OPINION

Australia housing boom: Rising interest rates don't burst property markets

Why rising interest rates don't burst property markets

History shows that interest rates do not force property markets into booms or busts, rather it's often affordability, local economic conditions, consumer sentiment, or access to lending that does, according to new research by Property Investment Professionals of Australia.

Analysis of five periods of increasing cash rate movements since 1994 has shown that house prices continued to rise - sometimes significantly - even after rate rises of up 2.75 percentage points over just six months.

Some examples include the cash rate being ramped up by 2.75 percentage points between June 1994 and December 1994, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics residential property price index shows growth of 1.1 per cent over the same period.

The index showed growth of 2.3 per cent in the previous six months so, yes, price growth slowed, by not by much.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 18-month period between March 2002 and December 2003, when the cash rate rose by one percentage point, but the residential property price index soared by 35.7 per cent over the same period.

The previous 18-month period showed growth of 22.6 per cent, so the rate increases actually were at the same time as strong property price rises.

Indeed, in four of the six periods analysed, property prices rose higher during the timeframes when the cash rate also increased, including just after the global financial crisis.

While the strength or weakness of property markets often have more to do with local economic conditions, including affordability considerations, the data shows that rate adjustments are never the sole underlying reason.

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There has been much conjecture over the past 18 months that record low interest rates are the singular reason why property prices have skyrocketed, when the cash rate was already at a former record low of 0.75 per cent before the pandemic hit.

There are clearly a number of factors at play, including some buyer hysteria I'm afraid to say, but one of the main reasons for our booming market conditions is easier access to credit, which was simply not the case two years ago when rates were also low.

At the end of the day, even when interest rates are low as they have been for years now, if people don't have access to finance, it really doesn't matter what the cash rate is.

Some alarmist commentary is currently being peddled to seemingly scare people into thinking that when interest rates start to rise property prices will automatically start to fall significantly.

Likewise, there appears to be some scare mongering about many borrowers not being able to afford their mortgages once rates rise by just one percentage point by using extreme levels of mortgage debt as examples.

However, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Lending Indicators showed that the national average loan size for owner-occupier dwellings was $574,000 in September, which shows that the vast majority of people are not racking up massive singular mortgages of $1 million or more.

We don't expect rates to rise for a year or two yet - and when they do, they are unlikely to ramp up rapidly.

But when interest rates do rise, the monthly mortgage repayments on a $574,000 loan may increase by about $73 per week if the interest rate increased one percentage point, or from three per cent to four per cent.

It's vital to understand that new loans are already been stress-tested against much higher interest rates of about 5.65 per cent, so there is little to be gained by alarmist "forecasts" that are just not supported by the data.

Some parts of the nation are set to experience differing market cycles over the next few years as property markets reset to more usual patterns.

Homebuyers and investors must always stick to their budgets and not get caught up in the "market fever" that is a sign of emotional decision-making.

This will help to safeguard their real estate assets over the long-term and ensure they are not overpaying for property from the outset.

They should also seek advice from experts, including qualified property investment advisers, to maximise their buying decisions and reduce the associated risks.

  • Peter Koulizos is the chairman of Property Investment Professionals of Australia
This story Why rising interest rates don't burst property markets first appeared on The Canberra Times.