Pandemic dampens Australia's infatuation with property prices

Australia’s national obsession with property prices has evaporated in the face of the pandemic, judging by media reports on the topic over the past six months.

A new study by Streem, in collaboration with REA, found news reports about residential property prices dropped significantly between March and August 2020, compared to the six months prior.

Despite a slight uptick in August from its June-July lows, coverage levels were still down 29 per cent on 2019 levels.

But it is how the house price conversation has changed that is most revealing.

Reporting on topics like housing affordability, interest rates and negative gearing has plummeted more than 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, renting has experienced an unprecedented boom in media interest.

realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee told the site she had never discussed the rental market as often as she has since the pandemic.

“There’s been a real shift in the discussion around renting,” Ms Conisbee said.

When it comes to property sales there has been increased talk of ‘sellers’, and less mentions of ‘buyers’.

Talk of price falls is up 40 per cent, while talk of price rises has fallen by a third.

Commercial property to the fore

While the media profile of residential property has waned, commercial property has seen a surge in reporting.

There has been 50 per cent more coverage of commercial property in the past six months compared to the previous six months, while the number of prominent items has grown 80 per cent.

Again, the relationship between landlords and commercial tenants has dominated the conversation.

With Victoria’s case numbers declining, we are hopefully on the verge of a fall in reporting about day-to-day health impacts of the virus.

That will allow even more media oxygen for the already substantial conversation about the virus’s economic impacts.

As Australia grapples with its first recession in three decades, it will be interesting to monitor where housing places in this unfolding conversation.

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