What the 2021 Census Tells Us About Property

July 4, 2022

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The property market is about as unpredictable as Nick Kyrgios right now, but perhaps the most revealing information to come out of the 2021 Census – aside from the increase in the number of people living in caravans - was the decrease in the number of properties that are owned outright (31%) and the increase in homeowners with mortgages (35%).

With the latest 0.5% increase in interest rates from the RBA on Tuesday, "housing stress" could become a problem for some homeowners if they don't have the right mortgage.

The right mortgage is crucial

The 2021 Census report highlighted the problem of “housing stress” that many people in lower-income areas are suffering, that is unlikely to improve with the recent interest rate hikes, inflation, and the cost of living. If you read carefully between the lines, the underlying message from the Census to those who may be vulnerable is to tighten their belts.

That may mean selling for some - which is where our discreet, cost-effective way of selling off-market comes into its own and the value of our free Seller Assist service is heightened. For others, it may mean reassessing their budget and outgoings, maybe even refinancing.

Filling out the Census form every five years may seem like a chore at the time, but the report provides invaluable information for buyers and sellers alike in terms of local planning and housing trends. And for those who still have the means to invest in property, the results of the 2021 Census were far from doom and gloom.

So, what did it tell us about property and what conclusions can we draw from its findings?

  1. Housing affordability is a growing problem. The number of property owners who own their homes outright has dropped by 10% whilst the number of properties owned with a mortgage has doubled. This confirms the claims of Millennials, a group that is now almost as large as Baby Boomers, who have been saying for a long time that they can’t afford to buy a home without assistance. It is also a warning to those about to commit to a mortgage.
  2. The disparity between rich and poor is greater than ever. The median family income in Inner Sydney, for example, has reached $161,000 a year - approximately $51,000 higher than the rest of Australia. And though the report did confirm that certain areas such as western and south-western Sydney remain affordable, some couples in these suburbs are spending more than 30 percent of their income on their mortgage or rent - beyond the upper level of what is recommended.
  3. The rate of vacant properties is too high. There were one million vacant properties on the night of the Census - a tough pill to swallow for those with a social conscience or renters struggling to find a home which has sparked renewed calls for a tax on them in NSW. However, this figure includes holiday dwellings and properties on the market, properties being renovated or in the construction stage, and residents who were absent on 2021 Census night must also be considered.
  4. Over 2.5 million or roughly 10% of people live in apartments. This figure includes caravans, cabins and houseboats, nevertheless, it is on the rise. In Inner Sydney, for example, where many large working hubs attract high earners, more than half the dwellings are units or apartments. The increasing popularity of apartment-living is reassuring news for construction, first-home buyers and investors.
  5. And finally, the square metreage of houses has shrunk from 496 sqm in 2012 to 432 sqm in 2021, which is good news in terms of energy efficiency and maintenance.
2021 Census results and what this means for the property market
The 2021 Census revealed that over 2.5 million Aussies live in apartments.

What is bad news for some is good news for others

The desire for home ownership – or the Great Australian Dream – has clearly not changed that much. Unlike Europe, Australians see their home as their castle and owning a property as a measure of their success.

The positive news for sellers is that even if property prices drop, so long as they sell and buy in the same market, each property should experience a similar price correction. The good news for buyers who have managed to save during COVID is that their entry point into the market should be lower. For investors, with a vacancy rate of less than 10% in rentals, the assurance of a continued, strong demand for housing can only be a good thing.

The Great Australian Dream hasn't changed that much

It is important to distinguish between the pessimistic clickbait headlines of the media and the clear positives the 2021 Census revealed - namely, a strong population growth and a job-friendly market. The increase in apartment-living – particularly by renters - is great news for investors like Nicole Kidman, for example, who has already taken advantage of market conditions and purchased her fifth property in the same luxury block in Milsons Point.

There’s no better time for investors!

Our property market is experiencing a necessary readjustment after a decade of rising property prices and the exhausting past few years of COVID. In states like Queensland, for example, the market is still recovering from the steady influx of migrants from other states and there's little doubt that over the coming year each state will see some impact from higher interest rates - good and bad.

Investing in property is a long game

The government’s investment in social and public housing and its incentives to first-home buyers should hopefully address some of the housing issues, but what the Census shows us is that like any investment, property is a long, cyclical game, and only those who are in it for the long-term stand to make the greatest gains. As we saw in the report, your choice of mortgage is fundamental to your success, so if you need to refinance, check out our financial assistance service, Lending Loop, to help you compare lenders.

For those who decide to sell, Listing Loop specialises in off-market sales, a discreet method of selling your property without the hidden marketing costs inherent in traditional methods. Our portfolio of off-market listings is available to our database of committed buyers, and your property is matched to the most relevant buyers who are in the market looking for a property just like yours.
We remove many of the typical stressors associated with selling.

For more in-depth information about our selling services, check out our Seller Assist page here.

And finally, if you are looking to buy, sign up with us today for free for access to our off-market listings and the wealth of other property-related services we offer, or download our app for our latest updates.


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