Natural disasters are changing attitudes to long term property values
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Natural disasters are changing attitudes to long term property values

Australian property values usually rebound quickly after natural disasters, but not this time

Thu, Mar 2, 2023 10:32amGrey Clock 2 min

Flooding is beginning to have long term effects on property values, a new report from CoreLogic reveals.

The East Coast Floods – One Year One report examined the impacts of the extreme weather events on the Richmond-Tweed area (also known as the Northern Rivers region) on the far north coast of NSW, as well as the Brisbane region in early 2022, which some described as a ‘rain bomb’.

The report, authored by Corelogic economist Kaytlin Ezzy, said while residential values were historically fairly resilient following flooding events, recovering within three to five years, the 2022 disaster had changed perceptions among homeowners and potential buyers.

“Attitudes towards flood-prone areas, and climate risk in general, are changing,” the report said. “Homeowners, lenders and insurers are becoming more cautious of the risks associated with climate change and are adjusting their risk premiums accordingly. For some impacted homeowners, the risk of another flood is likely to be top of mind, and we could see a number of residents accept government buy-back offers where they are available. 

“For others, the increased costs of insurance could price out existing owners and dissuade new buyers from areas vulnerable to flooding.”

The report noted that while the Insurance Council of Australia had closed 80 percent of claims from the events, which are estimated to have cost $5.7 billion – Australia’s most expensive natural disaster on record – that was only part of the story.

“A sizable number of people are still waiting for building repairs to start, while other uninsured residents have been left with limited resources to undertake repairs,” the report said. “Government intentions around buy backs are still playing out and the number of post flood home sales is still low. 

“The full impact of the floods won’t be known until these factors have played out.”

Using satellite imagery, CoreLogic has zeroed in on areas most affected by floods. Perhaps unsurprisingly, flood-prone areas such as South Lismore and North Lismore recorded flooding across 80.8 percent and 70.1 percent of properties respectively. The news was similarly grim in West Ballina, where 56 percent of properties were impacted.

However, areas considered low risk, such as Girards Hill (35.1 percent) and East Lismore (22.4 percent) were also heavily affected.

In the Byron Bay region, Mullumbimby experienced the highest numbers, with 17.4 percent of properties impacted by flooding.

The impact on values has been immediate, and not just in those areas directly affected by floods, CoreLogic data reveals.

“Mullumbimby recorded the largest 12-month decline nationally, down -30.1 percent, roughly equivalent to a $432,000 decline in the median value, followed by South Lismore (-27.0 percent), Ocean Shores (-26.8 percent) and Byron Bay (-25.4 percent). The other impacted suburbs saw values fall between -22 percent and -25 percent,” the report said. 

“Interestingly, a number of suburbs that were relatively unimpacted by flooding also recorded significant declines. Values across Bangalow, Lismore Heights and Suffolk Park fell by -28.4 percent, -25.7 percent, and -24.3 percent, respectively, and East Ballina and Alstonville recorded slightly smaller declines of -20.2 percent and -19.6 percent.” 

While it noted that reduced economic activity across the whole region was a likely contributing factor, the report said that the decline had been less in Lismore’s elevated suburbs of Goonellabah which recorded a milder -7.2 percent drop in values, as well as a number of surrounding farming communities where declines were less severe. 


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Renters are returning to the apartment market, leading to higher growth in weekly rents for units than houses over the past year, according to REA data. As workers return to their corporate offices, tenants are coming back to the inner city and choosing apartment living for its affordability.

This is a reversal of the pandemic trend which saw many renters leave their inner city units to rent affordable houses on the outskirts. Working from home meant they did not have to commute to the CBD, so they moved into large houses in outer areas where they could enjoy more space and privacy.

REA Group economic analyst Megan Lieu said the return to apartment living among tenants began in late 2021, when most lockdown restrictions were lifted, and accelerated in 2022 after Australia’s international border reopened.

Following the reopening of offices and in-person work, living within close proximity to CBDs has regained importance,” Ms Lieu said.Units not only tend to be located closer to public transport and in inner city areas, but are also cheaper to rent compared to houses in similar areas. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that units, particularly those in inner city areas, are growing in popularity among renters.

But the return to work in the CBD is not the only factor driving demand for apartment rentals. Rapidly rising weekly rents for all types of property, coupled with a cost-of-living crisis created by high inflation, has forced tenants to look for cheaper accommodation. This typically means compromising on space, with many families embracing apartment living again. At the same time, a huge wave of migration led by international students has turbocharged demand for unit rentals in inner city areas, in particular, because this is where many universities are located.

But it’s not simply a demand-side equation. Lockdowns put a pause on building activity, which reduced the supply of new rental homes to the market. People had to wait longer for their new houses to be built, which meant many of them were forced to remain in rental homes longer than expected. On top of that, a chronic shortage of social housing continued to push more people into the private rental market. After the world reopened, disrupted supply chains meant the cost of building increased, the supply of materials was strained, and a shortage of labour delayed projects.

All of this has driven up rents for all types of property, and the strength of demand has allowed landlords to raise rents more than usual to help them recover the increased costs of servicing their mortgages following 13 interest rate rises since May 2022. Many applicants for rentals are also offering more rent than advertised just to secure a home, which is pushing rental values even higher.

Tenants’ reversion to preferring apartments over houses is a nationwide trend that has led to stronger rental growth for units than houses, especially in the capital cities, says Ms Lieu. “Year-on-year, national weekly house rents have increased by 10.5 percent, an increase of $55 per week,” she said.However, unit rents have increased by 17 percent, which equates to an $80 weekly increase.

The variance is greatest in the capital cities where unit rents have risen twice as fast as house rents. Sydney is the most expensive city to rent in today, according to REA data. The house rent median is $720 per week, up 10.8 percent over the past year. The apartment rental median is $650 per week, up 18.2 percent. In Brisbane, the median house rent is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent over the past year, while the median rent for units is $535 per week, up 18.9 percent. In Melbourne, the median house rent is $540 per week, up 13.7 percent, while the apartment median is $500 per week, up 16.3 percent.

In regional markets, Queensland is the most expensive place to rent either a house or an apartment. The house median rent in regional Queensland is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent year-onyear, while the apartment median rent is $525, up 16.7 percent.


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