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Is a pandemic the opportune time to buy a house?

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Across Australia, thousands of people familiar with commuting to bustling city business districts each day are now working from their homes. The reality of working from home isn’t always rosy, either. For the share house dweller, it means locating your laptop among three others stacked on a kitchen table built from milk crates. For the “off the plan” apartment renter, it’s the constant daily battle with Wi-Fi. While many parents are sharing an office with their school aged children.

It begs the question whether these challenges, coupled with an economic downturn, might just make renters who are lucky enough to still have jobs seriously consider home ownership.

Photo by Nicolas Gonzalez on Unsplash

Banks are warning that Australian house prices could fall up to 30%. One in 10 rental apartments is sitting empty in Melbourne’s Docklands and Sydney’s city centre, while latest figures put unemployment at 6.2%. Should the country suffer a sustained economic downturn, Commonwealth Bank’s worst-case scenario would bring Sydney's median house price down from $1,026,000, on the latest CoreLogic data, to $698,000.

One in four Australians rent, and more than half of them are between 20-34 years old. For some millennials, who have historically seen high house prices, being currently employed and having the capacity to borrow money might mean the coronavirus pandemic has created a unique set of circumstances that suddenly could make home ownership seem like a possibility. In addition to falling house prices, competition is low and interest rates are lower still. Homebuyers will need to wait patiently to inspect a property though, with limits of 10 people allowed inside under current restrictions.

Photo by Marc R. R. Dorda @doddynudo on Unsplash

Even if coronavirus does not see you consider buying a property, there’s no doubt it will change our homes. The rooms where we once spent few waking hours now encapsulate our entire existence—and this short-term recalibration may have long-term effects. The jury is still out on what these effects might be. Some architects are predicting a trend for fortified buildings, others, a move to more remote locations, indoor gardens, and the rejection of mass industry. Most are agreed that self-sufficient power and water and the return of a dedicated home office are highly likely.

Molly Bruce

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