Nearly two-thirds of Australians think home ownership won't be an option for young people as property prices rise

Nearly two-thirds of Australians think home ownership won't be an option for young people as property prices rise

Stephen Green hopes to buy a home for his family of four, but that dream has so far proven elusive.

Key points:

  • The Australia Talks survey found 65 per cent of us think owning a home isnt really an option for most young Australians anymore
  • 22 per cent of Australians think young people today will be better off than their parents
  • Researchers say there is little chance of Australia sustaining home ownership rates near current levels

The 38-year-old Melburnian says he and his wife Bronwyn have «pretty good» incomes and have been saving for the better part of a decade, with the last five years being «pretty hardcore savings».

«The smashed avocado metaphor that was used to describe our generation as kind of overspending, I think is really unfair,» he says.

«Everyone I know who is in the same position as I am kind of does everything they can do to cut their spending.»

For Mr Green, thats meant very few takeaway coffees or meals, no nights out — although having two kids under five helped with that — and camping holidays rather than flying anywhere.

But last year, when the pandemic presented a brief window of falling house prices, Bronwyns beauty business had to close due to restrictions.

Interest rates were slashed, sending home loan rates to record lows, encouraging more people to buy their first home.

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By the time the Greens income returned to normal, house prices were rising again — and their deposit wasnt enough.

«Were living 25 kilometres out of the city, were not expecting to be living in a premium suburb,» Mr Green says.

«Its quite frustrating to feel that our generation are being asked to borrow obscene amounts of money.

«It just feels that its unattainable and if it is attainable, it becomes a very risky proposition.»

Difficult to picture a future with home ownership

The Greens experience isnt one that will instill confidence in people in their 20s who hope to buy a home in the future.

Thats particularly the case in cities where house prices are booming but wages arent as strong.

The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation found affordability was worst for potential first homebuyers in Sydney and Hobart, with only 10 to 20 per cent of properties in those markets affordable for the bottom 60 per cent of income earners.

In Hobart, CoreLogic figures show home values have surged 60 per cent in five years, and the rental market is very competitive, meaning that securing affordable housing is a challenge.

«Ive got a quite a few people that I know that finding it really difficult to even picture a future where they have a house, where they own a home,» 25-year-old Hobart renter Tyler Bakes says.

Mr Bakes considers himself lucky to have found a rental he can afford, sharing a three-bedroom house with two couples.

Hes currently receiving JobSeeker, as he hunts for work in the social services sector after finishing his course at TAFE, but worries even with work, saving a deposit will be an arduous task.

«If you think about the the way that wages are working in Tasmania … and then youve got skyrocketing housing prices — it is very difficult to get by,» Mr Bakes says.

Average weekly earnings in Tasmania remain the lowest in the country.

«That certainly is the perception of many young Tasmanians, that they do see home-ownership as a pipe dream,» Tania Hunt from the Youth Network of Tasmania says.

Owning a home not an option for many

The fact young people feel home ownership is a pipe dream wouldnt come as a surprise to most Australians.

The Australia Talks national survey found 65 per cent of Australians in general think owning a home isnt really an option for most young Australians anymore.

While the survey found younger people are more likely to hold that view, more people agreed owning a home isn’t an option for young Australians than disagreed across all age brackets.

And the feelings around home ownership are reflected in reality.

While the overall home ownership rate has remained largely stable, at 67 per cent in 2016, compared to 68 per cent in 1976, Australias ageing population is disguising changes within different demographics.

Home ownership rates among 25- to 44-year-olds declined sharply between 1986 and 2016.

As a result, AHURI researchers see little chance of Australia sustaining home ownership at current levels.

The report forecasts home ownership among 25- to 55-year-olds to decline to just above 50 per cent by 2040.

As home ownership falls among younger Australians, independent economist Nicki Hutley says theres a wealth transfer underway, from parents who own a home, to their children.

«There is absolutely no doubt that the bank of mum and dad is entrenching intergenerational inequality,» Ms Hutley says.

«There are so many people out there who dont have enough for their own retirement, let alone being able to help their kids, so its the privileged few, helping the privileged few.»

Is it actually harder now than it used to be?

With home ownership feeling out of reach to many, its no surprise 65 per cent of Australia Talks survey respondents also think its harder for young people to get by than it used to be.

Just 22 per cent say young Australians today will be better off than their parents.

The debate over whos had it worse is a source of intergenerational tension, particularly in housing market discussions.

Older generations point to the sky-high home loan rates of the 1980s, which added to the cost of their mortgage repayments.

Millennials argue that the massive run up in house prices make saving a deposit an insurmountable task.

To fix or not to fix?

Fixed home loans have never been cheaper, which raises the question of whether now is the time to think about locking in.

Housing affordability researcher Rachel Ong ViforJ agrees with the millennials.

«Say, three or four decades ago, the house price to income ratio was sitting at around 3.5,» the Curtin University professor says.

Now, Professor Ong ViforJ says house prices are around six times incomes nationally — and in Sydney, the ratio is more than eight times.

«The fact is that house prices have been growing and outpacing income growth for many decades now.»

«Its absolutely clear that its easier make the repayments now, in fact, interest rates are so low, most people are better off buying than renting,» Ms Hutley says.

«The big challenge… is getting together the required deposit.»

With the average house price in Sydney over $1 million, Ms Hutley estimates even a 10 per cent deposit could take a typical couple a decade to save.

«Its really beyond most peoples reach.»

Ownership in reach, with help

In Hobart, 35-year-old Sarah Old can relate to the feeling that owning a home is out of reach.

The public servant is single and found herself unable to save enough to keep up with the Tasmanian capitals rapidly rising house prices.

«When I did start saving, I just felt like I was being outpaced by the actual market,» she says.

«Each time I thought that Id be ready soon … Id meet with a banker and it seemed that the benchmark had moved at least $15,000 to $20,000.»

She took the option only available to those with parents who were able to get on the property ladder themselves.

Ms Olds parents are providing the deposit for a new home thats under construction, while shell be responsible for the mortgage repayments.

But in a twist on the typical bank of mum and dad scenario, Ms Olds parents will live in the new home with her, and she will provide caring support, as they both suffer with health issues.

«Building, that just became for us a smarter financial decision, and being able to make it accessible for mum and dad, that was probably another key factor,» she said.

Worries for the next generation

In Melbourne, the Greens home ownership dream is on hold — theyve just signed another lease that will see them renting into next year, when theyll reassess.

Why house prices will keep rising

Far from jumping in to stop an emerging housing bubble, policymakers are keen to let it run in the vain hope it may kick-start the economy, writes Ian Verrender.

Mr Green would like to be able to provide his children with the same stability his parents provided him.

«We hope that 2022 will finally be the year that we make entry into the property market and that will time well with the kids starting school and we can really building a nice, settled life here,» he says.

But given its taken his family nearly a decade to get to this point, he fears for those coming next.

«I definitely feel for the generation behind me, because it seems to get harder for every generation.»

Mr Green says the idea of climbing the property ladder by buying somewhere his family wouldnt be able to live in ignores both the transaction costs involved each time you buy and sell a house, and the idea of a house as a home not an investment.

«Previous generations were just told to save, take on a reasonable mortgage and pay it off,» he says.

«I think thats the kind of Australian dream thats been lost around all this.»

He expects that a lack of affordability will eventually cause house prices to head south.

«If you dont have a generation that can afford to get into the market, thats when the market starts falling.

«Thats probably the concern I have … that therell be a generation that does buy into the market right at the end of significant price increases and then they could potentially suffer a house price crash.»

The Australia Talks National Survey asked 60,000 Australians about their lives and what keeps them up at night. Use our interactive tool to see the results and how your answers compare.

Then, tune in at 8:00pm on Monday, June 21 to watch hosts Annabel Crabb and Nazeem Hussain take you through the key findings and explore the survey with some of Australias best-loved celebrities.