Regional housing values hold up stronger than capital city properties

Regional housing values hold up stronger than capital city properties

Australia’s major regional housing markets have held up stronger than capital city properties during the COVID-19 downturn, new data showed.

Real estate values across the combined regional areas edged down by 0.1 per cent between March and the end of July, according to CoreLogic figures. Meanwhile, properties in capital cities fell in value by 2 per cent in the same period.

Tim Lawless, CoreLogic’s head of research, said when compared with capital city markets, properties in regional markets have “held firm” during the pandemic.

“While the region by region data shows diversity, the relatively steady conditions across the regional markets of Australia can probably be attributed to factors such as less impact on housing demand from stalling overseas migration; close to 85 per cent of Australia’s net overseas migration flows into the capital cities.

“Also there likely remains some momentum in the trend towards rising demand for lifestyle properties that was prevalent prior to COVID-19.”

Regional areas where housing prices are growing and properties are selling fast

Despite the COVID-19 downturn, three quarters of Australia’s major regional housing markets have risen in value in the past year.

CoreLogic research found that of the 50 house and unit markets in 25 of the country’s biggest non-capital city regions, values increased in 37 markets in the 12 months to July 2020.

House markets outperformed unit markets during this period. House prices went up in 20 regional areas but dropped in five regions. Meanwhile, unit values increased in 17 regional areas.

Unit prices in Tasmania’s Launceston and north east region grew the most across the non-capital city markets, leaping by 14.8 per cent in the past year. This made it the top performing housing market overall across the 25 regional areas in the same period.

Launceston and the north east region was also where units are being sold the quickest, with units listed in the year to July snapped up in roughly 26 days.

NSW’s Illawarra region recorded the highest annual growth in house values across the non-capital city markets, with house prices shooting up by 12 per cent in the 12 months to July 2020.

The regional area where houses were on the market for the shortest time was Victoria’s Ballarat, where it takes about 30 days for a house to be sold.

House and unit prices in Ballarat are also being discounted the least across the regional markets, with buyers only able to secure a median discount of 2.4 per cent on houses and 2.1 per cent for units.

The Illawarra region also saw the biggest jump in house sales volumes, which surged by 14 per cent in the 12 months to May 2020.

For units, transactions climbed the most in Victoria’s Latrobe – Gippsland region in the year to May, with deals up by about 35 per cent.

  Houses – best performers Units – best performers
Highest yearly growth Illawarra, NSW: 12.0% Launceston and north east, TAS: 14.8%
Highest change in sales volumes Illawarra, NSW: 14.0% Latrobe - Gippsland, VIC: 34.6%
Shortest days on market Ballarat, VIC: 30 days Launceston and north east, TAS: 26 days
Lowest vendor discounts Ballarat, VIC: -2.4% Ballarat, VIC: -2.1%

Source: CoreLogic.

Pros and cons of buying property in a regional area

Mr Lawless said there were both positive and negative factors to consider when buying real estate in non-capital city areas.

An obvious advantage is that property prices in regional areas are generally lower than capital cities, where it can be challenging to secure an affordable home. This could make it easier for first home buyers or investors looking to enter the property market sooner or with less savings built up. 

“Population densities are generally lower (in regional areas), which is something that might be even more appealing as we move through this pandemic, and in many examples, regional areas will offer some lifestyle advantages, either via the location’s proximity to the coastline or wide open spaces,” Mr Lawless said.

However, purchasing a home in regional markets may be risky in some situations.

“On the downside, regional economic conditions can be more volatile, especially those areas that are heavily dependent on a single industry for economic prosperity, and some areas may not show the same level of amenity and access to essential services as a capital city or major centre,” according to Mr Lawless.

Whether you’re thinking about buying a home or an investment property, you should always do your research on the local area of the property you’re considering purchasing before you make a decision. To help assess whether your numbers stack up, it could be worth your time to speak to a mortgage broker or property expert for advice on purchasing in a regional market.

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Learn more about home loans

What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?

It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.

The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.

But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.

Does Australia have no-deposit home loans?

Australia no longer has no-deposit home loans – or 100 per cent home loans as they’re also known – because they’re regarded as too risky.

However, some lenders allow some borrowers to take out mortgages with a 5 per cent deposit.

Another option is to source a deposit from elsewhere – either by using a parental guarantee or by drawing out equity from another property.

Will I have to pay lenders' mortgage insurance twice if I refinance?

If your deposit was less than 20 per cent of your property’s value when you took out your original loan, you may have paid lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI) to cover the lender against the risk that you may default on your repayments. 

If you refinance to a new home loan, but still don’t have enough deposit and/or equity to provide 20 per cent security, you’ll need to pay for the lender’s LMI a second time. This could potentially add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs to your mortgage, so it’s important to consider whether the financial benefits of refinancing may be worth these costs.

How much deposit will I need to buy a house?

A deposit of 20 per cent or more is ideal as it’s typically the amount a lender sees as ‘safe’. Being a safe borrower is a good position to be in as you’ll have a range of lenders to pick from, with some likely to offer up a lower interest rate as a reward. Additionally, a deposit of over 20 per cent usually eliminates the need for lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) which can add thousands to the cost of buying your home.

While you can get a loan with as little as 5 per cent deposit, it’s definitely not the most advisable way to enter the home loan market. Banks view people with low deposits as ‘high risk’ and often charge higher interest rates as a precaution. The smaller your deposit, the more you’ll also have to pay in LMI as it works on a sliding scale dependent on your deposit size.

How much debt is too much?

A home loan is considered to be too large when the monthly repayments exceed 30 per cent of your pre-tax income. Anything over this threshold is officially known as ‘mortgage stress’ – and for good reason – it can seriously affect your lifestyle and your actual stress levels.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is by factoring in a sizeable buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent. If this then tips you over into the mortgage stress category, then it’s likely you’re taking on too much debt.

If you’re wondering if this kind of buffer is really necessary, consider this: historically, the average interest rate is around 7 per cent, so the chances of your 30 year loan spending half of its time above this rate is entirely plausible – and that’s before you’ve even factored in any of life’s emergencies such as the loss of one income or the arrival of a new family member.

What is a loan-to-value ratio (LVR)?

A loan-to-value ratio (otherwise known as a Loan to Valuation Ratio or LVR), is a calculation lenders make to work out the value of your loan versus the value of your property, expressed as a percentage.   Lenders use this calculation to help assess your suitability for a home loan, and whether you need to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI). As a general rule, most banks will require you to pay LMI if your loan-to-value ratio is 80 per cent or more.   LVR is worked out by dividing the loan amount by the value of the property. If you are looking for a quick ball-park estimate of LVR, the size of your deposit is a good indicator as it is directly proportionate to your LVR. For instance, a loan with an LVR of 80 per cent requires a deposit of 20 per cent, while a 90 per cent LVR requires 10 per cent down payment. 

LOAN AMOUNT / PROPERTY VALUE = LVR%

While this all sounds simple enough, it is worth doing a more accurate calculation of LVR before you commit to buying a place as there are some traps to be aware of. Firstly, the ‘loan amount’ is the price you paid for the property plus additional costs such as stamp duty and legal fees, minus your deposit amount. Secondly, the ‘property value’ is determined by your lender’s valuation of the property, not the price you paid for it, and sometimes these can differ so where possible, try and get your bank to evaluate the property before you put in an offer.

How can I avoid mortgage insurance?

Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) can be avoided by having a substantial deposit saved up before you apply for a loan, usually around 20 per cent or more (or a LVR of 80 per cent or less). This amount needs to be considered genuine savings by your lender so it has to have been in your account for three months rather than a lump sum that has just been deposited.

Some lenders may even require a six months saving history so the best way to ensure you don’t end up paying LMI is to plan ahead for your home loan and save regularly.

Tip: You can use RateCity mortgage repayment calculator to calculate your LMI based on your borrowing profile

Does Australia have no cost refinancing?

No Cost Refinancing is an option available in the US where the lender or broker covers your switching costs, such as appraisal fees and settlement costs. Unfortunately, no cost refinancing isn’t available in Australia.

Can I change jobs while I am applying for a home loan?

Whether you’re a new borrower or you’re refinancing your home loan, many lenders require you to be in a permanent job with the same employer for at least 6 months before applying for a home loan. Different lenders have different requirements. 

If your work situation changes for any reason while you’re applying for a mortgage, this could reduce your chances of successfully completing the process. Contacting the lender as soon as you know your employment situation is changing may allow you to work something out. 

Can I get a home loan if I am on an employment contract?

Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.

If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.

Is there a limit to how many times I can refinance?

There is no set limit to how many times you are allowed to refinance. Some surveyed RateCity users have refinanced up to three times.

However, if you refinance several times in short succession, it could affect your credit score. Lenders assess your credit score when you apply for new loans, so if you end up with bad credit, you may not be able to refinance if and when you really need to.

Before refinancing multiple times, consider getting a copy of your credit report and ensure your credit history is in good shape for future refinances.

I have a poor credit rating. Am I still able to get a mortgage?

Some lenders still allow you to apply for a home loan if you have impaired credit. However, you may pay a slightly higher interest rate and/or higher fees. This is to help offset the higher risk that you may default on your repayments.

I can't pick a loan. Should I apply to multiple lenders?

Applying for home loans with multiple lenders at once can affect your credit history, as multiple loan applications in short succession can make you look like a risky borrower. Comparing home loans from different lenders, assessing their features and benefits, and making one application to a preferred lender may help to improve your chances of success

Will I be paying two mortgages at once when I refinance?

No, given the way the loan and title transfer works, you will not have to pay two mortgages at the one time. You will make your last monthly repayment on loan number one and then the following month you will start paying off loan number two.