December 2022

Real Estate Round Up #53

Housing Crisis

This month there seems to be an increasing focus on people’s difficulties in the property market in general, and the rental market in particular, with the term ‘housing crisis’ seeming to get used more, and more real life examples of how it is biting. The ABC reports an example in this video. The clip describes Laura Campbell’s living in her car for ‘the better part of a year’. Now having moved into a converted garage, Laura pays over half her wage on the rent… which is also not exactly ideal.

The story discusses the 50,000+ waiting list for social housing, with wait times of up to a decade or more, and presents an outline of a potential plan between developers and community groups to provide some relief to a straining system, with a large investments into social housing.

In related matters, Domain reports that first home buyers (‘FHB’) have fallen by about half since the peak in 2021 and although Sydney prices have fallen by an average of about $100,000 since March 2022, interest rates have jumped sharply from 0.1% in April to 3.1% in December. This means (according to Domain) a mortgage of $750,000 might be paying an extra $1337 per month, so perhaps there is no wonder FHB are dwindling. This obviously has the effect of keeping pressure on the rental market.

Considering these problems and the time of year, especially pertinant is this podcast about Exodus foundation, situated in Ashfield. The Reverend Bill Crewes, who has been running Exodus since the early 1970s, talks about the enormous uptick in people coming to them for meals since the beginning of the pandemic, and the changing face of poverty in Australia. Before the pandemic they were doing 400 meals per day, and now are giving 1600 meals per day spread across multiple locations (some of that uptick is due to them taking over other aid operations that were closing). He says that in the early days the people he saw coming into Exodus for help were basically either homeless, or not. Now it is much more grey with people couch surfing, a lot more women escaping domestic violence, and more people overall generally struggling. The interviewer Samantha Hawley said to Bill, “You once fed the homeless, you now feed the hungry. What does that mean?” Bill replied that increasingly people need to prioritise their finances more, for example budgeting to buy kids uniforms, medicine – or – meals. Clearly, increasing rental costs, interest rates and the cost of living increases are not going to make things easier, especially for the most vulnerable.

It’s not just us. This photo was taken in Dublin, 2018

Rent Bidding, Data and EVs

On a slightly more optimistic note, multiple outlets such as Domain have been reporting on the recent NSW legislation change to ban ‘rent bidding’. This is when an agent asks an interested tenant to pay more than the advertised prices, or when the rental price is not clear and obvious, which invites bids from prospective tenants. A questionable practice at the best of times, Domain writes the practice will become illegal from Saturday (17th December) as part of the effort to deal with the housing crisis.

Another spotlight on rental industry practices appeared in this article also from Domain. Some excellent points about data privacy are raised. What happens to the information that estate agents request when someone applies for a rental property? Does the platform the real estate agent use have the best security itself? Has the renter unknowngly just agreed that the info might be sold on to third parties? And fundamentally, “Why is so much information being collected in the first place and where it is stored and what are they doing with it?”

Finally, attention is being brought to how best to integrate EV chargers into apartments and strata-based properties, with the person in this ABC story having to take out a 99 year lease and jump through a number of hoops to be able to charge their EV in their apartment parking space. As the story indicates, Australia is currently a decade behind in this area compared to some parts of the world, and while laws and legislation seem to more or less exist, a large part of the problem is an ‘information gap’ between those laws and strata management.

The dream: an abundance of EV chargers