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These are interesting times, with interest rates appearing to be close to their peak and housing prices rising again. Here’s what’s making news in finance and property:

  • Property prices rising
  • RBA to be reformed
  • First home buyer update
  • Unit rents surging

Read more below.

Australian property prices look to be trending upwards again, judging by the latest data from CoreLogic.

After the national median price fell 9.1% between May 2022 and February 2023, it has since risen in consecutive months – by 0.6% in March and 0.5% in April.

“Not only are we seeing housing values stabilising or rising across most areas of the country, a number of other indicators are confirming the positive shift,” CoreLogic’s research director, Tim Lawless, said.

Auction clearance rates are holding slightly above the long run average, sentiment has lifted and home sales are trending around the previous five-year average,” he said.

Mr Lawless said it was notable this housing turnaround was occurring despite interest rates remaining elevated.

The last time we saw housing values trending higher through a rising interest rate environment was during the mid-to-late 2000s when the mining boom was underway. This period was also characterised by surging net overseas migration that contributed significantly to housing demand,” he said.

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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is set for a shake-up, following a review commissioned by the federal government.

The review made 51 recommendations, including specific measures to create a clearer monetary policy framework and stronger monetary policy decision-making.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government agreed in-principle with all the recommendations and would work with the RBA and parliament to implement them.

Subject to consultations with the opposition, the Treasurer said the government would introduce legislation to:

  • Reinforce the independence of the RBA in the operation of monetary policy
  • Split the RBA board into two – with one board to oversee monetary policy and the other governance
  • Strengthen the RBA’s mandate
  • Clarify that Australia’s monetary policy framework will aim for both price stability and full employment

Treasurer Chalmers also said the government would institute a more transparent process for appointing external members to the RBA boards.

It’s too early to say first home buyers are back, but they’ve certainly made a welcome return to the market, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The number of new owner-occupier first home buyer loan commitments rose 15.8% in March, after reaching a five-year low in February.

That said, first home buyer activity was 21.8% lower than the year before and 50.5% lower than the January 2021 high.

Now that property prices appear to be rising again (see first story in newsletter), it might be wise for first home buyers to enter the market sooner rather than later, before prices rise further. Saving a deposit can be hard, but there are two ways to speed up the process.

  • Under the First Home Guarantee, the federal government helps eligible first home buyers purchase a property with just a 5% deposit without having to pay lender’s mortgage insurance. Income and price caps apply.
  • First home buyers who have parental support can use a guarantor home loan to enter the market with, potentially, a 0% deposit. Again, conditions apply.

I love helping first home buyers get on the property ladder. Contact me for expert advice.

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Things are looking up for owners of units, whether owner-occupiers or investors.

After the national median unit price fell for 10 consecutive months, it increased in both March (0.6%) and April (0.7%), according to CoreLogic.

CoreLogic economist Kaytlin Ezzy said this could signify “the start of a slow recovery phase, with inflation seemingly moving past its peak and consumer sentiment rising from near-record lows”.

Meanwhile, unit rents are not only surging (up 14.8% over the year to April), they’re growing significantly faster than house rents (8.4%).

“The mismatch between [unit] rental supply and demand has seen capital city rental growth reaccelerate, which will be unwelcome news to many tenants already struggling to find affordable rental accommodation,” Ms Ezzy said.

“While units across each of the capitals and rest-of-state regions still offer a more affordable rental alternative compared to houses, the stronger rental growth seen in the medium to high-density sector, in part due to their relative affordability, has seen the gap narrow.”