Here’s how you spot a real estate charlatan, someone who likes to present themselves as a real estate expert but who in reality knows nothing worth hearing …
- They speak of Australia as a single property market; and/or
- They attribute price growth to “record low interest rates”
Mostly these pretenders are economists. I would remind you of a much-quoted definition of an economist: Someone who can tell you tomorrow why their predictions yesterday didn’t come true today.
We have learnt over the years, but particularly in 2020, that the bigger the name and the media profile, the worse they are at analysing residential real estate and forecasting outcomes.
Cast your minds back to the predictions in March/April 2020 from senior economists employed by the major banks, big institutions like AMP and even those working for specialist real estate research entities. And then again later in the year when the so-called September Cliff was proclaimed an impending disaster.
There was a chorus of predictions of a long recession, with double-digit unemployment and real estate values collapsing. How spectacularly wrong they were. Only the specialist property analysts got it right.
But the appalling track record of economists with real estate analysis stretches back years and includes the alarmist predictions about property prices in the wake of the GFC – also proven to be spectacularly wrong.
It’s remarkable that media continues to give these charlatans airplay. Credibility, it seems, is optional, so long as you have “economist” in your title.
So the nation’s gaggle of chattering economists has been compelled to admit they got it wrong in 2020 and most of them are now forecasting big price growth this year. You will note that what they are predicting is already happening, highlighting another characteristic of this bloated and overblown profession: predicting the recent past.
And how do they explain the gathering boom? Record low interest rates!
God help us. The lack of expertise among the talking heads who clutter up the airways with their simplistic analysis is quite breathtaking.
As we all know, we’ve had ultra-low interest rates for years. Very little has changed in that regard to explain the recent uplift in sales activity. When Sydney and Melbourne were having their real estate boom from 2013 to 2017-ish, economists generally explained the price rises with “record low interest rates”. They had no response to the obvious question at the time: how come prices in Perth and Darwin were falling, while Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide were stagnating?
The “low interest rates = property boom” theory also fails to explain why the last two genuine nationwide property booms, in the late 1980s and in the early years of this century, both occurred during periods of very high and rising interest rates.
My view, strongly, is that record low interest rates do not explain what’s happening in real estate across most of Australia.
The growth is being fueled by multiple factors, including …
- A stronger-than-expected economy
- Lower-than-predicted unemployment
- State and federal stimulus measures
- The build-up of savings during the pandemic period
- People in lockdown reviewing their life choices
- Ultra-low vacancies, putting upward pressures on rents and prices
- Pent-up demand, leading to rising sales activity
- Low listings levels, relative to rising buyer demand
- The Exodus to Affordable Lifestyle trend, which is hugely influential
- Increased spending on major new infrastructure
- The revival of the resources sector
- The return of ex-pat Australians in large numbers
- The belated entry of investors to compete with owner-occupiers
- Perceptions about the safety and solidity of bricks & mortar in times of uncertainty
- The growing prevalence of e-commerce and its impact on industrial property, which has repercussions for residential demand
- Access to low-cost finance
And you’ll notice that I mention low interest rates as just one of 16 different factors – and I mention it last and definitely least.