Sydney property investor activity drops by 20% – but don’t expect a crash: Doug Driscoll

Measures including toughening the requirements for interest-only loans and property investments in self-managed super funds introduced in March have reduced the number of investors purchasing property in Sydney by 20% and helped cool the market.

Investors comprised more than 50% of the entire Sydney market in 2016 but have started to level off this year, which I largely attribute to APRA’s tightened macro-prudential measures.

Many experts believe we shouldn’t interfere with the market and simply let nature take its course, but I feel that this laissez-faire approach would have had dire consequences.

Although there are several factors at play, the excessive number of investors in the market was primarily responsible for the recent exponential price growth, so it is encouraging to see the further tightening is putting the brakes on the investor boom – which is what the measures were designed to do.

But, Australians should not expect a market crash. 

I believe the market has now plateaued, which was inevitable as prices couldn’t continue to rise indefinitely but this shouldn’t be a reason to panic.

We must caution against the inevitable scaremongering, and maintain some perspective because we are looking at the aftermath of the investor ‘boom’, but that doesn’t mean we are heading for a crash.

Sydney prices will remain strong for the short- to medium-term, and will naturally realign and readjust over time.

I remain very optimistic about the Sydney market. We will see a correction in prices but there are so many variables, making it difficult to forecast.

Over the past 18-24 months, we’ve witnessed prices across most Sydney suburbs rise at the same pace, which is quite unusual, so we could see this start to adjust and become nuanced.

Starr Partners has seen a shift this year amongst investors in Sydney, with many now starting to set their sights on areas such as the Newcastle and Hunter regions.

The APRA measures were designed to encourage lending institutions to be more prudent, not necessarily to solve the housing affordability crisis.

With these measures having taken hold, I’m hopeful we will see the return of natural market equilibrium, with higher numbers of first home buyers and other owner occupiers, which we are already starting to see at our open for inspections and auctions.

In saying that, investors will still be competing for property amongst these buyers – as they have always done. A bump in the road won’t be too impactful for experienced investors. Normally, they are very sensible in their approach, they have enough capital in their investment portfolio and carry a long-term view.”

Following APRA strengthening its policies, the federal government’s recent budget announced tougher rules on foreign investment such as removing the main residence capital gains tax exemption and an annual foreign investment levy for future foreign investors who fail to occupy or lease their property for at least six months each year.

It also revealed plans to restore the requirement that prevents developers from selling more than 50% of new developments to foreign investors.

Despite this, more could be done to curb investment from non-residents, given the action taken to restrict investor spending for residents. 

My one lingering concern is that the new measures could pave the way for more foreign buyers.

Although I welcome the recent introduction of tougher rules on foreign investment, I’m not convinced that these measures are enough.

We have gone to great lengths to curb investor spending for residents, so shouldn’t we be doing the same for non-residents?

However, my fears could be allayed, with reports out of China suggesting its new regulatory crackdown on capital outflows is really starting to work.