A pick-up in both population growth and overseas migration bodes well for the housing market, according to CommSec chief economist Craig James.
Australia’s population grew by 359,600 people over the year to June 2012 to reach 22,683,600 people with its annual population growth rate rising from 1.49% to 1.61% – a near three year high.
A total of 208,300 people migrated to Australia over year to June - the fifth consecutive quarter that annual migration has increased, with Western Australia claiming 23% of Australia's total net overseas migration for the year compared with 18% for the previous year.
WA managed population growth of 3.3% over the 12 month period - double the Australian average - and on the verge of breaking Queensland's record for highest interstate migration.
In absolute terms, Victoria had the highest number of new arrivals (both interstate and overseas) totalling 89,000 followed by Queensland (86,000) and NSW (78,900) and WA (78,000).
James says the latest population figures are “encouraging”.
“Population growth is again rising, underpinned by migration. And if more people are coming to Australia that means greater demand for houses, cars and retail items. Clearly faster population growth is good news for builders and retailers,” he says.
A similar point was made by Chart Keck Cramer’s Robert Papaleo with reference to the struggling Melbourne land market.
According to Papaleo, a pick-up in overseas migration will have flow-on effects for the Melbourne property market and help spur a recovery in the fringe residential new housing market.
“Net overseas migration has come off the bottom of its cycle, but there is usually a 12 to 18 month lag before it feeds into the housing market,” he told Property Observer.
A pick-up in overseas migration could result in a rise in demand for fringe housing from these new arrivals but could also see them acquiring established housing and those displaced residents choosing, in some cases, to buy a lifestyle property on the outskirts of the city.
According to James, a pick-up in migration is also positive from a longer-run point of view in that it flattens out the ageing profile.
“We will need more in the way of younger people over time to support the growing ranks of pensioners,” he says.
James does include the counter-argument that faster population growth may not always be a good thing.
“It is all about striking the right balance. If we need more workers and we can’t get them locally, it makes sense that we bring them in from abroad. It is vital that supply and demand for workers is brought into balance,” he says.