03 March 2011

The crash has begun!

It’s official - the crash has begun! 

Let me explain using the following chart.  It was developed by Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Ph.D. who studied 500 years of bubbles and found that they all look remarkably similar.

In 2007, as the 15-year Mania Phase of Australia’s property bubble came to an end, we hit the “New Paradigm”!!! (as shown above).  This was categorised by claims that ridiculously high house prices were justified due to a supposed housing shortage and the not-so-easy-to-disprove argument that “it’s different here”.

Many people think that the subsequent slump in house prices in 2008 - the Bull trap - was due to the GFC.  I say it was going to happen anyway.  Interest rates were steadily climbing in order to slow Australia’s record run of economic growth.  This was starting to hurt home owners and negatively geared investors in the Greed and Delusion phases. Even though mortgage rates were “only” 9%, people were paying as much interest (as a percentage of their household income) as when interest rates were 17% in 1990 - because the amount of debt was so much greater this time.

However, the GFC did have an effect, and that was to exaggerate the Return to “normal” upswing.  In contrast to the theoretical bubble shown above, it pushed house prices even higher than the “New Paradigm”!!! peak.  Of course, this was thanks to the government’s first-home-owner bribes and the RBA’s drastic interest rate cuts.

People then thought (and many still think) that the house-price falls during the GFC were the end of it; that we had avoided the dramatic crash that had occurred in the USA, and that prices would resume their march upwards at a rate faster than inflation, rental returns and wages - as they had done for the previous 15 years.

But now the cracks have appeared once again. Over the last few months, sellers have been slowly coming out of the woodwork and buyers are biding their time. As a result, auction clearance rates have plummeted and prices have once again started falling. According to RP Data, there has been no capital growth since May 2010 and capital city values fell 1.6 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in January.

But that’s just the start.  Next up, we have Fear, Capitulation and Despair.  The Blow off Phase will be slow and steady, but brutal – wiping out all the gains of the last 15 years and not just returning to the long-term trend, but falling below it.

You may then ask: if the government and RBA managed to save us from a crash in 2008, what’s to say they can’t do it again?  I’ll attempt to answer that next time.

Comments welcome.



  1. I really hope you're right Andy. Logically, you are correct, however our economy seems to be defying gravity.
    We have been waiting 5 years to buy a house. We would rather buy overseas than give into the current exorbitant Australian prices. We did not work hard for our money to simply hand it over to a lazy speculator who produces nothing but encourages inflation. Basic needs such as food, water and shelter should be protected from speculators as part of human rights.

  2. It's not just housing that will collapse but all other investments based on the fact that people have borrowed to speculate in anticipation of rising prices across the board - housing, stocks, etc.

    It is morally and ethically repugnant to have turned housing (a basic need as per the previous comment says) into a speculative asset that is prone to bubbles. I prefer the German approach - not perfect, but it removes the speculative aspect and also provides a stable vehicle for those that do want to invest in housing - result, many people rent (no stigma), investment goes into productive things like factories and business creation (housing is not productive) and homes are brought by families to live in.

    I personally think that when the economy turns down it will spectacular as investments will rapidly go bad as they can only be successful if prices continually rise.

  3. Keep the faith Andy - you are not the only one biding their time. Stick with renting - it's not too bad, and don't you love that cash in the bank earning your interest.

  4. @Iain,

    It might even be bigger than that. Do you think the australian govt may start to repeat the same mistakes US are making right now after the bubble bursts? i.e. injecting stimulus with no result until the economy goes bust and inflation goes nuts? Hopefully by then I'll have turned my cash into property (at my best guess of the bottom of the curve), so when money isn't worth anything any more I'll have bricks and mortar.

  5. Hmmm... I wonder how much time this cycle represented in the graph represents. Currently, if this bubble IS going to burst, it would be fair to say there are a number of people who would be over-extended in debt. Given that, it would seem fair to postulate the economy could suffer - possibly quite badly. If that's the case (and I know I'm at risk of a slipery-slope argument here), then I wonder what would happen to our interest rates? My guess is that the economy AND the size of the housing bubble will depend on how radically the RBA acts by reducing interest rates. With a rapid / sizeable reduction, even over-extended debtors will not feel the pinch too badly because their monthly loan repayments will be smaller. Just some thoughts to chew on.

  6. @David

    RBA may reduce rates like they did in 2008 to the point where the bubble stops deflating but then rates will be low enough to fuel the debt-bubble yet again. People won't learn - they didn't last time and the bubble will start going up again, but this time the difference is wages aren't rising any more and people have hit their debt limit - and it would be even more damaging to the economy to keep bubbling along at or just below the debt ceiling forever - all that interest payments going to the banks and not in the rest of the economy. De-leveraging will win in the long run and with it recession follows due people not spending... Economic certainty - it's just how long the game goes on is the question. I personally think the game is finally up.

  7. It's a good site Andy, not a tin hat in sight.

    I did look earlier but I didn't post as we were in the middle of the fracas, and i didn't want it to spill over.


  8. Doom Thinker3/3/11 3:11 PM

    Hi Andy,

    I'm not a doom-sayer. But I find myself increasingly thinking like one.

    My own common sense precluded me from entering the housing market back in 2001.

    But for over ten years, from the self-imposed sidelines, I have watched house prices get ever more ridiculous.

    Whilst truly substantial, the money I have saved for a deposit is still nowhere near enough to make a mortgage a financially realistic option for me and my family.

    A lot of commenters in this blog (and others) reveal their plan is to save cash in the bank; wait for the correction, then swoop in.

    But wouldn't a possible fast-moving collapse put those savings in genuine jeopardy?

    Andy, if we can just put the obligatory gold bugs aside... what's the strategy here?

  9. Hi there Andy,
    As usual, I couldn't agree more with what you are saying. This is all completely predictable and has happened over and over throughout history as surely as night follows day (or possibly day follows night in this scenario). I think that one of the underlying problems is the lack of financial education of the average person. This is where the likes of Robert Kiyosaki are to be commended for striving to make sometimes complex financial matters digestible to simple folk like me. I wonder if a higher percentage of the 'public' were better educated financially and therefore in a better financial position if the 'pubic' phase in the graph above would have less of an impact? A friend of mine who is in shares say when you start hearing about which stocks to buy from the taxi driver, you know it's high time to get out. (no disrespect to taxi drivers) and so it follows with your graph above.
    Of course the next phase in the economic clock that comes with a post-bubble property market carcas is recession where we see increased unemployment. Of course this may not happen as well because we are different / Australia is different right? A good time to get rid of debt, ensure you are indespensible to your employer for those of us who rely on a paycheck and if you're looking for somewhere to put your money, I'm tipping gold. Just thought I'd throw that one in there :)

  10. All of the people who think that they're going to swoop in after a fall are mistaken. Finding the bottom isn't going to be easy and that's if you still have your job.

  11. the graph shows the truth and does not lie. i guess it is a forgone conclusion. the bubble has burst and it will take many years to unfold.
    wealth is transferred from the impatient to the patient. so keep saving and the value of your cash and buying power will increase for great bargains.
    the 20/80 rule applies. people who agree with this post represent the 20%.

  12. @ Doom Thinker
    I hate to be the bearer of 'bad news', but there is no other way of mitigating the risk other than buying gold.

  13. Anonymous
    It wont be as hard as you think - at least not if you're financially literate and have taken the nescessary steps to protect yourself.

    Sure - for most of the mugs out there who are drowning in debt past their eyeballs - they wont be able to make the most of a corrected RE market...

  14. @ realist

    thanks mate - i oouldn't agree more!

  15. Doom Thinker4/3/11 10:24 AM



    Let's say the fast-moving collapse happens; and the banks go with it.
    Cash savings are either wiped out, or frozen. A force-seven financial calamity, in other words.

    Fortunately I took your advice JB. I unearth my gold bullion from the backyard. Now... what do I do with it?

  16. Sorry guys but the crash will be just a fizz. The graph Andy has provided is a hypothetical graph, not an actual one of the current state.

    In Qld and WA the "crash" is almost over, it probably won't happen in Sydney, but it will in Melbourne.

    Don't blink or you will miss the best part.

  17. Hi all - some great comments and though-provoking questions there.

    As Peter Fraser points out, the above chart is just a theoretical one. So it would be interesting to hear some opinions about where you think Australia’s property boom currently sits on the chart.

    Do you agree with me that we’ve slightly past the “return to normal” phase or are we somewhere completely different?

    Additionally, do you think that the actual Aussie House price chart going forward will look dramatically different from this theoretical one? If so, how? And why?

  18. crush is a process that will last for years (3-5). It's is usually very slow at the beginning. RBA will not be able to cut rates because global inflation will hit hard.

  19. Hi Andy, you ask where Australia currently sits on the chart... please refer to my example below...

    Bubble chart for Australia

    I believe my chart may show where Australia currently sits, with prices having already shot past the peak achieved prior to the bear trap year in 2008. What do you think?



  20. @ Doom Thinker
    I'd have to say that one option would be to do exactly what people have been doing for thousands of years ... and that is to trade gold/silver for other products of intrinsic value such as food, transport, and my own little favourite - PROPERTY!

  21. @ Peter Frazer

    Thanks for the good laugh mate!
    I love it that you still have your good sense of humour despite everything... ;p

  22. Haha Shadow – I assume that chart is a joke. If you’re right, and the boom hasn’t even started yet, I’ll walk to Mt Kosciousko. :)

  23. Shadow, your chart says that in 2012/13 Sydney average will be 1.5 million. Can I buy a bag of what your on?

  24. JB - try to spell my name correctly at least.

    Hi Shadow

  25. My apologies Peter. That was a typo, or perhaps it could be the effects from a long, hard week

  26. Well, you know, we could be in the awareness phase at the moment...

  27. As I dont believe there is an Australian housing bubble, I dont believe the "Main Stages of a Bubble" graph is applicable to the Australian housing market.

    If anything, it is steady as she goes with higher peaks followed by higher troughs... I also believe the back end of 2011 will be a higher trough, making it the best time to buy for the next few years. Miss it and continue to hope for hope and you'll end up kicking yourselves over the missed opportunity.

    Dont follow the heard. Knocking the Australian Property market has now become the mainstream veiw. Ask 10 random people where they think the Australian Property market will be 1yr, 2yrs or 5yrs time and the majority will say down... Just like they have over the last decade.

    Andy, I suggest you get yourself a good pair of walking shoes and start training up small hills to start with.

  28. hahahahaaa Anonymous...
    Thanks to you too for a great laugh!
    You been hittin' the bottle lately again?
    Or just a couple o' cans short of a sixpack?

  29. The property bulls crowds still try to discourage rational people to wait and keep saving for eventual property crush by saying that the economy will go down when it happened and therefore, it won't happen or the govt won't allow it. But, the fact is govt would not be able to stop it forever as they can only delay it like 2008 efforts.

    In addition, even if the whole global and Australian economy tanks, we would be ahead with our substantial savings and no-debt position compared to the mortgage slaves. So what if we have high unemployment, big deal I can wait for a while with my savings but those with mortgages will have their home foreclosed by bank and lose their home and life-time savings and no job.

  30. I currently rent an apartment, I can currently put aside the cash required to purchase the apartment in a moderately yielding cash account. The amount of interest I would get after paying tax (the cash is in the low income earners name) is enough to not only pay my rent but also increase the capital in the cash account. The increase in capital from the interest is also enough to ensure that future interest payments are able to cope with 5%pa increases in rent and have a very healthy chunk of capital left at the end.
    Based on my calculations, the price would have to fall 20% for me to be better off buying rather than renting over a lifetime. This is even after taking into account all the capital gains tax advantages home owners get over savings accounts.
    The main argument that people give to first home owners is that if you don't buy now you will miss out. Well I have proven to myself that I will definitely not be missing out if I sit on the sidelines even if houses stay at their current levels forever.

  31. Bloggers here with perhaps the exception of "realist" appear to be supporting football teams in their unquestioning support of either the 'no bubble' theory or the 'it's all gonna crash' theory.

    Be prepared, because both theories may be partially right as well as partially wrong.

  32. let there be no doubt here, the situation with regard to real estate in australia has reached truly distortive economic proportions. I know many 21, 22, 23 yr olds who own investment properties, mortgages of over 300k on incomes of 50k. in some cases mortgages of millions secured with earnings secured from working in the mines. and where did that money come from? china. you've got to see the bigger picture that the world is in the throes of massive structural imbalances, of which australia is a massive victim.

    read your economic history, this has all happened before with disastrous consequences, and will happen again.

    "each generation thinks it is smarter than the last, which is why we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history"

  33. Where can you get a +300k mortgage with only 50k income??? Nowhere... This isnt the US where robo signers where handing out NINJA loans like tic-tacs.

    I dont know who you hang around but the only people I know in their very early 20's are either renting with friends or living at home with mum & dad...

    I think youre making up stories...

  34. With 50k income, they can get 320k from nab
    there must be other banks that allow more loan.
    So it is possible that recent grads own a property after one or two years saving (which will give them around 30k) plus government funding (up to 21k when they are buying new home at 2009).
    I don't think aussi real estate market will fall 20 or even 40%. If that did happen, it will be a disaster not only to real estate, but also to the whole aussi economy.

  35. Peter - stop posting as Anonymous and use your name! The above post is equivalent to using a sock puppet...

  36. Li
    It will be a blessing! I can hardly wait...

  37. Li - Sure... With zero monthly expences!?!

  38. @JB I don't own a house so I wish the same as you do. But what I am worried about is that if falling in real estate happen and has a negative impact on the economy. We might eventually lose our jobs and cannot afford the house no matter how cheap it is. Like great recession in the US in the beginning of last century...

  39. Hi Peter.

    I know you're in the real estate business and so have inside knowledge of the situation. So I'm curious as to what indicators you feel point to the current slump being almost at an end.

    Surely, the current median house price in relation to the average income is a remarkably high starting point for a new, sustained upsurge in prices? Especially in Sydney, since that would indicate a price floor of over half-a-million dollars below which prices cannot fall.

    Also, I'm interested to know if you have any idea as to how widespread this practice is....


    The article appears to suggest that growing numbers of new entrants to the investment property game are finding that house prices are now too high to own a mortgage on both a place of residence and an investment property as well, so they are opting to live in a rental while purchasing their investment elsewhere.

    It strikes me as ironic that excessive levels of investors in the market for the basic human need for shelter from the elements has driven prices to the extent where the next crop of investors seem to be starting to feel the need to live in cheaper rental accomodation while hoping for house prices to keep increasing in order to maximise returns on their investment property.



  40. Li - that is why the RBA are engineering a flat growth period.

    They will both succeed and fail with that strategy - let's wait and see.

    JB you're a comedian.

  41. Hi Li – I share your concern. But the way I see it, the longer the bubble gets inflated, the worse the inevitable crash will be. In other words, the sooner the crash happens the better.

    Peter Fraser, surely you’re giving the RBA too much credit?

  42. Peter - i see you remain the eternal centralist/communal control fan ...
    Ever optimistic and enthusiastic about beaurocrats pulling levers and flicking switches able to control the economy.
    Your type are the very reason that the world economy is on the brink of ruine.

  43. JB - you keep trying to make everything personal. Do you seriously think that I can control Australia from a keyboard posting on a rarely visited blogsite such as this and MM.

    You pay me a very exaggerated compliment that I haven't earned. I hold no sway in the broader community.

    Why don't you examine your own philosophy that seems to crave a "victim syndrome" so that you can blame others.

    Lets not analyse or tackle our situation, lets just blame others for it. Do you see the flaw in that outlook?

    You are not happy, I can see that, but you are also not an unintelligent person. Have some faith in your own ability to arrive at solutions, without taking the easy road of just pointing fingers at others.

    Don't let yourself become a "Hansonite"

    Also take a leaf out of Andy's book and read other blogsites, and don't just take a narrow range of viewpoints. There are some great sites out there, but don't just read the one eyed ones that dc references endlessly.

    Try http://s4.zetaboards.com/Australian_Property/forum/3210735/ where Andy's blog is referenced, and Kris Sayce posts. Never be afraid of learning something.

    Apologies to Andy.

  44. “a rarely visited blogsite such as this”
    I take offence to that PF – my mum visits this site all the time! :)

  45. JB - Our economy isnt on the brink of ruin? We have one of the strongest economies in the western world and is only set to grow stronger on the back of the growth in emerging markets. We arent printing money... We are able to increase interest rates without too much pain, however there will be pain in some quarters. Not like the US though, once they start increasing interest rates it will be all over red rover. Therefore their only option is to print print print! Hyperinflation is what they have to look forward to. So even if your moderately intelligent, do yourself a favour and buy gold and silver NOW.

    By comparison, our ToT is set to grow strongly, unemployment rate continue to decline and stay low, real wages set to increase, commodity prices and demand to continue to grow which is a net positive gain for our economy, real asset valuations to continue to grow. However, it wont be in a straight line and there will be challenges ahead of us. Nevertheless, our economy is strong and is only set to grow stronger.

    We are truly living in the Lucky Country:)

  46. Anonymous - I disagree with your point about the USA - they will increase interest rates in about 12 months, and they will do it very slowly, which should strengthen the $USD.

  47. PF - will they really??
    Do you have a direct line to BS Bernacke?

  48. JB - not at all, but the US has to increase rates within 12 months. I don't think they have a choice, although it may be a small increase.

    Borrowers in the USA use long term fixed rate mortgages, so an increase has much less effect than it does here, and the overhang of property should be used up in about 12 months, so property prices there should show gains around then, albeit tentative gains.

    But if you have a genuine counter argument then I would like to hear it.

  49. okay, how about Berrnanke is an idiot and therefore will continue to leave rates at zero ...

  50. Anonymous/Lefty @ 8:12 AM 6th March

    Lefty I'm sorry I missed your question, I didn't see it previously.

    Good question by the way.

    Firstly look at the Sydney Sales graph for the last 10 years http://www.brisbanebusinessfinance.com/images/SydneySales.jpg
    and then check out the same graph for Brisbane at http://www.brisbanebusinessfinance.com/images/BrisbaneSales.jpg

    Notice that they are quite different, the difference was caused by the mining boom. While Brisbane and Perth were going ballistic, Sydney was quiet, so they are in different stages of the curve.

    BRISBANE - despite what looks like a bullish graph I know from my own experience that Brisbane slowed right down in the early part of 2010. See the low volume of sales in 2010 when compared to previous years.

    Medians have still risen, but there is a difference between median, medium, and average. I will assume that you understand that, but if not it is important that you do learn that difference. In my opinion prices have been dropping since mid 2010 and I think it will take until the end of 2011 before we see any growth. In the interim I expect modest falls or at best flat growth. When it does pick up, it will still be quite flat possibly for some years.

    SYDNEY CITY (not greater Sydney)- different to Brisbane as we have already discussed. Firstly check out the crash in sales volume post 2003 - almost nothing until 2009 and ok again in 2010, but nothing like 2003. Also check out the median price in 2003, it was $500,000 and 7 years later it is hitting $550,000 so a 10% increase in 7 years is a pittance really. Again due to the lower sales volume, I am suspicious of the median prices, just as I was with Brisbane.

    But you make of it what you will, we all have to make up our own mind.

    LEASING/RENTAL - yes I think many young couples will try this option. Actually I think this makes sense at the moment, but many simply won't put those savings aside, so they will be worse off, whilst disciplined savers will benefit from waiting. Paying off a home is a forced savings plan that works well for otherwise undisciplined spenders.

    Surges in house prices are generational, so when you see a change in the fundamentals, whether that is a drop in interest rates, or falls in house prices, or when wages increase, you will quickly calculate that the monthly home loan repayment is much the same as, or less than rentals. A new generation of buyers will flood the home buying market.

    Try to be amongst the first on that trend, as the last ones in do pay a lot more and take on higher risks.

    By the way I'm in finance, not real estate. House prices don't worry me greatly, but I would hate to see our economy crash like other countries have, with high unemployment etc.

    Cheers - sorry about any typo's.

  51. richardfox3457/3/11 9:12 PM

    As a general rule, if you can shave at least a half point off your current interest rate, it is a good idea to refinance. If you currently have a home mortgage above 7%, the time is now to make a change. Look online for "123 Mortgage Refinance" they gave me the lowest rate than everybody else which is 3.21%.

  52. Thanks Peter - I'll mull all that over.


  53. Vancouver here (Canada): Our experience has matched Australia's with amazing precision. Being driven primarily by commodities, the Canadian economy has weathered the GFC with nary a hiccup. Unlike our American cousins to the south, Canadians remain largely employed and our government finances are in great shape. Our banks are strong and healthy.

    At least, that's what the headlines say. Underneath the surface, you'll find that Canada survived the GFC by kicking the can down the road using a public mortgage finance vehicle called the CMHC. CMHC was instructed to buy an unlimited quantity of mortgages to clean up the banks' books. This fueled a second boom in property prices in the major cities, which in Vancouver has meant truly ridiculous price-rent ratios.

    Vancouver is currently looking very "bubbly", but we've been here before. Months of inventory are below 3, which is super-inflating for prices. I predict that by December, inventories will be piling up. And this time, nobody will be able to stop the fall.

  54. More great work... and don't forget the dumb money entering late as we can all become rich... err yeah let's not follow the flock!

  55. Without a valid timescale, this chart is simply not very useful.

    This chart could span 100 years.

    For example, the Japanese real-estate market has been declining for twenty years.

    The chart also does not explain why prices in Sydney have not yet "capitulated".

    Given that the median price in Sydney has only risen approx 10% since 2003, I would say it is more likely we are at the end of the awareness phase, and therefore, according to the chart, about to enter the mania phase.

    Of course, this is probably not accurate.

    Therefore, neither is this chart, given that it is being postulated as accurate for all bubbles in history.


  56. We left Australia in 2009 after selling our property in 2008, the stock market crash was predictable and I saw it coming to profit from it...what I could not believe was how house prices actually held up in Oz because of the Government and investors rushing in since 2009 to commodities. We are in a five wave move from the peak of 2007/8 and this move is down of course....look at the stock market recovery since March 2009, it will never rise again above the previous high in 2007....the move down to March 2009 was wave 1...then we have wave 2 up which finished in April/May this year....now we are in the very early stages of wave 3 down which will be very swift and will shock. The reason for the swiftness is because the memories of folks are all to fresh from the last mini crash and this time they will not hang around to watch their portfolios get crushed. If anybody does beleive this will happen, then take a look around the world economies and you can see the cracks are opening up as Governments money printing machines morphine has worn off...we are already seeing weakness in economic figures and this with the European debt problems will intensify despite denial or that it is "contained'.....remember the Fed saying that the sub-prime problem was contained?....same in Europe last year with Greece!....they are liars and thieves who will do everything in their power to deceive the masses until it's too late again.

    Watch what comes out of America from the left side to cause another trigger......my advice is to put your Super to pure 100% cash funds NOW.....and sell all shares and property....raise cash and watch out for the banks getting crippled...if that happens then you have to be ahead of the curve and get your cash out!.

    Once wave 3 is finished...might take a year or so....then wave 4 up will happen because Government around the world will congratulate themselves again by saving the world with even more money printing and bailouts.....but als you can guess that this will only be a temporary reprieve of a year or so before wave 5 begins.....capitulation....throwing in the towel. The bear market will not end until 2015-16....then those who have cash will have one of the greatest buying opportunities of a lifetime if not 200 years.


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