Property investor comeback not likely for a while

Investors are still finding it tough after the increasing number of hurdles put in front of them.

Friday, February 10th 2023

Forty percent deposits - unless buying a new-build - low gross rental yields, higher mortgage rates, not to mention tough serviceability tests, increased compliance costs, removal of interest deductibility, and flattening rents, are key challenges for would-be new investors.

CoreLogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson says with these challenges, it’s little wonder the CoreLogic Buyer Classification data shows that mortgaged multiple property owners, including investors, are running at about a 21% share of purchases, close to all-time lows.

Getting the numbers for an investment property to stack up is difficult, however, it’s not a total disaster.

Those figures still mean that one in every five deals is going to a mortgaged MPO. Kept in context, it’s within a low overall number of transactions,” Davidson says.

“Clearly some investors are still finding value and new-builds are no doubt one of these opportunities.

“Anecdotally there are relative ‘bargains’ to be picked up, with some developers looking to shift stock so they can crack on with their next project.

“In the weak market, others will simply be doing deals on existing properties at discounted prices.”

Cash remains king

“Meanwhile, cash MPOs are enjoying the weak market conditions too. Their share of purchases has risen to a record high from about 10% in late 2021 to closer to 15% now. In a market where finance is restricted and costly, it stands to reason that ‘cash is king,” says Davidson.

Volume matters

When looking at investor activity by size of portfolio, the drop in market share has tended to be a bit bigger for those with fewer properties – in other words, the ‘mums and dads’ have found the going a bit tougher than bigger landlords.

Again, that makes sense in the current market conditions, given having the resources or banking relationships for a deposit to keep buying is challenging, says Davidson.

Investor crystal balling

If put in the shoes of an investor, what would be worth considering over the coming months and is it a time to buy?

Davidson says the first question, for investors and buyers more broadly, is to ask when property values might bottom out?

“No one knows exactly, but my working assumption is that as mortgage rates finally peak in the next few months - if they haven’t already - we may see sales activity pick up a little in the second half of the year and property values in many parts of the country find a floor.

He says other considerations include whether the National Party wins the October election and reinstates interest deductibility? “This scenario does seem to be getting more likely as the days go by, but it’s probably still prudent to work the numbers on what we know now, and if the rules change, that’s a bonus for investors.”

How lending rules evolve will also have an impact although Davidson is not anticipating any changes to the loan to value ratio rules (LVRs) this year.

“November’s Financial Stability Report might signal a loosening could be on its way next year, which would be when the formal caps on debt-to-income ratios are likely to be introduced. The cap could be set at seven for all borrowers, with a speed limit system and new-build exemption.”

Ultimately Davidson suspects many would-be investors are weighing up the need to top-up a property investment’s cashflow from other income sources over a three- to five-year horizon versus the scope for renewed capital gains over that period, which are uncertain and only ‘on paper’ until realised.

“It’s by no means an easy balancing act, but one factor that will work in favour of investors are signs that net migration is back in the black – a boost for tenant demand and rents this year.”


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