COVID-19 could drive housing affordability

By Gerv Tacadena | 17 Mar 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the tone of 2020 for many economies globally – and for property investors, this could present an opportunity to buy a home, according to one expert.

Nigel Stapledon, a research fellow from the University of New South Wales, said there is "no escaping" the fact that the coronavirus will impact the whole economy and could dampen the housing market.

"Yes, the government has released its stimulus package, and there may be more fiscal stimulus on the way, but there are limits to what any government can do. There will be negative effects on employment. It will be a short, sharp shock to the economy," he said in a think piece in The Conversation.

Stapledon said in the case of the housing market, the outbreak may discourage buyers from pushing through with their plans to purchase a property, resulting in a moderation in prices.

For many sellers, the current conditions of the market could point to weaker months ahead. Stapledon said flexible sellers and those who really need to dispose of their properties could "cushion" the potential price falls.

"It's important to remember the rebound will happen. People will recover. People will go back to restaurants. People will go to football games. Things will eventually bounce back. Things will go back to normal eventually – but there will be some business casualties along the way," he said.

Also read: Economic boost to support housing market

Still, the oversupply in some of the major markets like Sydney creates a vulnerable position for investors. Stapledon said the downtrend in rents would likely offset the benefits from the rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

With the weaker market conditions, he said property investors could seize the opportunity to expand their portfolios.

"If prices come down, investors could be in a better position to buy, to create or add to an existing property portfolio, but that weakness in rents is a real factor — it has been for some time and is unlikely to go away any time soon," Stapledon said.

Stapledon believes that while 2020 will be a hard year for economy, it is important to see situations with a silver lining.

Also read: Will coronavirus impact property prices?

In a keynote address last week, the RBA Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said that the virus outbreak is a shock both to demand and supply, but it will come to an end at some point.

"Once we get beyond the effect of the virus, the Australian economy will be supported by the low level of interest rates, the lower exchange rate, a pick-up in mining investment, sustained spending on infrastructure and an expected recovery in residential construction," he said.

While the RBA expects conditions to rebound in the second half of the year, Stapledon said the recovery could potentially be delayed to next year.

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