Larry Schlesinger | 24 January 2013

Residential land sales fall 17.8% in fragile September quarter but values hold firm: HIA/RP Data

Residential land sales fell 17.8% over the September quarter of 2012 following three successive quarters of rising sales.

The latest HIA-RP Data Residential Land Report records around 12,000 residential lots sold over the quarter.

Putting this in to context, this is less than half the peak in lot sales achieved three years ago when there were just under 25,000 lot sales recorded over the September 2009 quarter.

Despite the fall, the weighted median residential land value in Australia increased by 3.8% over the quarter to $197,807. This value was 4.2% higher when compared to the same period in 2011

HIA chief economist Harley Dale says despite the fall in the September quarter, the volume of sales was still 14.9% higher than the record low set a year earlier.

The median value of residential land in capital cities increased by 5.1% in the September 2012 quarter to $225,795 - 6% higher than in the September 2011 quarter.

The median value for regional Australia was $155,214 in the September 2012 quarter. This represents a quarterly rise of 0.8% and a 0.2% increase compared with the same period in 2011.

“It is encouraging that land sales in a majority of markets have lifted off the depths plunged in 2011. However, this latest update highlights the uncertainty around whether the new home building sector can mount a recovery that is both sustainable and of the magnitude Australia’s population and economy require,” says Dale.

“Overall, residential land sales, a key leading indicator of housing starts, signal a rocky road for any new home building recovery in 2013.”

“One catalyst for the emergence of a strong new home building recovery would be the reduction in the cost of new housing, including serviceable land, which is brought about by disproportionately high and inefficient levels of taxation.

“This requires bold and decisive policy reform across all levels of government, action which consistently fails to occur to the detriment of a more productive and efficient economy,” he says.

According to RP Data’s research director Tim Lawless, the September results highlight the recovery in the vacant land market remains a fragile one.

“After consistent increases in the number of vacant land sales over the past three quarters, the lower September result is a stark reminder that consumers remain very price sensitive and cautious about their household finances,” says Lawless.

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