Debate is raging about the future of property prices. It is a debate that is being held online and in the pages of newspapers (including this one) and other media.
On one side is a group of people led by my fellow columnist Bernard Hickey, who says that property values still have a long way to fall (to as much as 30 per cent below last year's property peak).
On the other side are largely those in the industry with vested interests, who claim that confidence is returning and that the worst is over.
Which side is right? In my view the risk for property is all on the downside.
I would find it hard to say emphatically that property will fall by 30 per cent in value across the board; however, I do not think that values have yet finished falling.
In spite of what some might say, I do not think the slump is over.
In many respects the question, "Will property fall by 30 per cent?" is the wrong one. A better question is: "Is this a good time to buy?"
My answer remains the same as it has been all year: a resounding, "No - not yet!"
Yes, I know that interest rates are falling and affordability is coming back into line. However, for my money, property yields are still too low - when you look at values and rents, the numbers still do not add up.
And next year will not be good economically - unemployment will rise and people will feel less secure about their jobs and incomes.
Banks are also reverting to the normal requirement of a much more substantial deposit from home buyers - lower interest rates are of no interest to those who cannot come up with the deposit.
I cannot see any substantial lift in property values for some time (probably years), so this is not yet the right time to buy property.
I like property as an investment, but at present I advise my clients to wait for the market to fall further and for things to settle before buying.
I am encouraging clients to get their affairs in order with strong finances and good plans so that when the market does turn, as it inevitably will, they are ready to profit from it.
Last week I mistakenly wrote that some PIE funds have received approval for the Government guarantee.
To clarify, none of them has yet received this. I have since telephoned Treasury and been told applications are in process but that PIE cash funds will have to change their trust deeds to be approved.
Some are working through this process but none has yet been approved. Therefore, readers and investors need to be aware that although PIE cash funds are generally a safe investment, they are not as safe as a government-guaranteed bank deposit.
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