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Supply is up and rents are down in Sydney

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that an oversupply of apartments has started to put downward pressure on rents and upward pressure on vacancy rates in the city. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Sydney is in the grip of an apartment building boom, with 30,880 multi-unit dwellings built last year, a record for any Australian city. There were 16 multi-unit projects finished in the first three months of 2019, adding another 1948 units.

These numbers are flowing through, where 17,500 units were listed for rent in June 2017, and ballooned to 32,680 listings in June 2019. The result has been landlords asking for $25 a week less median rent than last year.

Sydney-wide rental vacancy rates have almost doubled from 1.7 per cent 2017 to 3.2 per cent this year. But on the upper and lower north shore, in the hills district and Sydney CBD, apartments are sitting vacant at more than twice this rate, SQM data shows.

The narrative here is that you can build your way to lower rents. Make supply exceed demand, and this is what will happen.

But in this case, something else has also impacted the demand curve: China.

Beijing has made it harder to get money out of the country in recent years and their overall economy has slowed. China’s economy is thought to be growing at its slowest rate since 1992 (which is when the country started official record keeping).

The above article suggests that about 80% of new construction apartments in Sydney were sold to investors over the last few years. More than a few were probably Chinese. Though I have no idea if that is an accurate number.

What is unclear, to me, is whether this doubling of rental listings over the last two years is a result of previously bought supply simply making its way through the system, or if current market conditions have encouraged more owners to put their units up for rent.

Whatever the case may be, supply is up and apartment rents appear to be coming off slightly in Sydney.

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