‘Sober outlook’ for Melbourne’s property market in 2018

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Melbourne’s property market is set to cool in 2018 with first-home buyers primed to reap the benefits, experts say.

Fewer investors are expected to put their money into housing because of stricter lending criteria for interest-only loans, and it’s predicted this will assist in slowing Melbourne’s house-price growth.

National Bank chief economist Alan Oster said that despite this, the Melbourne market would still grow by about 5 per cent – a modest result compared to the year to September 2017 when the median house price grew by 13.9 per cent, reaching $880,902.

“We’re not talking about any sort of crash – we just don’t see that happening,” Mr Oster said. “It’s a sober outlook, but it’s not falling off a cliff.”

Mr Oster expected the Reserve Bank would raise interest rates by 50 points in August this year – taking the cash rate from 1.5 to 2 per cent – further affecting the rate of growth across the country.

“They’ll start to take away some of the emergency stimulus because the economy really doesn’t need it,” he said.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Richard Simpson said that, with investors backing off and the state government’s stamp duty concessions for first-home buyers, young purchasers could be in with a fighting chance in 2018.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in first-home buyers purchasing homes and apartments,” Mr Simpson said.

He said outer suburbs with medians below $800,000, such as Broadmeadows, Ardeer and Taylors Lakes, could see price increases due to the influx of first-home buyers.

“Frankston North is another one. It has a median house price around $490,000 at the moment and it’s close to the beach, close to the golf course, so we see some potential growth there,” Mr Simpson said.

Buyer’s advocate Ken Premtic, of Secret Agent, said there were also suburbs in the middle ring where first-home buyers could find opportunities, including Fawkner, Hadfield and Glenroy.

Each had a median house price under $660,000, meaning first-home buyers could potentially purchase under the $600,000 threshold to get a full stamp duty concession.

“Further up in suburbs such as Thomastown and Lalor, that’s where you’re getting pretty good value for your money,” Mr Premtic said.

The two suburbs, which sit just above the Ring Road along High Street and the South Morang train line, have been tipped by investors as the next stop for the gentrification which has happened further south in Thornbury, Preston and Reservoir.

“We’re seeing a very strong appetite for properties which are in a residential growth zone allowing for medium-density development,” Mr Premtic said.

Auction clearance rates dropped at the end of last year, and Mr Premtic said he expected them to stay lower throughout 2018.

“I think clearance rates are going to remain around the 60 per cent mark throughout the year,” he said.

Mr Simpson was more optimistic, and expected clearance rates to reach 70 to 75 per cent by autumn.

Herron Todd White property valuers director Tony Kelly said Melbourne was stronger than other markets around the country due to its high population growth.

“That is fuelling our market pretty well and has been for the last few years,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Oster said Sydney’s median house price was expected to grow by just 3.5 per cent in 2018, compared with 8.2 per cent in the year to September 2017.

“Sydney is clearly a market where the investor cap has had a big impact,” he said.