Sunday, 6 January 2013

Editor: No cakewalk for real estate

YOU can have all the right ingredients to bake a beautiful cake, but it can still turn into a burnt, black brick.

It's a similar story with our property market as we begin a new year.

The ingredients are there for a good 2013 - the lowest official interest rates in decades, a steadily growing population, rising demand from Asian investors and an economy that stubbornly refuses to go into reverse.

However, most experts are predicting only a solid year at best for real estate.

AMP Capital has forecast house prices to grow 4-5 per cent "on the back of lower mortgage rates", while Australian Property Monitors has forecast 3-5 per cent growth driven by Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth. But it says house price growth in Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra could be as low as zero.

CommSec chief economist Craig James says there are signs of better times ahead for real estate in Australia but has tipped house price growth in 2013 to be just 3 per cent.

"Many consumers are intending to switch funds from cash-based investments to property," James says.

"Property is back in vogue. We can't rule out another housing boom, but the pre-conditions don't exist to the same extent that we've seen in the past."

Our housing is still expensive by global standards, and some people still reckon we're heading for a US-style crash. They probably always will.

However, we have already survived one end-of-the-world experience in the past month so how bad can it get?

When it comes to baking cakes, skill is the X factor that determines if you create a delicious masterpiece or a bland brick.

With the property market outlook, it's mainly a lack of confidence, although skill and experience do count.

Experts say confidence is shaky as we head into an election year, and more big global financial shocks will test our confidence further.

However, a couple of years of house price falls have combined with solid wages growth and falling interest rates to ensure we at least have some quality ingredients for 2013.

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