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Safe As Houses

Predicted increases in value signals strength in local property market.

By Paul Miron
Thu, Aug 19, 2021Grey Clock 4 min


The latest official property data figures have been released, indicating Australian houses prices in some capital cities have risen as much as 29% —the sharpest increase in the residential property market since 1988.

What makes this even more astounding is that this occurred during a once in 100-year pandemic and negative net migration growth, the first time since WW2.

While most of us are scratching our heads in disbelief, bank economists are upping their forecasts. Their consensus is that the property market still has another 10% to 17% in appreciation to go in the coming 12 months.

Essentially, bank economists have generally got it wrong during COVID-19 — first estimating that property prices would drop by over 30% in 12 months. The truth is prices increased by over 15%

As stated in many of previous columns, the health of the property sector in Australia is fundamental in enabling economic recovery and stability.

The real questions to ask are: ‘What are the critical drivers of property prices?’; ‘Are there any structural changes anticipated in the property market?’; ‘Are there any other factors that play a role in contributing to property prices?’

As much as a 14% increase in property price can be directly attributed to a 1% decrease in interest rates according to RBA’s modelling.

Low interest rates undoubtedly are the single most significant factor that drive property prices.

Beyond interest rates, some other factors to consider are:

  • Building approvals and efficiency of the planning process (supply of property)
  • net migration (increases demand),
  • employment
  • vacancy rates.

Perhaps the most eloquent modelling recently undertaken is by the RBA’s Peter Tulip and which quantifies a premium attributed to property prices due to lack of supply and planning constraints. 

Addition cost to houses
% to the total value
Additional cost to units
% to the total value

Tulip’s paper attributes house prices in Sydney to be 73% higher and in Melbourne 69% higher, precisely due to the lack of additional land supply and unit approvals. From an Urban Planning perspective, there is a constraint of available land. New land releases are not cost-effective for the government due to the increased cost of providing infrastructure to support new Green-fill suburbs. Continuing with the urban sprawl as a solution may have outlived its lifespan.

The unavoidable conclusion will most likely align with RBA’s research, more building approvals are needed, and a more efficient and robust planning process is required. Importantly new land releases are the best antidote in keeping prices low. This would avoid making borrowing money harder by dampening demand or increasing interest rates in an attempt to reduce property prices.

COVID-19 lockouts have resulted in net migration being negative, which has dramatically reduced the demand for units. CoreLogic data below shows the premium houses have over units have never been higher.

It’s easy for property commentators to conclude that units are less desirable — people have lost confidence in living in units during the pandemic. Recently publicised cases such as Sydney’s Opal Tower and others have created reduced interest for units.

Median Value

As Australia’s property market grows in size and immigration recommences, the Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane unit market will have commonalities with other cities such as New York, Paris, and London.

Units in these cities are not considered a secondary option to houses but a complimentary option due to the ability to live in desirable locations close to amenities, schools, transport, entertainment, work and avoiding the need for motor vehicles

Units in Australia has historically been specifically catered for either: 

  • a transient purchaser who wishes to live in an apartment temporarily until they can afford to buy a house
  • overseas students 
  • cheaper investment property option

As a result, units are generally smaller in size with lower quality building finishes 

On the flip side, we believe there is a strong demand for larger, high-quality apartments. This high-end unit market is expected to grow further as the baby boomers look towards their future accommodation needs and conventional houses will not fulfill their needs.

The NSW state government is acutely aware of these issues and appreciates that building the correct type of units to meet market demand will keep affordability down and cater to the broader market.

The NSW building commissioner David Chandler publicly names and shames builders by policing defects, thus ensuring that developers pick up their game which in turn will protect purchasers. This will restore confidence for purchasers wishing to buy apartments, especially those who want to buy off the plan.

Despite units performing relatively poorly compared to detached houses, we believe that there will be an increase in demand for units. The challenge will be for quality supply as the demand increases. The consumer will be increasingly selective on the offering, expecting a superior or equal liveability offered in an apartment to that of a house.

Paul Miron has more than 20 years experience in banking and commercial finance. After rising to senior positions for various Big Four banks, he started his own financial services business in 2004.

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Private club memberships and luxury cars are some of freebies on the table.

Mon, Aug 15, 2022 6 min

When Ryan Wolitzer was looking to buy an apartment in Miami Beach late last year, several beachfront properties caught his eye. All were two-bedroom homes in high-end buildings with amenities aplenty and featured glass walls, high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. But only The Continuum, in the city’s South of Fifth district, came with a gift: a membership to Residence Yacht Club, a private club that offers excursions on luxury yachts ranging from a day in south Florida to a month around the Caribbean. Residents receive heavily discounted charters on upscale boats that have premier finishes and are stocked with top shelf spirits and wine. Mr. Wolitzer, 25, who works for a sports agency, was sold.

“The access to high-end yachts swayed my decision to buy at The Continuum and is an incentive that I take full advantage of,” Mr. Wolitzer said. “It’s huge, especially in my business when I am dealing with high-profile sports players, to be able to give them access to these incredible boats where they experience great service. I know that they’ll be well taken care of.”

Freebies and perks for homeowners such as a private club membership are a mainstay in the world of luxury real estate and intended to entice prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line.

According to Jonathan Miller, the president and chief executive of the real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, they’re primarily a domestic phenomenon.

In the U.S. residential real estate market, gifts are offered by both developers who want to move apartments in their swanky buildings and individuals selling their homes. They range from modest to over-the-top, Mr. Miller said, and are more prevalent when the market is soft.

“When sales lag, freebies increase in a bid to incentivize buyers,” he said. “These days, sales are slowing, and inventory is rising after two years of being the opposite, which suggests that we may see more of them going forward.”

Many of these extras are especially present in South Florida, Mr. Miller said, where the market is normalizing after the unprecedented boom it saw during the pandemic. “The frenzy in South Florida was intense compared with the rest of the country because it became a place where people wanted to live full time,” he said. “Now that the numbers are inching toward pre-pandemic levels, freebies could push wavering buyers over the finish line.”

Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York, said that the gifts that she has encountered in her business include everything from yacht access and use of a summer house to magnums of pricey wine. “One person I know of who was selling a US$5 million house in the Hamptons even threw in a free Mercedes 280SL,” she said. “They didn’t want to lower the price but were happy to sweeten the deal.”

A car, an Aston Martin to be exact, is also a lure at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Buyers who bought  one of the building’s 01 line apartments—a collection of 47 ocean-facing residences ranging in size from 325 to 362sqm and US$8.3 million to US$9 million in price—had their choice of the DBX Miami Riverwalk Special Edition or the DB11 Miami Riverwalk Special Edition. The DBX is Aston Martin’s first SUV and retails for around US$200,000. It may have helped propel sales given that all the apartments are sold out.

An Aston Martin came with the sale for some buyers at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Aston Martin Residences

The US$59 million triplex penthouse, meanwhile, is still up for grabs, and the buyer will receive a US$3.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan track-only sports car, one of only 24 ever made.

“We want to give homeowners the chance to live the full Aston Martin lifestyle, and owning a beautiful Aston Martin is definitely a highlight of that,” said Alejandro Aljanti, the chief marketing officer for G&G Business Developments, the building’s developer.  “We wanted to include the cars as part of the package for our more exclusive units.”

The US$800,000 furniture budget for buyers of the North Tower condominiums at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, Florida, is another recent head-turning perk. The 94 residences sold out last year, according to president of sales Michael Goldstein, and had a starting price of US$6.3 million. “You can pick the furniture ahead of time, and when buyers move in later this year, all they’ll need is a toothbrush,” he said.

Then there’s the US$2 million art collection that was included in the sale of the penthouse residence at the Four Seasons Residences in Miami’s Brickell neighbourhood. The property recently sold for $15.9 million and spans 817sqm feet. Designed by the renowned firm ODP Architects, it features contemporary paintings and sculpture pieces from notable names such as the American conceptual artist Bill Beckley and the sculptor Tom Brewitz.

But it’s hard to top the millions of dollars of extras that were attached to the asking price in 2019 of the US$85 million 1393sqm  duplex at the Atelier, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. The list included two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a Lamborghini Aventador, a US$1 million yacht with five years of docking fees, a summer stay at a Hamptons mansion, weekly dinners for two at lavish French restaurant Daniel and a live-in butler and private chef for a year. And the most outrageous of all: a flight for two to space.

It turned out that the so-called duplex was actually a collection of several apartments and a listing that went unsold. It did, however, generate plenty of buzz among the press and in real estate circles and was a marketing success, according to Mr. Miller.

“A listing like this that almost seems unbelievable with all the gifts will get plenty of eyeballs but is unlikely to push sales,” he said. “Empirically, it’s not an effective tactic.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said that more reasonable but still generous freebies, such as the membership to a yacht club, have the potential to push undecided buyers to go for the sale. “A nice but not too lavish gift won’t be the singular thing toward their decision but can be a big factor,” he said. “It’s a feel-good incentive that buyers think they’re getting without an extra cost.”

Examples of these bonuses include a membership to the 1 Hotel South Beach private beach club that buyers receive with the purchase of a residence at Baccarat Residences Brickell, or the one-year membership to the Grand Bay Beach Club in Key Biscayne for those who spring for a home at Casa Bella Residences by B&B Italia, located in downtown Miami and a residential project from the namesake renowned Italian furniture brand. The price of a membership at the Grand Bay Beach Club is usually a US$19,500 initiation fee and US$415 in monthly dues.

The Grand Salon at at Baccarat Residences Brickell in Miami.
Baccarat Residences

Still enticing but less expensive perks include the two-hour cruise around New York on a wooden Hemmingway boat, valued at US$1,900, for buyers at Quay Tower, at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The building’s developer, Robert Levine, said that he started offering the boat trip in July to help sell the remaining units. “We’re close to 70% sold, but, of course, I want everything to go,” he said.

There’s also the US$1,635 Avalon throw blanket from Hermes for those who close on a unit at Ten30 South Beach, a 33-unit boutique condominium; in Manhattan’s Financial District, a custom piece of art from the acclaimed artist James Perkins is gifted to buyers at Jolie, a 42-story building on Greenwich Street. Perkins said the value of the piece depends on the home purchase price, but the minimum is US$4,000. “The higher end homes get a more sizable work,” he said.

When gifts are part of a total real estate package, the sale can become emotional and personal, according to Chad Carroll, a real estate agent with Compass in South Florida and the founder of The Carroll Group. “If the freebie appeals to the buyer, the transaction takes on a different dynamic,” he said. “A gift becomes the kicker that they love the idea of having.”

Speaking from his own experience, Mr. Carroll said that sellers can also have an emotional connection to the exchange. “I was selling my house in Golden Isles last year for US$5.4 million and included my jet ski and paddle boards,” he said. “The buyers were a family with young kids and absolutely loved the water toys.” Mr. Carroll could have held out for a higher bidder, he said, but decided to accept their offer. “I liked them and wanted them to create the same happy memories in the home that I did,” he said.

The family moved in a few months later.