National house prices rise slightly in latest quarter

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National housing prices stalled, but didn’t decline, in the June quarter, according to a recent report.

The Australian weighted median house price increased from $458,977 in the March quarter to reach $459,216 in the June quarter, according to the Mortgage Choice/REIA Real Estate Market Facts report released this week. That represents an increase of 0.05% over the quarter, and an increase of 6% over the year.

“The housing market has cooled significantly in the first half of 2008 following a sustained period of higher interest rates and rising living costs,” said Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) president Noel Dyett. “It’s hoped that official interest rate cuts announced this month will give renewed confidence to the housing market, as potential homeowners take advantage of improved market conditions.”

National corporate affairs manager with Mortgage Choice, Warren O’Rourke, said he hoped for another rate cut before the end of the year.

“These figures reflect the importance for property owners to think of property investment as a long–term strategy,” said O’Rourke. “As with any market, there are ups and downs to be ridden out. The key is to understand your goals, research thoroughly and buy a suitable property at the right time.”

The report showed three capital cities now have a median house price at or above $450,000 – Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Despite a decrease of 2.1% over the quarter, Sydney still had the highest median house price at $542,000. The lowest was Hobart, at $325,000, which showed a 3% drop over the previous quarter.

Vacancy rates remained at or near all–time lows in most capital cities, although Perth had a significant increase, according to the report. Perth’s vacancy rate in the June quarter was 2.8%, the highest of any capital city, and above its previous quarter rate of 1.4%. Sydney at 1.1% and Melbourne at 1.0% showed slight increases in vacancy rates of 0.1 percentage points each over the previous quarter.

Darwin again had the lowest vacancy rate for a capital city, dropping from its previous 0.5% to 0.3%. Darwin also had the highest weekly rent for the latest quarter at $510, up 4.1%. Adelaide, with the lowest median weekly rent for a capital city at $270, was the only other to drop its vacancy rate over the previous quarter, from 1.7% to 1.5%.

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