Negative Gearing: Be Patient, Don’t Muck With It

What will the impact be on the property market if the proposed changes by Labour go ahead to abolish negative gearing on old properties? What will life be like for investors? How will it affect first home buyers? Jeremy Sheppard from DSR Data walks us through the winners and losers.

Supply and demand

In a free market, prices rise when demand exceeds supply. But if the government tampers with the market, like seen in communist regimes, the natural law of supply and demand may be distorted.

What caused demand to exceed supply?

Some would argue that investors are responsible for the increased demand for property. And that might be true for Sydney and Melbourne for the most recent boom.

However, there have been booms in the past without such significant involvement from investors. This time was just a magic combination for investors. We shouldn’t apply a permanent measure for a temporary situation. Time will balance things out anyway as I’ll explain soon.

Australia is a truly great place to live, that’s the real reason why prices are so high here. We have a great economy and freedom from a lot of problems making hell-holes elsewhere in the world.

It makes sense that people want to live here which pushes up prices. If the government considers high prices to be a problem, they should look at modelling how other countries have maintained low prices with some of this:

  • Civil war
  • Famine
  • Corruption
  • Restricted education
  • Poor health care
  • Low technology
  • No infrastructure
  • Dictatorships

Implementing any of these strategies in Australia will quickly solve the demand problem.


To solve the “problem” with supply, government could reduce taxes charged on developers to build new properties. They could also look at relaxing development constraints.

However, without those taxes, vital infrastructure like water supply, electricity and sewerage would not be available. And without building constraints, developers could prop up any cardboard box like shack.

In other words, government should make it as easy as possible for shanty towns with no sewerage to spring up overnight everywhere.

In every boom, the response from developers has been: build, build, build. They make a buck by supplying to the demand. Eventually they balance out the supply and demand equation and normality is restored.

The same will happen to ease the current boom. It’s not something that needs fixing. Supply and demand in Sydney and Melbourne will probably balance out before Labour get into power anyway.

Impact on existing investors

Because the proposed change wouldn’t be retrospective, existing property investors would be largely unaffected. However, if they owned property in well-established areas where old properties dominate the landscape, there may be reduced capital growth.

Although such areas may still be in demand by owner-occupiers, the demand to buy old houses by investors would diminish. So the short term capital growth prospects for such areas might diminish too.

Impact on future investors

After the plan is introduced it would be tax-inefficient for investors to buy old properties. However, new properties are unattractive to many investors given:

  • High margins applied by developers

  • Lack of opportunity to add value through renovations

  • Established areas have limited land available so new properties in established area are invariably units with little uniqueness

  • New housing estates on the other hand are typically in poor capital growth locations distant from the CBD

  • There is also a risk of the developer failing to complete the project or problems with quality of finish – all the usual risks with off-the-plan purchases that investors prefer to avoid

So the proposed change may knock a significant portion of investors out of the market. They may instead choose shares to be a better option.

Initially, this reduced demand from a segment of the buyers in the market is what would improve affordability. Investors roughly represent about a third of all buyers. Negatively geared investors represent a smaller proportion than that.

In the short-term it would be ugly for some. But eventually, the law of supply and demand would rebalance and either rent would rise or property would become scarce again pushing up prices.

Impact on developers

It’s not known if investors will switch to less effective new investments, or simply exit the market. In the 1st case, there would be an increased demand for new property. So developers would be licking their lips.

In the 2nd case, with decreased demand from investors and lower prices, more developers would find some deals simply unfeasible. Some might even go belly-up. Most would simply cancel less profitable projects.

Note that with less development projects, supply will quickly dry up and prices will start booming again. Supply and demand will have its way.

Impact on 1st home buyers

FHBs have been complaining recently that it is not possible to compete with investors. If investors target new developments, FHBs will be in an even worse position buying anything new.

But established areas with old properties are usually in better locations and therefore command a price tag well outside the reach of FHBs. So with no way of affording existing properties and more investors than ever to compete with over new properties, FHBs might be between a bigger rock and a harder place than they are now.

Impact on renters

If renters are still unable to convert to FHBs, I don’t think they’ll be stung by rising rents as much as some would suggest. Most landlords are already charging the top dollar possible. In fact, there may be a temporary drop in rents by landlords to secure their tenants rather than lose them as budding FHBs.

However, if investors are knocked out of the market and prices drop as planned, development will dry up. Developers won’t want their clientele diminished nor their profit margins cut. With less development supply is reduced which will eventually lead back to higher prices and higher rents again.

Suburbs most heavily impacted

Those suburbs most likely to feel the pain of the change would have the following characteristics assuming investors decide to pursue new developments:

  • Suburbs with very little development currently or planned – means there is less interest from new buyers who might be investors

  • Suburbs traditionally of interest to investor owners rather than owner occupiers – means a greater percentage of future buyers are affected by the change

  • Unaffordable suburbs for FHBs – means buying activity from FHBs is unlikely to prop up the reduced demand from lack of investor interest

  • Suburbs with a lot of old stock on the market at the time the plan is implemented – sellers will lose interest from investors and may be forced to drop prices further

Supply and demand feedback loop

Knocking investors out of the market to reduce demand has an effect on developers. With reduced clientele and reduced prices, there are reduced profit margins for developers. So they reduce their construction which reduces supply which eventually leads to price rises again. This brings investors back in and developers too.

That’s how supply and demand works. There’s an in-built feedback loop in a free market that ensures that eventually everything returns to normal. Don’t be spooked by markets that are out of balance for a couple of years.

It’s beautiful how it all works together. It sorts itself out – no need for the government to meddle in it.

Once property becomes cash-flow neutral under the new regime, investors will return to the market. Developers will follow that increased demand with increased supply and balance will once again be restored to the cosmos. Prices will continue to climb as they always have.

In a nutshell

You have two options to affect prices:

  1. Decrease demand by making our country a hell-hole; or

  2. Increase supply by encouraging shanty towns

A sudden tax change will merely create overnight winners and losers. But the same “problem” will reappear. Supply and demand will sort it all out naturally in time.

Australia is a great place to live – don’t muck with it.

Mind The Affordability Gap

Come and get taken for a ride on the big city rental markets. This service goes from the city to Whoop Whoop. First stop Exorbitant, then Expensive, Overpriced, and all stations to Whoop Whoop. Please keep your aspirations inside the carriage at all times.

Although drawn from share-house data, these maps from clearly show the high price of proximity in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Sydney, a room in an inner city share house can quickly climb to $350/week. Finding anywhere under $200 will mean a lengthy daily commute though. Factor in $48.20 for train fares and ten 50 minute train rides to work each week, and the difference between Fairfield ($198) and Sydney ($326) comes down to $16/day rent, or nearly 2 hours each day squeezed in the train

Rent a room in Work in Room Rent / Week Train / Week Total Train Time Travel premium
City City $326 $0 $326 0 hrs/week
Ashfield City $198 $48.20 $246.20 8.3 hrs/week $9.60 / hr



Room rates in Melbourne are certainly more affordable than in Sydney, with the most desirable suburbs still under $300. Melbourne’s market doesn’t drop as sharply though, with a wide selection of suburbs in the $250-$200 range.

Melbourne Rent Train Map

Brisbane is a little more affordable again, but maintains the trend of being around twice as expensive in the inner city as the suburban fringes.
Brisbane Train Rent Map

At Microburbs, all of our convenience reports give commute times to local work centres to help you get to really know an area.

realAs Review

realAs predicts property prices to beat underquoting and unrealistic guide prices from agents.  Backed by a sophisticated algorithm developed at RMIT, realAs predictions are within 5% of the sale price on average, including auctions as well as private sales. Almost 9 out of 10 of realAs predictions are just 10% off the final home selling price. Armed with or the realAs iPhone app, buyers can get right price to pay for a home.

realAs was conceived by David Morrell, a veteran buyers’ agent and advocate responsible for changes in law in his crusade against under-quoters.  He has long known that it’s buyers who decide how much to pay and that knowing what a sale price will be levels the playing field – and puts an end to agents’ manipulations.

In addition to the quantitative algorithm, realAs also offers estimates and commentary from agents and buyers on properties. Users input their own estimates, and the algorithm will weight them in determining a price, depending on how accurate the user has been in the past. By comparing the accuracy of past quotes against realAs predictions and selling prices, buyers would also be able to form a view about the market knowledge of a particular agent and whether they underquote.

We think realAs represents another invaluable, and free, tool for buyers and investors. If you like Microburbs for the facts the property ad left out, you’ll love for the right price to pay.

Ghost suburbs: How the elderly are emptying our cities

Empty nests make for empty streets and shopping malls. When children grow up and need to move away, they leave ghost suburbs behind. The retired, and the retiring, are holding on to family homes in spite of the families who desperately need them, and ultimately in spite of themselves.

And they reminisce over better days....

A recent report by the Australian Population Research Institute confirms that baby boomers occupy more than 50 to 60 per cent of freestanding houses in the middle suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, and they hold on until at least 75 before they consider moving. “Few of these older households show much interest in downsizing or any need to do so because of ill health, care needs or partner death.”

It’s a mannequin world. You can leave the TV running all day to hear a human voice. You can even talk to an old neighbour on the footpath. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that where before we had lively communities, we now have empty yards, and empty streets.

In a previous era, their big backyards and little houses were great for the kids playing outside. Today, they may have some flower gardens around the edges and a washing line, but most of the land is just empty, unoccupied grasslands.

Our elders collect knick knacks and photos to remember good times with family and friends. Their generation holds particular regard for objects as symbolic mementos. Their children don’t have time, or space for nostalgia though. With their own kids now, they spend longer hours at work, desperately trying to finance astronomically priced houses, and further hours stuck in traffic to get home.


It’s the parents of today that are wearing the cost of our best suburbs becoming ghost suburbs. They raise the children, they work the longer hours than their parents and pay the bigger mortgages. Young families can choose to raise their children in a flat, as the APRI report indicates 1 in 3 Sydney mothers already do, or move to the city fringes and endure ever increasing commute times.

We’re quick to blame Chinese investors, immigrants or even refugees for our housing woes, but the data is in, and it’s our parents and grandparents who are hoarding the housing stock.

The National Seniors Australia lobby group has described any suggestion that retirees make way for families as “offensive”, and suggested that a better solution would be for unit block developers to find space for one yard which could be shared by the dozens of families in a block of flats. “Have planners thought about a community garden area?” This is even harder to swallow when the lobby has cited seniors’ need for backyards for their grandchildren to play in as a reason they can’t possibly downsize.


You could accuse suburban empty-nesters of being selfish but the sad thing is, they’re not even acting in their own interests. They hold onto their quarter acre until the bitter end, but they can’t take it with them when they go. Like frogs being slowly boiled, they see less and less of their friends and slip into self-imposed prisons. Studies have found that social isolation is the leading concern for older people living at home, that reduced mobility and fear of crime is isolating them in their houses and that socially isolated seniors have an increased risk of early death regardless of their health and demographic background.

The property boom has been kind to our seniors, and they can afford space in a free market that young families cannot. They don’t want to risk their pension eligibility by liquidating their houses and they don’t want to pay the cost of stamp duties in downsizing. It’s their children and grandchildren who are paying the cost though. It costs parents time with their children. It costs the young in high rents and being priced out of the property market. Perhaps the biggest cost is truly paid by the elderly themselves – it costs them a community. Hanging on to their ghost suburbs has repeatedly been linked in studies to social isolation and, in turn, an increased risk of earlier death.

Maybe you’d like to live among Australias’ most generous communities? Are you one of Australia’s most generous people?

Have you seen our report on Is the “forever home” a thing of the past? How this new housing trend can hurt you and your community.