Housing


House prices can be a useful indicator of overall economic activity. This section looks at the analysis of key indicators for the Northern Territory's (NT) residential housing market. This includes the current state and performance of the property market by regions, residential building activity and approvals, house and unit prices and rental pricing. Analysis on housing affordability based on average incomes, home loans and rentals and housing related finance commitments are useful indicators of demand and supply for the NT's property market.

 Infographic showing median unit price Infographic showing weekly house rent Infographic showing weekly unit rent


Greater Darwin | Alice Springs | Katherine | Tennant Creek | Capital city comparison | Housing finance commitments | Affordability | Dwelling supply | Explanatory notes

Greater Darwin

Greater Darwin (Darwin, Darwin suburbs and Palmerston) housing market conditions continue to be weak following strong growth between 2012 and 2014. The median house price in Greater Darwin increased by 1.8% in the March quarter 2019, but decreased by 0.5% annually to $502,500. The median unit price decreased by 10.2% in the quarter and by 9.6% in annual terms to $314,255. This was the lowest median unit price recorded in Darwin since 2007.

The annual decrease in the median house price was driven by a 4.0% decline in prices in Inner Darwin, as well as declines Darwin North East and Palmerston. This was partly offset by a 9.1% increase in Darwin North and a 3.6% increase in Darwin North Coastal. The annual decline in the median unit price was driven by prices in Inner Darwin, which declined by 19.5%as well as a 28.1% decline in Darwin North.

The number of houses sold in Greater Darwin decreased by 27.4% to 164 in the March quarter 2019 and by 18.4% in annual terms (Chart 1). The number of units sold in Greater Darwin decreased by 37.1% in the quarter to 100 and decreased by 16.5% in annual terms.

Median weekly asking rents for a house in Greater Darwin decreased by 1.2% in the quarter, and decreased by 4.7% in annual terms to $455 per week in the March quarter 2019. Median weekly asking rents for a unit in Greater Darwin decreased by 7.1% in the quarter and by 13.7% in annual terms to $316 per week (Chart 2). The rental yield for houses and units in Greater Darwin decreased by 0.2 percentage points in annual terms in the March quarter 2019, to 4.7% and 5.2% respectively.

The vacancy rate in Darwin for all dwellings was 7.8% in the March quarter 2019. The vacancy rate for houses in Darwin increased by 0.7 percentage points to 7.2% in the quarter but decreased by 1.1 percentage points to 8.1% for units.

Alice Springs

Caution needs to be used when interpreting quarterly movements for regional markets. The small size of these markets and low number of sales can lead to volatile results.

In Alice Springs, the median house price decreased by 3.8% to $457,000 in the March quarter 2019, and by 2.1% annually. The median weekly asking rent for a house in Alice Springs decreased by 2.9% in the quarter, but increased by 1.0% annually to $505. The number of house sales in Alice Springs increased by 18.6% to 51 sales in annual terms (Chart 3). The rental yield for a house in Alice Springs increased by 0.2 percentage points to 5.7% in annual terms in the March quarter 2019.

In the March quarter 2019, Alice Springs’ median unit price decreased by 0.8% to $325,000 and was unchanged compared to the March quarter 2018. The median weekly unit rent decreased by 5.1% in the quarter to $370, and also decreased by 5.1% in annual terms (Chart 4). The sales volume for units decreased by 36.8% in the quarter and by 38.5% in annual terms to 24 sales. In the March quarter 2019, the rental yield for a unit was 5.9%, which is a 0.3 percentage point decrease in annual terms.

The vacancy rate for all dwellings in Alice Springs was 4.2% in the March quarter 2019, which is an increase of 0.9 percentage points compared to the same time in the previous year. This was due to a 3.7 percentage point increase in house vacancies to 4.7% whilst unit vacancies decreased by 0.8 percentage points to 3.9%.

Katherine

Due to the small number of properties on the market in Katherine median prices for houses and units tend to be highly volatile.

The median house price in Katherine increased by 7.4% to $335,000 in the March quarter 2019, and increased by 8.1% in annual terms (Chart 5). There were 9 houses and 3 units sold in Katherine in the quarter.

The median house rent increased by 5.0% in the quarter and by 2.4% in annual terms to $420 in the March quarter 2019. Median unit rents decreased by 6.1% in the quarter to $310, and decreased by 1.6% in annual terms. The house rental yield in the March quarter 2019 decreased by 0.4 percentage points in annual terms to 6.5%.

The vacancy rate for all dwellings decreased by 1.6 percentage points to 5.0% in annual terms in the March quarter 2019. The average vacancy rate for houses decreased by 1.3 percentage points 4.5% in the annual terms and the average vacancy rate for units decreased by 3.3 percentage points to 6.0%.

Tennant Creek

Tennant Creek data is highly volatile due to the lower sales volume as there are only a small number of properties on the market. Consequently, the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory does not report sales, rental prices or vacancy rates for units in Tennant Creek.

In the March quarter 2019, the median house price increased by 22.8% in the quarter and by 46.4% annually to $221,000 (Chart 6). There were six houses sold in the quarter.

For further information on residential property prices in the NT go to:

Capital city comparisons

The following capital city comparisons is based on data published by the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) and the Adelaide Bank.

In the March quarter 2019, Darwin had the fourth lowest median house price of the capital cities, at $502,500. The Darwin (up 1.8%) and Adelaide (up 0.7%) were the only capital cities that recorded a quarterly increase in median house prices. The eight capital city weighted average median house price was $722,028 in the March quarter 2019, a decrease of 2.2% in the quarter and 6.6% in annual terms.

The Darwin median unit price ($314,300) was ranked the lowest of all capital cities. Elsewhere, prices ranged from $369,000 in Adelaide to $696,900 in Sydney (Chart 7). Adelaide (up 3.1%) and Hobart (up 4.2%) were the only capital cities to record a quarterly increase in median unit prices. The eight capital city weighted average median unit price decreased by 1.4% to $568,600 in the quarter and by 4.6% through the year to March 2019.

In the March quarter 2019, Darwin had the second highest median weekly house rent and the second lowest median unit rent, of all capital cities (Chart 8). The median weekly asking rent for a house in other capital cities ranged from $340 in Perth to $520 in Canberra. The annual change in median weekly asking rents for houses ranged from a 4.7% decline in Darwin to an increase of 7.5% in Hobart. Melbourne was unchanged through the year to March 2019. The annual change in median weekly asking rents for units ranged from a decline of 13.7% in Darwin to an increase of 13.4% in Hobart.

In the March quarter 2019, Darwin recorded the highest vacancy rate of all capital cities at 7.1%, Elsewhere, vacancy rates ranged from 0.6% in Canberra to 3.6% in Sydney. Darwin’s vacancy rate is susceptible to fluctuations due to the transient nature of the NT’s population (Chart 9).

Housing finance commitments

In the year to May 2019, the number of housing commitments (excluding refinancing) decreased by 10.9% to 2,377, which was driven by a 23.4% decline in non-first home buyers, partly offset by an increase in the number of first home buyer commitments (up 20.5%) (Chart 10). The value of total housing commitments for owner occupation (excluding refinancing) fell by 10.3% to $755 million. Over the same period, the total value of housing finance commitments for investment properties (excluding refinancing) decreased by 31.8%.

For the latest data and analysis about housing finance commitments in the NT, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Housing finance for owner occupation economic brief.

Affordability

The following analysis of home loan and rental affordability is based on data published by REIA and the Adelaide Bank.

Housing affordability in the NT decreased slightly in the March quarter 2019 with the proportion of income required to meet loan repayments increasing by 0.8 percentage points to 20.2 per cent, which was 2 percentage points higher when compared to the same time in the previous year (Chart 11). The average monthly loan repayment for the NT was $1,897 in the March quarter 2019. The NT recorded the lowest proportion of income required to meet home loan repayments of all jurisdictions, which elsewhere ranged from 20.3% in the Australian Capital Territory to 35.4% in New South Wales. Nationally, 30% of income was required to meet home loan repayments.

In the March quarter 2019, the NT experienced the largest improvement in rental affordability with the proportion of median weekly family income required to meet median rent of the jurisdictions, decreasing by 0.4 percentage points in the quarter to 20.9%. Affordability improved by 1.6 percentage points in annual terms. The proportion of median weekly income required to meet the median rent in other jurisdictions ranged from 16.5% in Western Australia to 29.3% in Tasmania (Chart 12).

Dwelling supply

Accessibility and affordability of residential property in the NT is highly dependent on supply‑side responses that boost the stock of housing. Over the past few years, there has been a sustained period of above-average supply in the number of new dwellings in the NT, which has dampened prices. This, coupled with lower demand for dwellings, is anticipated to continue to restrain property prices in the NT.

Since the peak in mid‑2014, residential building approvals in the NT have decreased, down by 11.0% in the year to May 2019. This was driven by a 15.0% decline in house approvals to 512 (Chart 13). However this was offset by a 15.7% increase in unit approvals, to 155. Despite the increase, the number of unit approvals remains well below the ten year average of 707 approvals per annum.

For the latest data and analysis about building approvals in the NT, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Building approvals economic brief.

In the year to March 2019, the average number of total residential dwelling completions in the NT increased by 24.4% (or 191) to 975. The increase in dwelling completions was mainly driven by a 153% increase in unit completions to 382, which is still below the 10-year average of 709, and an increase in conversions by 30.8% to 17. This was partly offset by a decline in new house completions by 7.1% to 576. 

The number of new residential buildings under construction decreased by 9.4% in the year to March 2019, with unit construction decreasing by 11.8% and new houses under construction decreased by 5.5%. In this period, the average number of residential dwellings under construction was 861, which comprised of 583 units and 254 new houses. Construction levels remain below the 10 year annual average of 1,231 dwellings (Chart 14).

In the year to March 2019, the value of residential building work yet to be done decreased by 13.2% to $707.9 million. This was due to a 21.3% decrease (to $433.4 million) in the value of unit work yet to be done, partially offset by a 1.4% increase in the value of houses (to $181.4 million). Alterations and additions work yet to be done increased by 8.7% to $93.1 million.

For the latest data and analysis about residential construction in the NT, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Building activity economic brief.

Explanatory notes

NT median house and unit prices and rents are sourced from the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT). REINT groups the regions of Darwin and Palmerston together as Greater Darwin. Darwin is further broken down into zones which covers the following suburbs:

The median house and unit prices and rents for the capital cities are sourced from Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), who receives data from state and territory Real Estate Institutes. REIA adopts the ABS definitions of ‘houses’ and ‘other dwellings.’ A ‘house is a single self-contained place of residence detached from other buildings. An ‘other dwelling’ is a single self-contained place of residence other than a house such as flats, home units, town houses and terrace houses. However for Sydney the definition of ‘houses’ includes houses, cottages, terraces, semi-detached dwellings, townhouses and villas and ‘units’ include units, studios and duplexes.

REIA’s weighted average median prices are derived from the quarterly median prices for all capital cities weighted according to the number of houses and other dwellings for each corresponding city. These numbers are sourced from the ABS 2011 and 2016 Census.

REIA’s housing affordability data is based on data from lending institutes and the ABS. They define median weekly family income as income from married couples with or without dependent children.

The ABS building activity survey is compiled using building approval details and returns collected from builders and other individuals and organisations engaged in building activity. The estimates represent all approved public and private sector residential building activity valued at $10,000 or more and non-residential building activity valued at $50,000 or more. The statistics relate to building activity so construction activity not defined as building such as the construction of roads, bridges, railways and earthworks are found in other ABS publications.

The ABS publication of housing finance commitments are derived from returns submitted to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and covers housing finance commitments statistics from banks and permanent building societies.