Property industry confidence drop demands good policy decisions in 2019

Confidence in the Australian property industry has dropped to its lowest level in more than five years, highlighting the importance of good policy decisions in 2019 to sustain the growth of one of the main drivers for the Australian economy.

The ANZ/Property Council Survey reported that overall confidence within the property industry fell by three points down to 123 index points to the March quarter and by 15 points over the past 12 months. While still in positive territory, this is the lowest result since September 2013.

“One of the big engines of the Australian economy is slowing, hit by tightening access to finance, softening forward work schedules and a less optimistic view of the economy,” said Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia.

“It’s a message our political leaders need to heed, with the final report of the banking royal commission due in February, a state election in our most populous state and biggest property market (New South Wales) in March, and then a federal election in May.

“It’s crucial that our policy-makers take the longer term view and support sensible policies that sustain and stimulate the growth of Australia’s biggest industry which supports 1.4 million jobs and delivers the places our growing population needs to live and work.

“The global economy headwinds are picking up, foreign investors have been turned away, credit availability has tightened, and our largest residential markets have softened rapidly.

“It’s not the time to be making changes to policies which undermine certainty, confidence or incentives to invest in Australian property,” Mr Morrison said.

  • Industry confidence is strongest in South Australia at 144 index points, followed by the ACT (130) and WA (129). Confidence levels in Victoria are on par with the national average at 123, while NSW (119) and Queensland (118) are below the national average. Victoria and New South Wales have both recorded the biggest drops in sentiment (-22 index points) over the 12-month period.
  • Forward work schedule expectations have fallen in all states and the ACT, while staffing level expectations across the nation increased marginally by one index point, bolstered by positive outlooks reported for South Australia and the ACT.
  • Expectations around debt finance availability worsened for the March 2019 quarter to -27 index points having fallen by 20 index points over the past 12 months.
  • Expectations for the housing capital growth fell to -23 index points, the lowest level since the survey commenced in 2011. Residential housing sentiment is weakest in NSW at -60 index points, followed by Victoria at -44 index points. Only Western Australia and South Australia recorded positive sentiment on housing prices.
  • The overall outlook for commercial property including office, industrial, hotel and retirement living remains in broadly positive territory. Sentiment around hotel capital growth is at its lowest level since March 2015.
  • Retail capital growth expectations are negative except for Western Australia and South Australia. This sector has the weakest outlook in commercial property and the March 2019 quarter results are part of a downward trend over a number of years.
  • The outlook for industrial property construction continues to show steady improvement compared to falls for office, hotels and retirement living for the March 2019 quarter (although remaining in positive territory).
  • Residential construction expectations have shown the sharpest plunge, dropping by six index points for the March quarter to a record low of -7 index points. Residential construction expectations have declined by 21 index points over the past 12 months.

ANZ Head of Australian Economics, David Plank, commented: 

“The ANZ-Property Council Survey for the March quarter gives a softer reading on the health of Australia’s property sector. The outlook for the residential housing segment is particularly weak, which is not surprising given the weak results we are seeing across other housing indicators.

This survey supports ANZ Research’s views in a number of ways. Survey respondents report that the availability of finance will worsen further over the coming year, which is a central feature of our housing outlook. In turn, respondents also expect housing prices and construction activity will continue to ease. We think prices will fall through to 2020, and expect to see declines around 15-20% peak to trough for Sydney and Melbourne. We also think the decline in housing construction will accelerate through 2019 and 2020, as the current backlog of work is gradually completed.

“While the outlook for commercial property softened in the March quarter, sentiment is still at solid levels. We think that business investment will be an important contributor to overall economic growth, which is expected to remain around 3% in 2019.

“The survey also suggests that firms expect the next interest rate movement to be higher, though the conviction in this expectation has dropped from the last survey. With risks around global trade tensions and questions over the sustainability of domestic household spending, we think any RBA move is still some time off.

“Overall, though, the forward work schedule is solid and employment intentions are holding up. But clearly sentiment in the property sector is being challenged by a number of headwinds.”

The survey includes responses from 1043 respondents across the Australian property industry between 19 November-4 December 2018.

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Media contact:  Matt Francis | M 0467 777 220 | E [email protected]