My house price bet with Tony Locantro - an update

Mon, 01 Apr 2019  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance web page at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/aussie-property-crash-looking-even-unlikely-heres-021138614.html 

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My house price bet – I’m very happy and getting ready to collect

I recently made a bet with Tony Locantro, Investment Manager with Alto Capital in Perth on the extent to which house prices would fall over the next three years.

Just to reiterate, the bet centred on Locantro’s view that prices would drop 35 per cent or more by the end of 2021 from the peak levels in 2017, a forecast that looked absurdly pessimistic given the raft of factors that influence house prices over the course of years.

For Mr Locantro to win the bet, house prices measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on a quarterly basis in either Sydney, Melbourne or for the average of the eight capital cities would need to fall by 35 per cent or more from the peak levels by the time the December quarter 2021 data are released. The ABS released the latest residential property price data last week which presents an opportunity to see how the bet is unfolding, admittedly with three years to go until it is settled.

As everyone knows, house prices are falling in most cities, reversing part of the boom over several decades.

According to the ABS data, and in terms of the bet with Locantro, here is the latest scorecard:

                    Date of peak           Total fall to date - December quarter 2018  

Sydney            June quarter 2017               9.1%

Melbourne       December quarter 2017      6.4%

8 Capital Cities December quarter 2017     5.1%

To date, the run rate suggests prices will not fall by anything near 35 per cent. In other words, the decline in house prices has to accelerate from now and be sustained for the peak to trough decline to exceed 35 per cent. While there is a slight risk such large falls will occur, it remains very unlikely that the housing market will experience such a crash.

Here’s why

There are several basic reasons for this. Interest rates are low and are likely to be cut further which will put a floor under demand. At the same time, the improvement in affordability from the lower house prices, plus moderate incomes growth has seen first home buyers take steps into the housing market.

With a large pool of potential first home buyers eagerly waiting on the side lines, with deposits at the ready and finance approved, an important source of support to housing is likely to materialise over the near term and the next few years.

The other important issue suggesting a bottoming on the housing cycle in the next year is the current slide in building approvals, which will severely curtail new supply. Any over supply that currently exists will not last for long with Australia’s population still growing by around 300,000 to 350,000 people a year.

Those people will need to buy or rent a dwelling meaning a floor under prices is likely to materialise as new construction of plummets.All up, it looks like house prices will remain weak for another 6 to 12 months until these stabilising influences start to impact.

This means that peak to trough prices is likely to be around 15 to 20 per cent at most which means a large margin in my favour as the bet draws closer to settlement.

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THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

Here's why you need to buy a house NOW

Wed, 29 May 2019

This four part series on housing first appeared on the Yahoo website during March 2019 at these thinks:

Part 1: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/heres-need-buy-house-now-003308014.html 

Part 2: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/buy-house-live-late-043710857.html 

Part 3: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/many-australians-regret-buying-house-none-234007432.html 

Part 4: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/buy-house-hold-10-years-203418110.html 

 It outlines the case why it is a good time to buy a house. Any comments and feedback welcome!

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Part 1. Here's why you need to buy a house NOW

It would be a great shame if the current weakness in house prices does not see those groups previously frozen out of the housing market step up and buy a house to live in.

Whether it is in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide or regional Australia, housing affordability is improving rapidly with prices generally lower, mortgage interest rates remarkably low and competitive, and wages growth edging up in a steady if not spectacular way. Sure, saving that deposit for a house is still hard and the banks and other financial institutions are making it a bit more difficult to get the loan you need to buy your house.

But for many reasons, getting into the housing market now or in the next 12 months to buy your house to live in will set you on course for a life of fulfilment and financial security.

I want to set the scene with a few definitions – when I say “houses” and “house prices”, I am referring to all dwellings – that is free standing houses, units, townhouses and apartments. It is a generic term. And to make it clear, I am suggesting buying a house for you to live in, not to invest in, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Change of view on interest rates

Fri, 24 May 2019

Having been the only economist to correctly anticipate an interest rate cut from the RBA when close to 50bps of interest rate hikes were priced in to the market last year (See Bloomberg 17 August 2018), I have agonised over the exact months the cuts would be delivered and then how many rate cuts would be needed to reflate the economy.

Recently, I was of the view that the RBA would need to cut 100bps from now, to a level of 0.5%, but I did so with relatively low confidence. This is why I recommended all clients to close their long interest rate positions on 17 April 2019 (when the implied yields were 1.10% for the mid 2020 OIS; 1.35% on 3 year yields and the Aussie dollar was just over 0.7000 at the time).

Like in most good trades that were massively in the money, I left a little money on the table while I reassessed the outlook.

Since calling for interest rate cuts from the RBA, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, especially in the last few weeks.

Events mean I am changing my view on interest rates and have been placing / will be looking to implement new trades.