build apartments – and increasingly, high rise apartments. But construction takes time so inevitably, when a boom ends, there is an overhang of new supply yet to hit the market when demand is beginning to wane. 

In an oversupplied market, values tend to fall a bit. There’s not enough demand to meet the extra supply. What this means for buyers is they finally get the upper hand and it’s my advice to use it! 

There is a very specific group of buyers who can benefit from oversupplied markets. Those buying for owner-occupation with a view to holding the home for the long term; and to a lesser extent investors, as long as they are in a position to cope with high vacancy rates for a while. This might include couples who want to downsize to a luxury apartment in the city at a future date. 

For these two groups, as long as you’re buying in a good location with a history of strong demand, and you’re also looking to hold your property for the long-term, you can do really well purchasing in an oversupplied market. 

Oversupplied markets give buyers lots of choice and flexibility with negotiating. The trick is, once you’ve bought well, you need to be able to ride out the oversupply and wait for the market to re-balance through population growth. You need to be prepared for gloomy media reports of potential price falls. You might, in fact, experience a decline in your home’s value but this is likely to be short term for good quality properties in desirable areas. 

While owner-occupiers can use oversupplied markets to their advantage, investors do need to be more cautious. It might be difficult to rent your property out when there are many other options for renters. The best thing you can do is buy a property with some special features that separate it from the pack – such as a larger floor plan, great fixtures and fittings, double parking, a north facing aspect and so on, to ensure you get consistency of tenancy during the oversupply. 

Also, if you’re looking to buy and access equity in the near future to purchase again, then buying in an oversupplied market might not be a good idea because price growth is going to take a while. If you’re just looking to buy a home, live there and not do much else in property, then buying in an oversupplied market could be a phenomenal opportunity.

Latest estimates published in April 2015 by Infrastructure Australia show expectations of strong population growth concentrated in our capital cities. Nationally, we’re predicted to grow from 22.3 million in 2011 to 30.5 million in 2031. The four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are projected to grow by 5.8 million (or around 45%) from 12.8 million in 2011 to 18.6 million in 2031. 

The BIS report predicts new dwelling commencements to peak this quarter at around 221,000 but when you take into account impending population growth over the next 15 years, it’s a green light for buyers looking to take advantage of oversupply prices next year. 


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