Who’s to blame for house prices – Auction sales rising again – Melbourne suburbs say NO to highrises

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Bias kills investments, and plainly bias is playing havoc with the view of foreign investment in Australian real estate. It’s not necessarily anti-Chinese – or pro-Chinese – ethnic biases, but simple availability heuristics. Here’s all this news about foreign buyers gobbling up property, about agents training their staff to speak Chinese and learn feng shui. There must be something to it. Right? Probably not. The numbers don’t match up with the hype. Chinese investors appear to be paying less for equivalent property than Australians, on average. They’re in the market, of course, which means they’re affecting the market. But are they driving up prices? Or just our reactions? Consider these first two stories together, carefully. Note which one has actual names and numbers in it.

Chinese investors building Shanghai-style ghost towns … in Melbourne
Inner-city property investment is replacing gold as a hedge against Chinese economic collapse. In the early weeks of January and February this year, Chinese and other Asian investors began buying apartment development sites that had secured permission to build, and are funding those developments using Chinese rather than Australian banks. In turn, most of the apartments will be sold to Chinese and other Asian investors. We are now seeing a rapid increase in apartment development because Australian banks have been by-passed. Read the full story here.

Australians should take credit for the property boom
A University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) study of home sale transactions finds that Chinese investors, on average, pay less for residential properties in Australia than other purchasers. The finding holds true over time, in Chinese communities, and for both prestige and non-prestige suburbs, say UTS Business School researchers Dr Lorenzo Casavecchia and Dr Adrian Lee. Read the full story here.

The market catches its breath as prices stop sliding
Auction prices grew by 1.2 per cent in Perth, 0.2 per cent in Sydney and 0.3 per cent in Brisbane. The market average inched up 0.1 per cent, breaking a month-long fall. Sydney cleared 71.7 per cent on 793 auctions for the week. Highlight of the week: four properties from a deceased estate selling together for almost $10 million.Read the full story here.

Housing value drop appears part of typical winter pattern
RP Data’s price indicators for the mainland capitals tend to fall in May and then begin recovering in early June. At least, that’s what’s happened for the last two years. The drop this May seems to fit the short-term pattern, with RP Data's index down by two per cent in the first three weeks of May then heading lower over the following three weeks, but by only a half per cent or so. Prices rose 0.2 per cent in Sydney last week, 0.3 per cent in Brisbane and 1.2 per cent in Perth, though remain off 0.2 per cent in Adelaide and 0.5 per cent in Perth. Read the full story here.

Melbourne’s rich suburbs banning high rises
The NIMBYs are winning. High-rise development has been largely banned, after Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved new residential zones on Monday. So much for the regional planning approach. Two-storey limits have been set for Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Brighton, Sandringham and Black Rock. It’s not clear if Plan Melbourne – the regional approach to zoning and development announced earlier this year – had any influence on the decisions. Planners said the changes protected rich areas with good transportation at the expense of poorer areas with less infrastructure. Read the full story here.

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