BUBBLE BURSTS ON AUSTRALIAN REGIONAL PROPERTY PRICES
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BUBBLE BURSTS ON AUSTRALIAN REGIONAL PROPERTY PRICES

Interest rate increases and the impact of floods on regional centres have taken a toll on once sought-after areas

By Robyn Willis
Tue, Nov 15, 2022 10:04amGrey Clock 2 min

As floodwaters inundate regional towns across NSW, Queensland and Victoria, regional real estate markets have recorded the fastest decline in values in the past quarter, CoreLogic reports.

The Regional Market Update, from the property data provider oversees activity in Australia’s 25 largest non capital city regions and has revealed that the COVID-induced boom in property values has ended, with six of the most popular regions recording falls in house values of at least -6 percent. This includes the Richmond-Tweed area at -11.7 percent, the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven, -7.1 percent, the Sunshine Coast -7.1 percent, the Gold Coast -6.4 percent, Illawarra -6.1 percent and Newcastle and Lake Macquarie -6.0 percent.

CoreLogic Economist Kaytlin Ezzy said the drop in values was not unexpected.

“It is unsurprising the Richmond-Tweed region recorded the strongest decline in house values,” she said. “Throughout the COVID period, values skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent and taking the median house value to more than $1.1 million. 

“However the impact of this year’s floods, coupled with seven consecutive rate rises, has seen house values fall in the region by nearly -16 percent since April.” 

Housing markets also took a hit, with regional NSW recording the worst results. The Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven saw a -27.5 percent downturn in sales volumes while properties in New England and the North West region averaged the longest time on the market at 43 days.

“Sales activity has continued to soften over the quarter, with only a few regions, predominantly in northern Queensland, recording an increase in annual sales volumes,” Ms Ezzy said. 

“While down compared to the previous year, it’s important to remember that last year was one of the busiest sales periods on record, and the majority (76 percent) of regional markets analysed are still recording higher annual sales volumes compared to their previous five-year averages.”



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Why Prices of the World’s Most Expensive Handbags Keep Rising

Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons

By CAROL RYAN
Tue, Mar 5, 2024 3 min

The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.

Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.

The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.

Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.

With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.

Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.

Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.

“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.

Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.

Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.

Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.

Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.

The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.

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