30 January 2011

Australia vs. America

I thought it might be fun to see what around $1 million gets you in Albert Park (Australia) vs. Atlanta (USA).

The results are pretty interesting. 

Note, for each link, it might be easier to right click and select ‘Open in New Tab’.

OK, that's the top end.  Now, let’s go to the budget end to see what $30,000 - $50,000 can buy in New York State vs. Victoria.

I couldn’t pick just one of the over 400 family homes available in Buffalo NY in that price range, so check out this list of properties yourself - click here.

As to what you can get in Victoria, click here.

Because house prices have been so high in Australia for so long, we start to see them as “normal” and assume they are here to stay. Now, I know you can’t draw too conclusions by comparing two completely different cities. But this comparison might at least make us question whether our house prices are in fact normal.

What do you think? Are Australian house prices justified?  Please comment below.



  1. I think Albert Park is better compared with a place like Manhattan, NY. Then you will see what $1M really buys you in one of the most expensive areas.

    As for what you can get at the cheap end - very difficult to compare US apples with AU apples. In the US, housing is usually MUCH cheaper in poor neighbourhoods, but then IMHO, I would definitely want to live in a poor Australian neighbourhood over a poor US one -- big difference!

  2. David - yes, I may be a little guilty of cherry picking extreme examples (although I did resist the temptation to compare Australia to U.S. ghost towns like Detroit.

    Having said that, I think you might have been a bit generous in your comparison of Albert Park to Manhattan. So let’s call it even. :)

    My aim was to shake us out of our complacency. And the fact is that Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide (yes even Adelaide), Brisbane and Perth are all less affordable than New York, which is itself classified as “severely unaffordable”.
    (see www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf).

  3. Fair points.

    I wonder whether the difference in affordability is (at least in part) related to taxation. From what I understand, you can claim interest as a tax-deductible expense in the US, for YOUR OWN home, but NOT investment properties. (This is only from what I heard third-hand years ago, so I could be mistaken - feel free to correct me on this if you have knowledge to the contrary). In AU, it's the reverse, potentially encouraging more investment subject to capital gains, forcing housing prices artificially higher.

  4. The Demographia survey actually doesn’t even take tax into account – it’s simply compares house prices to wages to determine affordability.

    But I’m sure you are right in saying our tax laws have played a big part in pushing our house prices to such heights. For example, without negative gearing and the 50% discount for capital gains tax, losing money every single month on an investment property would not seem quite as attractive. I think you might also be right about the tax-deductibility of interest working in reverse in America.

    Nevertheless, our high house prices are ARTIFICAL, as you point out. And once sentiment turns, no amount of tax breaks, government grants (bribes) or interest rate cuts will be able to save them.

  5. Andy, You should be comparing Melbourne and Sydney with the two most expensive cities in the US.. New York being one, and probably San Franciso the other.

    Albert Park is a few km from central Melbourne, Point Piper is a few km from central Sydney. A massive mansion in Point Piper with the best views in Sydney can be had for $10-20 million. That will barely buy you a 2 bedroom apartment on central park in NY.

  6. P.S. That house in the link in Georgia is many miles from downtown Atlanta (far from the most expensive city in the US). You can get much more for the same money in NSW, when you're that far from Sydney! In fact, you can get a house like that much closer to Sydney (St Ives, for example, anywhere in the West). Then try look at suburbs around Doncaster and beyond..

  7. I wonder - but am too lazy to perform one - what a comparison of Washington v Canberra house prices would turn up.

  8. Marky Mark - I see you point and I'll admit my comparisons were designed more for shock value than fairness. So, are you saying that Australian house prices are not overvalued compared to the US or in their own right?

  9. David II - according to Demographia, the median house price in Washington DC is $324,700 (3.8 their median household income).

    The median in Canberra is $558,100 (5.6 their median household income).

  10. Places are getting cheap here though. 3 BR apartment in Cairns (before the cyclone) for $50K

  11. David, it's true that you can deduct mortgage interest on your own home in the US, but of greater importance is the existence of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

    Obviously, no bank will provide such a thing; interest rate risk would be totally unacceptable over such a long period. Typically what happens is that lenders write the mortgages and then sell them on to the two FMs, so the US taxpayers take on the risk of those mortgages. The lenders get their capital back to lend again.

    This decouples the Fed interest rates from mortgage interest rates, with unpredictable results.

  12. D@ve, that looks like a typo. The median house price in Cairns is still $550,000.

  13. There is nowhere in Australia that's comparable to Manhattan. Why not compare Albert Park to the areas around Prospect Park, Brooklyn?

    I can tell you this: Cost of living is higher in Melbourne than Manhattan. Insane, really.

  14. Come on- Albert Park is definitly not- REPEAT NOT comparable to Manhattan.

    Where does such madness come from?

    In its 60 square kilometres Manhattan has as a non exhaustive list the following iconic places:
    Upper Manhattan, Harlem, Carnegie Hill, Spanish Harlem, Upper West Side, Rockerfellar cantre, Times Square, Madison Square, Theatre District, Meatpacking District, Chinatown, Korea Town, Battery Park, SoHo.......I need not continue do I?

    Melbourne Central itself would not compare to any two or three of those combined for entertainment, services, action.

    The fact that any Australian is stupid enough to suggest otherwise rather explains our outlandishly stupid property prices, where Sydney is more expensive than Paris, Rome, London, New York etc!

    For gods sake, wake up and smell the tulips!

    John Elkin

  15. LOL, you poor Aussies are all living in denial. I guess you don't understand that you are now in the blow off phase after your mania phase.

    Try to get some education and experience under your belt first and follow the smart money in the stealth phase. The playground of the rich and wealthy. LOL. I gather mass psychology will always remain.

    Back to the drawing board for you as the outside world looks on in shock what you guys have created in your property market. Massive gain does not come without massive pain. there are always 2 sides to a coin.

  16. Hi anonymous (the latest one) - so where are you looking on from and what have you learnt that you can share?

  17. By the way all, to avoid confusion, it might be better to enter your name or even a nickname under 'Name/URL', rather than using 'Anonymous'.

  18. I lived in the US on and off for a total of 8 years. NYC, upstate NY (Corning, Syracuse, Rochester), NJ (Montclair, Mendham) and Baltimore Maryland. I know how to compare like for like. You need to look at size of city, distance from city centre, lifestyle, cost of living, suburb profile. After doing this I concluded that US houses/property are less than half the cost of equivalent Australian ones. At the high end of the market the difference is even more staggering. e.g. A US$2M property would cost more like $5M in Australia like for like. We have a massive housing bubble in Australia. To try and justify it by saying we are different from other countries is ludicrous.

  19. While I am here I'd like to support Anonomous's comment about Manhattan. No Australian city can touch NYC when you look at what it offers. Sydney and Melbourne are backwaters in comparison. We Australians are great at deluding ourselves and talking up our cities and our superior lifestyle. Homeowners in Melbourne are paying more than half their income towards their mortgages. At the same time we have just about the highest cost of living of any country in the world. Stop believing all of the propaganda.

  20. Andy, i'm a global citizen having lived in many countries and actually live in australia, however i'm not going to delude myself living in a cocoon trying to bid for property that has a return less than a bank account focusing on the future. most people extrapolate in a straight line and think the next 10 years will be the same.
    The benchmark for property valuations is on global scale what money can buy. Probably best to look outside the square and look at the facts and numbers for what they are. Bottom line prices are out of synch in australia and speculation is rife. reality is that the bubble party is over.

  21. What- no Australian city can compare to New York- you are kidding right Mike.

    What has NY got that Lithgow can't beat!


    And pretending that Sydney prices are so steep because you are strategically located 20km from the harbour, or maybe even catch a "glimpse" of it, just cracks me up every time!

    You cant even get a bedsit next to the garbage stowage area, between a railway line and a freeway, where junkies litter the street, in Fairfield West for under $200,000 these days- go figure.

    Anon- John Elkin

  22. Aussie house prices are in a massive bubble. This is caused by misguided governments who omit to regulate house prices, while unfairly allowing over-leveraged bidders to force up housing costs so they, the government, can benefit from vast streams of land tax, stamp duty, and council rates revenue. Sadly these factors all mean that every spare dollar of household income is spent on overpriced housing and capitalized into ever increasing house prices as young families battle for decent shelter while speculators unfairly hoard the available housing stock.

    Dank Castle

    Global House Price Crash Blogs

  23. Note that in the US, you have to pay property tax based on the value of your property IN ADDITION to any other costs. So USD$13k+ pa you have to pay for the Atlanta house ie more than $1,000 per month for which you get diddlysquat. Factor that in on an NPV basis, this Atlanta house isn't quite as attractive by comparison at all, eh?

  24. Note that in Australia, you have to pay extra tax so that investors get to write of their loss making investment against their own tax!

    I would prefer to pay tax on my property than have to pay tax on someone elses!

    No wonder the Aussie market is so out of whack!

    John Elkin

  25. there are only 3 types of people who actually benefit from high prices?

    1) speculators who flip properties to make profit
    2) real estate agents for the commission on value
    3) government who charge rates and taxes on value of property

    Non of these people wish to see property go down in price.
    That is also the reason why the government does nothing. they will loose their revenue preying on the working mainstream citizen. so there is no rush or push. so the Aussie government has failed it's own taxpayers and people because they did not plan for the future. they were too greedy. we all know what happens when we get greedy. mistakes happen.

  26. While it may be misleading to compare Albert Park to Manhattan, it's too simple to just say that New York has better 'stuff' on offer than Melbourne, so you can't compare the two at all.

    The reason is that people aren't choosing between Albert Park and NYC. Usually, people who live in a particular city know they want to live in that city, and it's just a matter of where. Eg, because their family lives there, or they have always lived there, or they got a job there etc etc.

    So, a better comparison could be made by asking, for a person of a particular income level (let's say $200k) who wants to live in or near NYC, what can they afford to buy (including location and type of house). Then look at what a person earning the same amount who wants to live in or near Melbourne, and ask what they can afford to buy. Then compare.

  27. Not a bad idea ErC. But I’m not sure how practical it is for any of us to do that on a large enough scale. Do you think the Demographia survey is a fair substitute for your suggestion?

  28. They removed the price on the Albert Park house I originally linked to. So the link now goes to another million dollar “mansion” in Albert Park. Check it out.

  29. David:
    You said ...
    "From what I understand, you can claim interest as a tax-deductible expense in the US, for YOUR OWN home, but NOT investment properties"

    This is incorrect. In the US, interest in BOTH scenarios are tax deductable, i.e. for private residence as well as for investment properties.
    With investment properties there are just many other expenses which are ALSO tax deductable besides the interest on the mortgage.

    Let's face it people - in Australia we're being screwed sh!tless by our pathetic nannystate government, who through their insane taxes, charges and supply strangulation have singlehandedly caused the biggest property bubble in history right here in "We're Different Land" ...

  30. On the other hand, if the home is merely a convenience that can be replaced by finding somewhere to rent or if you have little or even no real equity in the home, the considerations are somewhat different.


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