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Census Reveals Home Ownership Data

At long last, we’re seeing the results of the 2021 Census being published by the ABS and there are some surprises on real estate matters.

Most people, I suspect, would have expected home ownership rates in Australia to have fallen over the five years since the previous Census – but they’ve actually improved a little.

In fact, there’s been little change in the rate of home ownership in the past 25 years.

This is perhaps a surprise given the constant steam of articles in mainstream media telling us that home ownership is effectively dead because no one can afford to buy.

The new Census data shows that it’s still the case that two-thirds of Australian households own their homes, either outright or with a mortgage.

The exact figure is 66%, up a little from the figure five years at the 2016 Census, which was 65.5%.

The breakdown of that figure hasn’t really changed in five years: 31% own their homes outright and 35% own with mortgages.

A quarter of a century ago, at the 1996 Census, a tad over 67% owned their homes, only slightly higher than the current figure.

The difference back then was that more people owned their homes outright, with no mortgage.

In 1996, 41.6% of households had outright home ownership and only 26% had mortgages.

Now it’s just 31% who own outright and 35% with mortgages.

No doubt, the regular rise in property prices over the past 25 years accounts for the smaller percentage who have achieved outright home ownership.

But it hasn’t adversely affected the overall rate of home ownership in Australia.

Keep in mind that the past 25 years includes two genuine nationwide property booms – the one that ran for three years at the start of the Century and the one that started in 2020 and which, in many locations, is still going.

The other stand-out statistic from the 2021 Census is the rising number of Australians who live in attached dwellings – which means units, apartments and townhouses – dwellings that are strata titled in some form.

Today, 70% of dwellings are standalone houses and around 30% are apartments and townhouses.

In recent years, it has been common for an increasing share of newly constructed homes to be attached dwellings, rather than houses on blocks of land.

I think this is going to be an increasing trend in residential real estate – more and more people opting for some form of attached dwelling, both for lifestyle reasons and for affordability reasons.

In this current property boom, the price gap between houses and apartments has become considerably bigger.

Apartments have grown in value in many parts of Australia but houses have grown much more – not everywhere, there are some notable exceptions, but in most locations.

In terms of median prices, the price gap between houses and apartments is considering wider than it was a year ago.

The price gap is $570,000 in Sydney, $360,000 in Melbourne, $385,000 in Brisbane and $450,000 in Canberra.

I think we are now seeing a trend emerging with more people opting for apartments to achieve a home in their location of choice, because they can’t afford houses in those locations.

In many suburbs in our biggest cities, the median price for apartments is less than half the median house price.

And in some suburbs, typical apartments cost a third of the price of the median priced house.

In the new Winter edition of The Price Predictor Index, we reveal that there is significantly rising demand for apartments in inner-city suburbs of Melbourne and also in parts of the Sydney market, notably in suburbs where there is a considerable price gap between houses and apartments.

Overall, I’m expecting those key trends revealed by the new Census to continue, with home ownership rates to remain steady, but with more people achieving ownership through detached dwellings rather in standalone houses.


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