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Investor enquiries rise, FHBs wane: REA Group

A report has found that property investor enquiry spiked and first home buyer enquiry faded on the realestate.com.au website compared with 2020 as HomeBuilder concluded.

The REA Group’s REA Insights Housing Market Indicators Report May 2021 revealed that in April 2021, email enquiries from buyers on property platform realestate.com.au reached a record high, accounting for 62.3 per cent of all enquiry.

The report is based on analysis of consumer behaviour in real time by extracting property market insights from users who visit realestate.com.au each month.

Key metrics used for the analysis include search activity, email enquiry, views per listing, weekly sales of properties listed for sale on realestate.com.au, days on site of properties sold, filtered searches by price and by bedroom, and developer enquiry. 

The analysis found that investor enquiries accounted for 17.3 per cent, which was the highest share since March 2020, while first home buyer (FHB) enquiry continued to drift lower, accounting for 20.5 per cent of all enquiry.

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Compared with the same time last year, investor enquiry saw the largest increase across buyer cohorts in April, up 84.2 per cent year-on-year, while overall buyer enquiry rose 29.3 per cent and FHB enquiry volumes nudged up only 0.7 per cent, according to the report.

Commenting on these trends, the report said: “With HomeBuilder having now ended, it seems likely that first home buyer enquiry will continue to soften while tight rental market conditions and attractive yields and capital growth potential will likely lead to an ongoing uplift in enquiry coming from the investor segment of the market.”

A lift in sales volumes has tempered searches, although they remain historically high, the report said.

The overall volume of visitors to the website searching for properties for sale has increased by 46.3 per cent compared with a year ago, with all states and territories mirroring this trend.

However, weekly sale search volumes have trended lower over recent weeks, and are currently 8.4 per cent below their historic high, the report said.

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The analysis also found that the volume of email enquiry to residential real estate agents fell for the third successive month in April 2021.

It said: “With sales volumes strong, search volumes easing back over the past month and HomeBuilder having ended, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a further decline in email enquiry over the coming months given that many prospective buyers have now purchased and there are seemingly fewer buyers in the next wave, and housing costs are becoming more expensive as prices rise.”

The report also said that over the first 19 weeks of 2021, there has been 54.7 per cent more preliminary sales than there were over the first 19 weeks of 2020.

It added that while sales volumes remain much higher than they were a year ago, the analysis found an easing in sales volumes compared with pre-Easter highs.

REA Group director of economic research and author of the report Cameron Kusher said in the report: “With borrowing costs at historic lows, we would expect that transaction activity will remain strong over the coming weeks.

“However, sales volumes have eased back from highs, as have search volumes, and I would expect a further moderation in sales over the coming weeks.”

The analysis also found that the typical property that sold on realestate.com.au during April 2021 had been on the site for 38 days, up from 34 days in March but down from 52 days this time last year.

Across the states, days on site is lower than it was a year ago, with Western Australia (12), NSW (12), Queensland (12) and the ACT (12) seeing the greatest falls, while the Northern Territory (six) and Victoria (nine) saw the smallest falls.

Higher-priced property searches have proved to be more popular across capital city and regional markets in April 2021, with 42.6 per cent of filtered searches in capital city regions and 22.5 per cent of them in regional areas having a maximum price of at least $1 million, compared with 34.1 per cent and 14.4 per cent at the same time last year.

Mr Kusher said that this was driven by low borrowing costs and a lack of international travel, which has increased the demand for housing.

“As affordability pressures rise with strong increases in prices, it will be interesting to see how much further this trend runs,” he said.  

Commenting on the overall findings in the report, Mr Kusher said: “An increase in the supply of new stock available for sale, coupled with a drop in search activity and sales volumes, has resulted in slowing demand (based on views per listing), suggesting that the next wave of potential buyers may not be as large as what we’ve seen early in 2021.

“New homes enquiry is still very strong but predictably fell in April as HomeBuilder came to an end. Further falls over the coming months are likely.”

[Related: FHB activity to decline as house prices escalate: Archistar]

Investor enquiries rise, FHBs wane: REA Group
Investor enquiries rise, FHBs wane: REA Group
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Malavika Santhebennur

Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.

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