home-price-chart National city home prices fell for the first time in 18 months in June, as rising interest rates sent auction clearance rates lower.

Median national home prices fell by 0.8 per cent in June, in raw terms, from a 0.6 per cent increase in May, according to RP Data-Rismark figures. It was the largest monthly fall in home prices since April 2008, shaving the median national dwelling price by $3000 for the month to $465,000.
”As mortgage rates have normalised, participants in the housing market have cut their house price growth expectations, which explains the current change in conditions,” Rismark International managing director Christopher Joye said in a statement.

Official interest rates have risen six times since October to 4.5 per cent, lifting the average cost of mortgages by $300 a month. Since February, auction clearance rates – a key reading on the buoyancy of the market – have fallen from 80 per cent to around 60 per cent in Melbourne and Sydney.

While the RP-Data figures point to a retreat in house prices, a survey out yesterday indicated market players anticipate a slowing growth in house price gains in the coming year. Real estate agents, developers and other residential industry tip only 1.4 per cent of price growth over the next year, down from 5.4 per cent growth expected three months earlier, according to the National Australia Bank June quarter property survey.

Sydney and Melbourne
In the three months to June, Australian home values were basically flat, rising 0.1 per cent seasonally adjusted, RP Data-Rismark said.
For the same period, home prices in Sydney rose 0.5 per cent and by 0.2 per cent in Melbourne. Prices in Brisbane fell 1.3 per cent, and by 2.5 per cent in Perth. RP Data doesn’t release June-only figures on city price movements.

Canberra home prices fell 0.8 per cent, while in Darwin they fell 0.1 per cent.
Home prices outside capital cities rose by 0.3 per cent in June, after falling 0.9 per cent in May.
”It’s sobering to remember here that we have had 17 consecutive monthly increases in Australian capital city home values,” said Mr Joye.
”If the sharemarket rose for 17 months straight and then tapered, people would not think twice. It might be wise to apply the same logic to our housing market,” he said.
Despite the slowdown, national city home prices have risen 10.5 per cent over the year to June.

Quarterly drop
Prices fell the most in the June quarter for the top fifth of homes, RP Data-Rismark said.
”It’s likely that the top end has been adversely affected by the volatile share market and the uncertainty swirling around Europe and North America,” said RP Data national research director Tim Lawless.

”RP Data-Rismark’s results for the most expensive 20 per cent of suburbs show a real shift in the market dynamic," said Mr Lawless. "Through most of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 it was the premium markets that experienced the strongest capital growth."
"In recent months, the middle 60 per cent of suburbs have outperformed," he said.

"Another variable impacting sentiment may be the federal election, with some people placing their purchase or sale plans on hold subject to seeing the full set of policy positions,” he said.
The trend of slowing or falling home prices was picked up in Australian Property Monitors quarterly data, released yesterday, which showed the median national house price rose 2.4 per cent in the June quarter, slowing from a 3.8 per cent rise in the March quarter.

However, Mr Lawless downplayed fears that Australia faced a housing bubble ready to pop.
”As the RBA has independently confirmed, arguments in favour of house price `bubbles’ remain, in my opinion, overstated,” Mr Lawless said.

”If we saw blow-outs in average time on market, re-listings, and vendor discounting, it would set off a few alarm bells," Mr Lawless said. "This, however, is not currently the case.”
The Reserve Bank will hold its monthly board meeting next week, with investors and economists expecting no change, following weaker-than-expected quarterly inflation this week.

Story by Chris Zappone www.smh.com.au