How to read Australia’s housing market - according to CoreLogic’s Tim Lawless

Market Insights
2 years ago
5 minutes

Following last year’s unprecedented market growth of 22.1% - heights not seen since the 1980s - CoreLogic’s Research Director Tim Lawless offers advice on reading Australia’s housing market. 

When to call a peak in housing values article-image

“To categorise a market peak across a region, we would generally be looking for a consistent trend in negative monthly movements.” 

“To date, the quarterly trend remains positive across the major regions, with the only exception being Darwin houses, which is the only capital city housing sector to record a negative quarterly change.”


Peak vs peak rate of growth


“Although we can’t see any evidence that specific housing markets have peaked, it is clear that most markets have moved through a peak rate of growth.”

“What I mean by that is the point at which markets achieved their biggest monthly growth rate. We saw most of the capitals moved through a peak rate of growth around March last year.”

  • Sydney’s monthly growth rate peaked at 3.7% in March and has since reduced to 0.3%
  • Melbourne’s monthly growth rate peaked at 2.4% in March, reducing to -0.1% in December (the first monthly decline since Oct 2020)
  • Perth’s monthly growth rate peaked at 2.7% in February. After recording only a single month of decline (-0.1% in Oct 2021), the monthly rate of growth has reaccelerated to reach 0.4% in December
  • Hobart’s monthly growth rate peaked at 3.3% in March and dropped to 1.0% in December
  • Darwin moved through a peak rate of monthly growth in April at 2.7% (0.6% in December)
  • Canberra moved through a monthly peak in March at 2.8% (0.9% in December)

Market exceptions and future expectations


“The only broad regions avoiding a slowdown in the pace of growth in housing values are Brisbane, Adelaide and regional Queensland.” 

“These markets are benefitting from a healthier level of affordability compared with the largest capitals along with a positive demographic trend and consistently low advertised stock levels.”

“We could see our two biggest capital city markets, Sydney and Melbourne, hit their peak later this year, although the timing is highly uncertain and depends on a broad range of influences.”

“There are a lot of moving parts that will affect the trajectory of housing outcomes, [including],”

  • Policy-related factors such as interest rates and credit availability
  • Market factors like the trend in advertised stock levels and housing affordability
  • Economic factors such as labour market conditions and wages growth


“Arguably, the surge in COVID cases associated with the Omicron variant could push some of these policy tightening decisions back, with APRA or the RBA unlikely to tighten their policy settings with so much uncertainty associated with the latest case numbers.” 

“There is also some downside risk from a delayed economic recovery associated with less spending activity and heightened uncertainty, although a slower than forecast economic recovery implies rates would stay lower for longer.”

Key signals that a market is approaching its peak


“Normally, housing growth trends will gradually slow before moving into a correction phase, which is what we are seeing at the moment. However, this isn’t always the case. During periods of shock such as the GFC or early in the pandemic, housing trends turned quite sharply into negative territory.” Other signs to watch for include:

  • Rising advertised stock levels
  • Affordability constraints
  • Weakening auction clearance rates
  • Softening vendor metrics such as longer days on market and larger levels of discounting


“It’s fair to say we are currently seeing a softening in all of these metrics, albeit from a historically high base. We also consider macro factors which could have an impact on housing demand such as the potential for higher interest rates or tighter credit policies. Both of these factors have a high level of uncertainty at the moment, especially considering the latest wave of COVID cases associated with Omicron, which could weigh down economic activity.”

What to expect following a market peak 


“Once a market peaks, the typical trend is that values will experience a period of decline. The duration and severity of the decline are dependent on a broad range of both macro and micro factors.”

Since the late 1980s, Australia has experienced national downturns that have ranged in severity from a 1.0% peak to a trough decline in 2015-16, a temporary correction following the first round of credit tightening via APRA’s 10% speed limit on investment lending, to the most recent 8.4% decline experienced during the 2017-19 downturn.

At a capital city level, the most severe downturns have followed periods of exuberance, such as the mining infrastructure boom in Perth and Darwin, where housing values in Perth fell by 20.0% over 64 months (moving through a peak in June 2014 and finding a floor in October 2019).

In Darwin, dwelling values fell 32.7% over 69 months (May 2014 to February 2020), although both downturns were preceded by a spectacular upswing in values.

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