“Maybe because price falls occurred earlier and were more intense, that’s where we’re starting to see maybe a little bit of a correction in that trend now.”
The top-end price falls have started to moderate. Sydney’s top end fell 7.5 per cent in the August quarter, then 7.4 per cent in September followed by 6.2 per cent in October, while Melbourne’s falls since August have been 5 per cent, 4.5 per cent and 3.6 per cent.
Owen said the relatively low levels of new listings could help slow down the declines as homeowners decide against selling in a downturn, while buyers may feel they do not have to negotiate as much of a discount because prices have fallen.
This kind of stabilising in the downturn is what Owen would look for to recognise a turn in the cycle, but she emphasised it was too early to tell if this was the case, especially because the potential for further interest rate rises became clear recently when high inflation data was published.
“There’s a bit more pain to come for households that maybe hasn’t been fully realised yet in the mortgage space, and that could cause a reacceleration of the downturn,” she said.
In Sydney, BresicWhitney chief executive Thomas McGlynn said there has been a stabilisation in inner-city suburbs within 10km of the CBD, pointing to improving clearance rates across the eastern suburbs, inner west and lower north shore.
He said buyers have more comfort in terms of their mortgage repayments to think that the end of the interest rate tightening cycle is in sight, making it easier to buy and sell in the same market.
“There has been better property coming to market over the course of the last month or two. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that you see better results,” he said.
“When the market was a little bit unstable across July, August, September you weren’t seeing the better properties or the A-grade properties coming to market.”
Owners of upper-end homes are in the fortunate position to be able to hold on to them when times are tough, he said.
In Melbourne, Jellis Craig Port Phillip director Warwick Gardiner said family homes north of $3 million are selling better in his area than properties below that price point.
“The family buyer we deal with tends to be a little more pragmatic about purchasing and the future,” he said. “That buyer is not thinking they’re going to sell in a year or two, they’re thinking 10 years.”
They might have two or three children in local schools, some equity behind them from their current residence, and want a bigger place to live even if the property market is bumpy now, he said.
On the other hand, stock levels are “critically low” because families who own such homes have no reason to move.
“When we put any of our properties to market above $3 million we have three or four people bidding on a family home,” he said
“Buyers actually come out of the woodwork who are not people who are specifically looking day in, day out, going to all the open homes – they’re just looking for something that meets their requirements.”