Is this the magic ingredient driving our property markets?

By Michael Yardney | 08 Mar 2020

Expert Advice with Michael Yardney.

The little secret behind whopping price growth?

It’s not the economy, even though that’s important.

It’s not supply and demand, even though that plays a role.

It’s not infrastructure spending, availability of finance or population growth either.

While all of these things are important and undoubtedly impact our real estate markets, the truth is there is one major factor that drives property values more than anything else. And that factor is homeowners or, as we sometimes call them, owner-occupiers.

While investors look at all types of drivers of capital growth, they often tend to forget that it’s owner-occupiers who primarily drive our property markets forward. The fact is, they own close to 70% of all the properties in Australia and therefore dominate our market. Without them, it simply falls over.

Homeowners make up two thirds of the market
So it’s interesting that while owner-occupiers are one of the most signifi cant influences on property, they are commonly overlooked.

Think about it: with almost 70% of all homes in Australia owned by owner-occupiers, this underpins the steady long-term growth in property values.

On the other hand, investors, who comprise just 30% of the market, create our property booms (often driven by ‘fear of missing out’ or greed) and our property downturns (when they exit the market by sitting on the sidelines or selling up), creating volatility.

Here’s a relatively current snapshot of the national property market, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and CoreLogic: 

• There are 10.3 million residential dwellings Australia-wide with a total value of $6.8trn.

• These are spread across around 15,000 suburbs.

• An additional 130,000 to 160,000 new dwellings are added every year.

• The total debt against these dwellings is $1.8trn (giving an overall loan-to-value ratio for residential property of considerably less than 30%).

• Residential real estate makes up 51% of Australian household wealth.

• Investors own around 27% of Australian dwellings by number and 24% by value.

• There are more than two million individual property investors in Australia.

• Each property investor in Australia owns an average of 1.28 properties.

From these figures it’s fairly clear that owner-occupiers comprise the largest portion of the market – in fact, they outnumber investors two to one.

Which is why I always give the following advice to investors who are searching for a strong property performer: buy the type of property that will appeal to owner-occupiers.

By focusing your research on what those often-overlooked owner-occupiers are doing, you may just fi nd an investment that outperforms the market

In my mind an investmentgrade property must have owner-occupier appeal. Not that I’m planning to sell it, but I want it to be attractive to homebuyers as they will buy similar properties near mine, pushing up the value of my property.

And I want it to be attractive to affluent owner-occupiers who will have the money and be prepared to pay a great price to own this type of property, which would be located in an aspirational or gentrifying suburb.

Now this is different to what most investors look for, isn’t it?

They wonder who the tenant will be, how much rent they will get and what tax benefits will be available – and then end up buying in one of those ‘Lego Land’ high-rise apartment towers and wonder why their investment underperforms.

On the other hand, owning a property with an element of scarcity which is located close to amenities, jobs, transport, lifestyle features and cultural, social amenities like cafes, bars and arts precincts will always attract homebuyers. But these are features that appeal to tenants, too. And if you buy a property that ticks all these boxes, you know you’re investing in a dwelling with broad, lasting appeal.

It’s not just the property – it’s also about location
By now you would know that location will do about 80% of the heavy-lifting of your property’s capital growth. But not all locations are created equal. Some suburbs will be more popular than others, some areas will have more scarcity than others, and over time some land will increase in value more than other land.

That’s why it’s important to buy your investment property in a suburb that is dominated by more homeowners, rather than a suburb where tenants predominate. And you’ll find that suburbs where more affluent owners live will outperform the cheaper outer suburbs where wages growth is likely to stagnate moving forward.

But it’s the same all over the world. Go to any major city – London, Paris, Vienna, Los Angeles – and you’ll find that the wealthy people tend to live within 10–15 minutes’ drive from the CBD or near the water.

Why is this so? The cynics would say it’s because they can afford to. And in part that’s true. 

In general, the more established suburbs with better infrastructure, shopping and amenities tend to be close to the CBD and the water, and that’s where the wealthy want to and can afford to live, and they’re prepared to pay a premium to live there. The rich do not like to commute.

Overall, by focusing your research on what those often-overlooked owner-occupiers are doing, you may just find an investment that outperforms the market and delivers strong value and growth over the long term.


Michael Yardney is CEO of Metropole Property Strategists, which creates wealth for its clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He is a best-selling author, one of Australia’s leading experts in wealth creation through property and writes the Property Update blog.
To read more articles by Michael Yardney, click here


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