The housing market has shown a robust performance, despite the shock of COVID-19 in 2020. But the pandemic has impacted pockets of the housing market, creating opportunities for buyers. Recent housing value declines are particularly prominent in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne. These cities accounted for around 75% of international migration across the capital cities in 2018-19, meaning international border closures have created a particular demand shock.  

On Wednesday, the Minister for Housing announced around 1,800 places would be re-issued from the first round of the first home loan deposit scheme (FHLDS). This means recent value falls may have created an opportunity for first home buyers, where there is a maximum purchase price cap  to qualify for the scheme. 

As of January 2020, there was an average of 107₁ suburbs observed in the capital cities with a median value at or below the qualifying threshold for the FHLDS, assuming the application is for established property. 

Established property has historically been favoured by first home buyers where benefits for both new and established property have been available. That was further demonstrated in the slower utilisation of the FHLDS when it was made available for only new property.  

CoreLogic median dwelling value data reveals city suburbs where the median value fell below the established property price threshold since the onset of COVID-19. This effectively looks at the change in the median value of all houses or units across a suburb between March 2020 and January 2021. Note suburbs analysed include where CoreLogic has high confidence in the median value, and there have been at least 50 transactions across the suburb over the past 12 months.

The list comprises 23 suburbs across the four largest capital cities. In each of the suburbs, it is unit medians that have slipped below the threshold. 



Unsurprisingly, six of these include unit values in the Melbourne – Inner region, where median values have declined an average -$33,313 between the onset of the pandemic and January. 

As noted in previous research, the Inner region of Melbourne has seen particularly severe declines in rent and property values since the onset of COVID-19. 

This is because the Melbourne - Inner region has historically had particularly high exposure to housing demand from overseas migrants, such as international students, as well as people employed in tourism, hospitality and the arts. Both cohorts have been particularly affected by the pandemic. The same trends may explain the decline of median unit values in South Brisbane, where inner city Brisbane has also seen relatively high levels of overseas migration as a component of population growth.

While the impacts of COVID-19 on some markets has seen a decline in values, upward pressure on prices may result from the resumption of interstate and international travel, as well as continued improvements in the Australian economy. As more of the housing market is caught in a broad-based upswing, first home buyers could face more challenges getting into the market in the year ahead.