The property market is taking a breather, not falling off a cliff

The property market is taking a breather, not falling off a cliff

There's a lot of the talk at the moment about the idea of a housing bubble that's set to burst.

Yes, the CoreLogic data that came out last week showed a slight dip in prices. But most of the headlines were about two cities: Sydney and Melbourne. And we need to remember that prices have been going gangbusters there for more than five years.

We also need to remember that Australia is a patchwork of very different markets. In May, prices inched up in Brisbane and Adelaide while values in Perth and Darwin fell. And that doesn't take into account all the regional areas, where things such as employment and infrastructure have a big impact on housing prices.

If you only read the headlines, it's easy to get spooked about property. But based on the latest data, we aren't talking about a bubble bursting or prices falling off a cliff – we're seeing the market take a breather. After all, it's been running at full tilt for a while now.

What does that mean for you?

For owner-occupiers, it doesn't change much. If you have no plans to move or invest, it's nice to feel richer because your property's worth more, but you only realise a capital gain when you sell.

But if you've already had good capital growth and want to tap into your home equity to buy another property, you can still do that. Some lenders have pulled back on investor loans, thanks to pressure from the banking regulators, but the tap hasn't been turned off altogether.

The key is to be sensible. Think about "serviceability" – making sure you have the income to cover an investment loan, especially if it's negatively geared.

And don't overextend by getting the biggest loan possible – choose something you can still afford if interest rates increase or rental income flatlines.

Simply put, set up your investment so you can sleep well at night.

For investors, a less frothy market means you need to look harder for the right property. When the market's going bananas, you can often rely on luck rather than skill to find a property that climbs in value – after all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

But now, you need to pay close attention to the fundamentals. Look at the area you want to buy in and think about supply and demand for housing.

Supply is one half of the equation, so look at things such as development application (DA) approvals to see how much is in the pipeline.

On the other hand, demand is influenced by population growth and where jobs are coming from – so make sure it's an area people want to be in.

A lot of this data is publicly available using sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Think of it as a business decision and do your homework properly.

For wannabe buyers, the latest data is good news. Let's be honest – you're unlikely to bag a bargain in inner-city Sydney or Melbourne any time soon. But the slower price growth means less stress.

When you watch prices go up more than 10 per cent each year, it creates a sense of panic that you'll be priced out. Now, you'll have some breathing space to continue saving or keep searching.

Mark Bouris is the executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road.

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