My house price bet with Tony Locantro: An update

Wed, 19 Dec 2018  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/35-house-price-crash-unlikely-201301480.html 

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Why a 35% house price crash is 'very unlikely'

Australian house prices dropped again in the September quarter to be 2.8 per cent below the December quarter 2017 peak, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics dwelling price series. In many respects, the data is old news – the comprehensive Corelogic house price series for November has already been released and they show further price falls in the last two months.

House price bet

Why the ABS dwelling price series matters, to me at least, it that it forms the basis of the bet on house prices I made in September with Tony Locantro, Investment Manager with Alto Capital in Perth.

Tony and I had a bet that at any stage between now and the time the December quarter 2021 dwelling price data are published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the price index for any of Sydney, Melbourne or the aggregate eight capital cities prices is down 35.0 per cent or more, I will give Tony $15,000 cash. Conversely, if by the time the December quarter 2021 data are published and the peak to trough decline is 34.9 per cent or less in Sydney, Melbourne and the eight capital cities, Tony has to give me $2,500.

These generous odds and benchmark for the 35.0 per cent price fall that I offered Tony reflected the absurd nature of a forecast from DFA’s Martin North to the effect that his forecast was for house prices to “drop 40 to 45 per cent over the next three years or so”.

For the record, North rejected my offer for a wager on the terms accepted by Tony.

While house prices are weak and remain weak, a decline of 35 per cent is unlikely. Very unlikely. 

The reasons are straightforward

Demographic factors continue to favour the housing market. Population growth is strong and this unrelenting addition to underlying demand will put a floor under the housing market. Also important over the medium term of a year or two is the slump in new dwelling approvals. This slowdown in the number of new additions to the housing stock will, with a lag, lower the risk of an oversupply on housing. If new construction falls sharply, there may even be pockets of shortages into 2020 and 2021.

There is also an apparent build up in pent-up demand from first home buyers who dropped out of the housing market several years ago when prices were rising strongly. The recent housing finance data showed that the proportion of new loans taken out by first home buyers rose to a six year high, suggesting a lift in opportunistic buying as prices weaken. Suffice to say, cashed up first home buyers are set to provide a key source of fresh demand for housing over the next couple of years, a point which is likely to limit the decline in prices.

There are still a little over three years before the bet is settled on the 35 per cent house price fall.

A more realistic scenario

While the tightening in bank credit and still tight monetary policy settings will see house prices drop some more, probably through to the middle of 2019, a realistic scenario is for a peak to trough decline of around 15 to 20 per cent. When this happens, buyers will emerge from the woodwork, demand will lift and the floor in prices will be achieved. 

It would take an obscure event to see price falls get anywhere near the 35 per cent Tony Locantro is betting on.

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Don’t look now – you are almost certainly poorer than a year ago

I am sorry to kick off the new year with some gloomy news of your finances.

It is never nice to discuss how much money you have lost, but if you are a home owner in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Darwin and if you have a superannuation nest egg, the odds are you are less wealthy today than you were a year or two ago.

Here are some uncomfortable facts.

The Australian stock market, where the bulk of your superannuation assets are likely to be invested, has slumped 11 per cent since August, reducing the value of stocks by around $200 billion.  No doubt your superannuation has suffered part of this loss.

At the same time, home owners in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin are seeing the value of their homes getting crunched.

Here are some examples.

Falling dollar reflects global concern all is not well in the Australian economy

Mon, 07 Jan 2019

The article first appeared on The Guardian website at this link: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/03/falling-dollar-reflects-global-concern-all-is-not-well-in-the-australian-economy 

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Falling dollar reflects global concern all is not well in the Australian economy

The Australian dollar was hit hard overnight, Australian time, slumping below 70 US cents before a sharp and more extreme move saw it temporarily crash to a low of 67.40 US cents. It subsequently recovered marginally, but remains weak at around 69.40 US cents.

Rather than focus on the micro aspects of minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour moves in the dollar, which can be more noise than substance, the trend for the dollar over the past year has been down.

In January 2018, the Australian dollar was trading at 81.50 US cents.

There is increasing concern from global investors that all is not well with the Australian economy. Policy is in a do-nothing phase. Entrenched low wages growth is hampering growth in household spending. This is being complemented, in a negative way, by a sharp fall in wealth as house prices drop and the share market weakens, both of which will be a negative for the economy during 2019. This is because householders are simply not getting the income growth nor wealth accumulation needed to allow them to keep spending at a rate that will see the economy expand at a pace that will generate upside wage and inflation momentum. Strategies aimed at reducing debt and paring back new borrowings mean, by definition, weaker economic growth over the near term.