Housing Boom Fades Worldwide As Interest Rates Climb
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Housing Boom Fades Worldwide As Interest Rates Climb

Prices are falling in some places, raising the risk of market routs and adding to central banks’ challenges.

By Jason Douglas
Wed, Jul 20, 2022 11:49amGrey Clock 5 min

Rising interest rates are slamming the brakes on a global housing boom during the pandemic, heaping extra pressure on central banks as they try to tame inflation without triggering deep downturns in their economies.

From Europe to Asia to Latin America, residential real-estate markets are coming off the boil, and in some cases seeing home values spring, as central banks jack up borrowing costs to bring consumer-price growth to heel.

The seasonally adjusted average home price in Canada was down nearly 8% in June from a peak earlier this year. In New Zealand, prices had slipped 8% in June from their peak in late 2021. Prices in Sweden in May fell 1.6% from the previous month, the biggest monthly decline since the pandemic began.

For the world’s central banks, skimming froth from bubbly housing markets is all part of the battle to bring inflation under control. Falling house prices usually result in weaker consumer spending as homeowners see wealth evaporate, easing upward pressure on inflation. Overall economic activity should slow as construction dwindles, banks issue fewer loans and real-estate agents make fewer sales.

“We are expecting to see some moderation in housing activity. And frankly, that would be healthy, because the economy is overheating,” Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, said last month.

The risk, economists say, is that central banks move too aggressively, causing a global housing-market slowdown that turns into a rout, with unpredictable effects.

Countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden look especially vulnerable, based on metrics such as real-estate’s share of their economies, the extent of their recent booms and homeowners’ sensitivity to rapid interest-rate increases, some economists say.

Analysts say the risk of a housing blowup of the scale of the 2008-09 financial crisis is remote. Banks and borrowers are mostly in far better financial shape now.

Still, a bigger-than-expected housing downturn could mean a deeper economic slowdown than central banks are aiming for to tame inflation.

A shrinking real-estate sector means laid-off construction workers and weaker demand for steel and other commodities. Falling home prices also hurt household and bank balance sheets, which tends to weigh on other parts of the economy. In extreme cases, financial distress ensues.

Faced with those risks, some central banks may decide they can’t lift rates as much as investors currently expect. Others may even pause or reverse rate rises to prevent a real-estate bust from spreading.

“Moderate housing downturns will be tolerated as a price that has to be paid for getting inflation back down,” said Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics in London. More severe downturns, though, could trouble central banks enough to shift policy, he said.

The U.S. is still experiencing strong house-price growth despite higher mortgage rates, as fierce competition outstrips limited supply. Average home prices in the U.S. rose by an annual 20.4% in April, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas.

Federal Reserve officials have expressed determination to bring U.S. inflation down, even at the risk of causing a recession.

Global housing prices took off in 2020 and 2021, when central banks slashed interest rates and governments spent big on keeping companies and workers afloat during the pandemic.

An index of global house prices compiled by real-estate consulting firm Knight Frank shows that prices rose 19% worldwide between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of this year, or 10% after adjusting for inflation, though some markets logged much stronger appreciation.

Inflation-adjusted price growth slowed to 3.9% globally in the first three months of 2022 from a year earlier, the index showed. Over the same period, house prices fell in real terms in countries including Brazil, Chile, Spain, Finland, South Africa and India, Knight Frank research shows.

The slowdown coincides with tighter interest-rate policy across much of the world and expectations of more to come.

After earlier rate rises this year, the Bank of Canada last Wednesday raised its policy rate by a full percentage point to 2.50% and said further rate increases are necessary. Gov. Macklem has said cooling housing is essential to push inflation down from a 39-year high of 7.7% in May.

With Canada mortgage rates at their highest level since 2009, house sales in June were down 24% from a year earlier, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Real-estate brokerage Realosophy said Toronto sales declined 40% in May from a year earlier and now sit at a 20-year low. The median price for a Toronto home, excluding condominiums, is down nearly 20% from a February peak.

Daniel Foch, a real-estate agent who focuses on Toronto’s suburbs, said the mood among would-be buyers is “somewhat bittersweet, because a lot of them are seeing prices come down and they’re thinking, ‘all of sudden I can afford that house.’”

The problem, Mr. Foch said, is when they seek financing. “They realize their buying power has been reduced by the same amount.”

Economists are marking down their expectations for Canada’s economy as housing, which accounted for about one-fifth of the growth in gross domestic product last year, slows.

The Bank for International Settlements, which brings together many of the world’s top central banks, said in June that it could take a while for countries such as the U.S., where most mortgages have fixed rates, to feel the effect of higher rates.

But the same isn’t true for countries where floating-rate mortgages—which adjust as interest rates rise—are more common, as they are in parts of Europe and elsewhere, according to BIS data. In Australia, 85% of mortgages are floating rate. In Poland, the share is 98%.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is currently raising interest at the fastest pace in nearly three decades. Some retreat in house prices would ease affordability problems, but economists say any hint of a coming market collapse would quickly see the RBA stop tightening policy screws.

Overstretched borrowers are a particular concern.

“These are people who have taken out their first housing loan in the last year or so or who have bought a bigger house in the past couple of years and have borrowed as much as the bank would lend them,” RBA Gov. Philip Lowe said in a recent speech.

Economists say there are some grounds for optimism over housing. The price run-up was driven primarily by rock-bottom rates and evolving consumer preferences for more space, not the loosened lending standards or excessive risk-taking that culminated in the 2008-09 crisis. Supply of homes is tight.

Healthy labor markets and pandemic stimulus programs mean many households are in decent financial shape, though inflation is eating into incomes.

“As long as the unemployment rate stays low, interest rates should be manageable for the vast majority of households,” said Sharon Zollner, ANZ Bank’s New Zealand chief economist. “You won’t have a lot of sellers who have to just take whatever the offer is on the day.”

The impact of slowing markets will still be felt, however.

In New Zealand, where home prices rose 45% over 2020 and 2021, the median house price in June was down by about 8% from its November 2021 high of 925,000 New Zealand dollars, equivalent to about $565,500.

The reversal came after New Zealand’s central bank began raising its benchmark interest rate in October, and lenders tightened borrowing standards.

Asif Abbas Mehdi, a business owner in New Zealand’s Waikato dairy-farming region, said he has been trying to sell a three-bedroom, two bathroom townhouse for four months.

Initially he sought NZ$730,000, or about $450,000, then NZ$680,000, or about $419,000. He is reluctant to go lower than that.

“If nothing happens at 680,000, I might have to pull it off the market,” Mr. Mehdi said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 18,2022



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We reveal the No. 1 areas for price growth in each capital city

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Jul 18, 2024 3 min

Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.

 

Sydney

Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.

 

Melbourne

Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.

 

Brisbane

Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.

 

Adelaide

Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.

 

Perth 

Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.

 

Canberra

Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.

 

Hobart

Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.

 

Darwin

Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.

 

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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