07 November 2014

Ready the Spinnaker – Winds of Fortune Turning in the Townsville Market

Townsville property has experienced significant head winds over the past 12-24 months impacting on investor yields, particularly in the apartment market, while lower median prices and valuations have occurred on the back of slowing economic conditions.

Increased holding costs, higher unemployment, government stimulus programs impacting over supply in the new construction sector, and fiscal policy reducing demand for private rentals with tax minimisation incentives for investors, have all been contributing factors as reported by Townsville Real Estate Blog.

It seems many measures and conditions have been unfavourable for incumbent investors while the fundamentals of the City’s broad-based economy have sustained continued interest in Townsville as a solid investment destination.

As the head winds ease and the inevitable turn of momentum comes, events are suggesting the winds could now be moderating to the stern (rear of the ship) offering forward momentum as governments announce publicly at least, sponsorship of capital investment projects such as the Ross Creek Precinct and jobs programs at a local call centre to mitigate the political risk of intolerable unemployment figures, and a growing displeasure with the perception of South-east Queensland-centric policies of the Newman government.

Now the Capital City markets are slowing and rental yields are weakening, as reported by RP Data’s senior researcher, Cameron Kusher. Mr Kusher reported; “With rents growing at their slowest pace in many years we are also seeing weakening rental yields. At a combined capital city level across all dwellings, gross rental yields are recorded at 3.8% which is the lowest reading since January 2011. With the rate of capital gains outpacing rental growth we are seeing rental returns reduce across all capital cities. In fact, over the past year gross rental yields have fallen across each capital city.

Townsville some 24 months ago experienced simular dynamics with an increasing supply of new housing driven by Federal and State government money, cash flow thirsty developers pushing land releases, cheaper housing models on smaller allotment sizes and a highly competitive build market caused yields and prices to ease.

RP Data’s Mr Kusher also commented; “The surge in building approvals over the past 18 months or so is likely to be contributing to the slowing rate of rental growth. With the number of home sales rising, new housing supply rising, more investor owned properties and population growth slowing, those renting properties have comparatively more housing options to choose from. As a result, the owners of these investment properties have less scope to increase weekly rents when renters can find alternate accommodation more easily than in the past”.

Townsville’s rental vacancy rate has reduced from July to August 2014 by 1% as the mid-year seasonal in-flows of people occur. Still less demand experienced in previous seasons as Herron Todd White’s Townsville Rent Roll Report for Oct 2014 identified with total vacancy rates sitting at 4.42%, units are 5.77% and houses are 4.42%.

Compared to Oct 2013, the vacancy rate for Oct 2014 is nearly 2% higher, which does not lead well for vacancy rates and flow on demand of consumer goods and services coming into the Christmas period, which traditionally experiences further outflows of people from the City.

Despite the sustained higher vacancy rates pushing prices for rental accommodation down in both unit and housing, interest in house sales have improved slightly with an increased median price of 3.5% over the past 12 months. Unit prices reduced by 12% with this sector considered a high risk investment in the short term. Houses on the other hand are picking up from the winds of fortune turning and astute investors are heeding the signals.

Local Real Estate Principal and Auctioneer, Aaron McLeod commented; “Our Townsville team has experienced an upswing of buyer interest in properties with value-add prospects. Land where a small subdivision, dual occupancy development is approved within 5 kilometres from the CBD or where properties need minor improvements to generate a positive return in financial or lifestyle terms”, Mr McLeod said.

Self-managed superfunds have been active in the market along with traditional home buyers acting on the purchase of quality homes at fair prices. These buyers along with astute investors have contributed to the transaction volumes and causing a modest upswing in prices off the back of sustained price easing over the past 5 years, Mr McLeod commented.

With government attention being drawn to the North Queensland economy with relatively high unemployment leading up to a State election, the supply of new housing easing as competition and development cost become less profitable, government funding for subsidised accommodation reducing and Capital City yields and prices easing in an environment of low cash rates, Townsville and North Queensland investors should get set as the main sail draws on the tail winds of an improving property market leading into 2015/16.


RP Data Core Logic Report
Herron Todd White Townsville Rent Roll Survey Report
Townsville Real Estate Blog

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