The global market’s erratic performance over the last week has certainly called into question the financial strategies of many (including, it could be said, of the hapless President George W Bush). Regardless of whether one agrees or not in principle or practice with the Federal bailout in the United States, we should at least begin to see a little more stability.

That’s not to say that all will be bright from hereon in. The market crunch, or more specifically the credit crunch, has seeped into all nations and has affected all manner of finances, including Australia. Confidence has definitely been damaged.

The simple fact is that Australian property prices cannot help but be affected given the high levels of debt in Australian households, and our relatively high interest rates as a ratio of household debt to GDP compared to the US.

Even should interest rates be cut further in Australia, as they likely will, we are simply likely to feel an ease of the stress of mortgage pressure rather than an immediate flock to property: the credit crunch has reduced the amount of credit available, and many people have more than enough debt to suggest they’ll have a proclivity to take on more.

The Land of Opportunity

These are also the times of opportunity. With confidence dented all around and property prices sluggish and unlikely to head in any northerly direction for even close to the next 18 months, there are many good buys on the market now, and many that will come onto the market.

Those buyers that are willing to take a long-term view on property values – as one always should (the “quick-buck strategy” is never one that is risk-free) – as well as applying sensible purchasing decisions based on the amount they can borrow with a comfortable buffer in addition to intrinsic good value – will in a few years be looking back upon these times with great satisfaction.

Not panicking during an alleged crisis, taking smart, confident and unemotional decisions, and investing wisely will mean that property – right now and in future – is logical and rewarding as one can hope to find.

What Will Happen Next?

Expect an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank next week and more in the following 12 months. Expect housing demand in Australia to remain relatively buoyant given our growing population. Expect an easing Australian economy (together with more manageable inflation) due to weakening demand from China, whose economy is heavily hinged on US demand.

Quite simply, so long as share market’s are unappealing, property investment will remain ever the attractive option.

With the average value of homes in Australia having increased by approximately 150 per cent since the millennium began, this well earned increase will generally be retained, and further goes to highlight the intrinsic opportunity that wise, long-term property investment provides.

Simon Turner

IMPORTANT: If you are finding it difficult to cope financially, read our article on Coping with Financial Stress

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