John McGrath - Reassessing lifestyle & investments choices during Covid-19
I anticipate a surge in demand for rural and regional luxury homes within two hours of the big cities, like they did post 9/11 as many people reassessed their priorities and lifestyle became top of mind.
As we all spend more time at home due to social distancing and working remotely, there is the opportunity to ponder what is truly important to us and the type of lives we want to lead. Our homes are a reflection of this, so I see a wave of seachanging and treechanging in our near future.
Historically, social and economic events of this nature have also been a catalyst for people to reassess their investments. Typically, we see people surge back to property in times of uncertainty. I expect the same will happen again when the dust settles on Covid-19.
I think the main difference between this period and previous similar events is that everyone is better prepared to withstand the pressures. We are blessed to have some of the best banks in the world presiding over our lending and this has placed us in a stronger position to recover more quickly.
The government response and stimulus packages have been swift and robust. This should allow most people to move through this with far less pain than they would have otherwise had to endure.
Around the globe, Australian residential property is considered one of the safest assets and now, our weaker currency is providing a 30%-40% discount for many buyers purchasing in other currencies.
Importantly, we are now able to access money with interest rates close to zero, one of the main differences between previous corrections and now.
The low-volume listing environment is likely to continue in the short term and this will protect against significant price corrections. There are few signs of panic selling, especially at the top end, with most vendors staying on the market while some have chosen to sit on the side lines until this passes.
Sydney and Melbourne are the most in-demand locations for wealthy expats and there is a very limited supply of the blue-chip positions that are of greatest interest to them.
I have always been critical of the state-based foreign investor taxes, as I believe a deep global market is in the interests of all Australians in the current global economy.
Sensible local and state government planning controls can ensure there is sufficient property for both the local market, including first home buyers, as well as a broader-based buying pool globally.
This is the greatest country in the world and I believe we should be welcoming ongoing investment from approved foreign buyers.
As the Coronavirus situation continues to unfold, it’s a little too early to definitively tell what will follow. It really depends on how quickly the containment activities get traction and how much damage is done between now and then.
But having experienced other tragedies, market crashes, 9/11 and the like over my 35 years in property, the one thing I know is that bricks and mortar usually comes out as the preferred asset class, as people quickly revert to blue chip assets they have faith in.
See you next week. JM
This article originally appeared in The Real Estate Conversation (April 20, 2020)