Why the Australian Property Bubble is Only the Beginning.
There are two things you can’t discuss at the Smith’s extended family gatherings. Religion and politics. And that’s mostly because there’s no talking when those subjects come up, just yelling, fist pumping and table thumping.
And after a recent weekend gathering, we added a third ‘no-go’ topic. After all the noise, thinly disguised name calling and our colour blind electrical engineer uncle setting fire to the dining room table, we decided to never discuss Australian property with them again.
Just this week The Age commented on rising negative equity for homeowners in the outer suburbs.
‘Many people who bought houses on Melbourne’s fringes in recent years could be facing financial ruin after a slump in prices has left them owing more to the bank than their homes are worth, experts have warned.’
But that wasn’t what grabbed our interest. It was further down in the article where a property spruiker changed his tune.
‘The average plot of land in the outer suburbs is [worth] half what it is in the middle suburbs and it is the land that appreciates, albeit slowly on the fringe. The houses they are building actually depreciate. On top of that, the quality of construction is often cheap. So that’s what’s behind the negative equity.’
Say it ain’t so? Aussie homes are built on the cheap? For years property spruikers told you the reason Australian house prices are so high is because of the high quality of Aussie housing.
Six years ago, the Reserve Bank of Australia suggested in a report ‘Australian House Prices’ that the higher quality of new homes added to the overall housing quality in the Aussie property market.
And then in September last year, the Herald Sun repeated something similar:
‘Higher Australian property prices can also be justified by the higher quality of Australia’s housing stock, with renovations and extensions naturally adding value.’
In fact, even as recently as six months ago the spruikers were still claiming Australian housing stock was of a high quality. As Paul Bloxham, an economist at HSBC wrote in The Australian Housing Bubble Furphy report:
‘First, the quality of the housing stock is high. Australia has the largest dwellings in the world, and they are of high quality. Estimates suggest that the average Australian dwelling is 214 square metres, and the real expenditure on new dwellings is now 60 per cent higher than it was 15 years ago, reflecting the increase in both the size and quality of dwellings.’
At the time, Kris Sayce didn’t buy the spruikers talk. He told Money Morning readers in his article Another Housing Market Myth Busted, ‘To our mind Bloxham had confused quantity of housing (the size of houses), with quality of housing (how good they are).’
How is it that suddenly Australian houses have gone from being of the highest build quality in the world to cheaply built?
You see, the idea that Aussie homes were of a high quality was just a myth, often used to support overpriced houses. And now those myths and hype are falling apart.
But of course, an Aussie housing crash is nothing compared to another, bigger property bubble…
That’s right, China.
Economics professor Li Daokui from Tingshua University recently told the Financial Times, ‘The housing market problem in China is actually much… much bigger than the housing market problem in the US and UK… It’s more than [just] a bubble problem.’
So he started digging deeper. What could China be using all this copper, iron-ore and cement for?
One of his analysts looked into it. He did the math. And checked his figures….three times. During the northern hemisphere summer of 2009, China was building 5.5 billion square meters of high rise space.
Half of the construction space was ‘office/mix use’.
Chanos tried to put the data into perspective. He said: ‘Well gee, that’s 30 billion square feet use for office mix use. And 30 billion square feet is a five foot by five foot office cubical for every man, woman and child in China.’
Using this information, Chanos decided China wasn’t a stable economy.
But that 5.5 billion sqm of high construction was over three years ago. And the construction hasn’t stopped.
Even though both home sales and demand for high rises are slowing, building is still going ahead at a rapid pace.
At the current rate, every five days China completes a new skyscraper. According to a report by Skyscrapers Magazine, by 2016 China will have more than 800 skyscrapers taller than 152 meters. Four times more than the US.
Less than two months ago, Chanos told CNN, ‘We’re bearish on China’s property sector and the credit sector. This is a country that’s in the middle of an epic property bubble and construction bubble that will end at some point and it won’t be pleasant when it ends.’
‘China is now on the other side of its boom,’ says Greg Canavan, editor of Sound Money. Sound Investments.
And the economic growth numbers are just the beginning of a China slow down. Gross domestic product was down to 7.6% for the second quarter, down from the previous quarter’s 8.1%.
Consumer price inflation grew by only 2.2% and the producer price index (PPI) dropped to 2.1%. Since March, the PPI has fallen every month.
‘I am absolutely certain that combining a credit bubble with a Communist regime was a recipe for disaster. The credit bubble is playing out like they all do — first the inflation, then the deflation. First the boom, then the bust,’ Greg tells me.
‘The Chinese slowdown is gathering pace. This has major implications for Australia.’
As an Aussie, you can’t stop the Chinese economy from failing, but you can prepare your portfolio.
Greg has detailed insight and information into what he believes is the most important development for Australian investors right now — how to protect your wealth from what he calls the ‘China Bust’.
China’s economy is changing…and fast. If you want to hear what Greg has to say about the coming ‘China Bust’, click here.
This article is contributed by Money Morning. Click Here to Subscribe to their free newsletter.