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Will COVID-19 Drive Down Property Prices?

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In the past few weeks our very world has been turned upside down. We’ve never been more housebound in our lives. And while we’re laying low in our homes, we may be wondering, just how hard will this virus hit the value of our properties?

It’s without a doubt that property prices will be negatively affected by Covid-19. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Quite frankly, 2020 has been nightmare of a year so far. It might be worth turning it on and off again? But despite the bushfires, floods and now a pandemic, the market has performed strongly. Last week we saw clearance rates of around 80% in both Melbourne and Sydney. House prices have also been increasing by 1.1% across Australia.

The new Corona buzzword ‘social distancing’ is going to change the way we manage auctions, but so far, they are still going ahead, with strict warnings to avoid close contact during inspections and on auction day.

New measures have ended handshakes to seal the deal and reduced the number of buyers allowed to attend inspections. We’re even disposing of bidding paddles.

But yes, we are teetering on the edge of a recession, so the market could reach a standstill. Our Prime Minister has already announced the impact of the coronavirus could be far worse than the Gl0bal Financial Crisis. We are in for a wild ride.

In 2008-09 (GFC times), massive interest rate cuts, government stimulus and ramping up of Chinese demand helped the market keep swimming. But things are a little different this time. China certainly isn’t in a position to help bail us out.

For starters, the current travel ban has limited Chinese nationals from entering Australia. That means there are no students buying for the short term or buying so they can live in Australia after graduating. China may also restrict the flow of funds to protect their own economy, limiting the ability of Chinese investors to buy property in Australia.

On the other hand, many more Chinese may want to migrate overseas as the virus has made them feel vulnerable in China. It all depends on how Australia handles the virus infection rates – a flatter curve will entice Chinese migrants, a steep one will keep them home. Curves aside, Australia will also need to relax its policy towards foreign buyers.

Of course, China is just one ingredient in this economic cocktail from Hell. The impending lock-down will likely result in rising unemployment, the stock markets worldwide are struggling and credit crunches are expected as banks try and rein in risky lending.

There’s hope that the Reserve Bank can ride to the rescue, however its scope for action is limited as it’s already cut borrowing costs by 0.5%.

If you’re one of the fortunate ones with unmitigated job security and you’re looking to buy, you’ll be in a pretty great position, because a large proportion of buyers will undoubtedly leave the market, either due to lack of job security or because they’re just sitting tight to see what happens. Uncertainty can breed opportunity is my take home.

Let’s not forget the changes to capital gains tax laws for Australian expats that are rolling out from 1 July 2020 too. Last minute sellers will be looking to off-load properties before the EOFY so they don’t get slugged a pretty penny in CGT.

Add more stock to the market, a pinch of buyer uncertainty and you have a recipe for buying opportunity.

I say you’re in luck if you capitalize during this window period and BUY. It’s quite likely the property market will dip a little over the cooler Autumn and Winter months with the coronavirus going viral (pun intended) and sales due to the CGT changes. Don’t expect earth shattering price drops though – be realistic here folks.

Of course, if you’re a seller, you’re not so lucky hearing this news. But there’s no reason you have to sell now, or even in the coming months, if you don’t need the cash.

Investors will also need to tread carefully. While it may well become a buyer’s market, there may be an oversupply of properties (like in Sydney currently) and that will push the rent down.

No matter where you’re living in Australia, the picture overall is relatively the same. Coronavirus is everywhere. Though some states may fair worse than others. The Western Australian market has been weak for some time and this novel virus isn’t helping.

By early 2021 we can hopefully expect the economy to rebound. The RBA has even talked about a rebound in the second half of this year. Government incentives to improve the flagging economy will be on the horizon. Either way, economic rebound will happen.

Be prepared though, as when the rebound happens the renewed optimism in buyers will likely send those housing prices to the moon. HINT: buy in that window period I mentioned folks – this is a once in a decade chance to really get yourself set up with property.

Don’t forget, once the corona scare is over people will go out again. People will return to work. People will buy and sell homes again. And hopefully people will return to buying normal supplies of toilet paper.

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