By Rebecca Pike
Developers remain confident about the property market, despite figures showing a fall in house prices, as well as the number of properties selling.
Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) saw May being the eighth consecutive month where the number of new housing finance commitments fell.
But the developer behind a development south of Sydney has found the positive in the figures.
Paul Wainwright, sales and marketing operations manager at developer Sekisui House, said while some areas of the market have certainly dwindled, they are finding more interest from other areas.
Stage one of the new development has just been approved by Hills Shire Council.
The Orchards is a 1300 apartment precinct on two hectares of protected green space, with a network of cycle and walkways, a natural water treatment system flowing into a restored water course, and a park of endangered native trees.
Wainwright said, “Things are certainly different to what we were seeing 18 months ago. Some segments of that market have dwindled significantly, but others are growing; for example, we were not expecting to see as much interest from first home buyers as we have for The Orchards.
“We've also seen a surge in the past few months alone from people who live in and around the Hills who want to either downsize from the family home, or upgrade from where they're currently living.
“So while lending restrictions has certainly hampered some market segments, others have picked up beyond our initial expectations.”
Wainwright was also not concerned about falling property values, describing apartments at The Orchards a “premium product”.
He added, “While this naturally narrows the field of potential buyers, it also means that those who are knocking on our door are looking for quality.
“One thing we've noticed is that the current market conditions are resulting in greater choice for buyers, and more time to make a decision. Buyers are certainly discerning and, with more freedom to undertake their due diligence, are taking advantage of that opportunity. I think this is a good thing.”
Sekisui House has developed more than 9500 homes across Australia since 2009. In that time Wainwright said the market has “clearly changed”.
He added, “We've gone from a long run where demand outstripped supply. With changes to overseas investment rules and tighter lending, everyone in every aspect of this sector has had to shift gears.
“People are taking longer to buy than they did 18 months ago, but they are buying. Our weekly sales figures are going in the right direction, which certainly suggests that the commentary around the real estate sector's short- to medium-term cannot be taken as blanket truth.
“The environment for development approvals is always shifting; current market conditions are only a very small part of the consideration set for that side of the business. And the questions we always need to ask are unchanging. Is this development right for this area? Is it needed? Will it add something new without taking something else away in the process? Will it contribute positively to the larger fabric of the place we're standing in right now?
“These are the sorts of questions that will always need to be answered well, regardless of where we are in the economic cycle. And they're questions that the masterplan for The Orchards has answered very well indeed.”
Stage one of The Orchards, which was DA-approved in July 2017 and incorporates 121 one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments across two buildings, is due for completion in January 2019. Called Imperial, this first stage will be followed by six more phases of construction across the 8.8 hectare site.