Census data gold for property investors

feature-census-data-200The initial results of the 2011 census were released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS undertakes a census every five years with the main goal of counting the population of the country. As well as a count of the population the census also includes a wide range of valuable information about the characteristics of the population and the dwellings we live in. The 2011 census was undertaken on August 9, last year.

The main headline results of the 2011 census were:

  • The population has increased by 8.3% since the last census to 21,727,158 persons.
  • The number of occupied dwellings rose by 7.7% to 8,182,565. (Note the data reports that 10.7% of total housing stock was unoccupied).
  • The median age of residents was unchanged at 37 years.
  • The median weekly income for an individual rose by 23.8% to $577.
  • The median weekly income for a family rose by 26.5% to $1,481.
  • The median weekly income for a household rose by 20.4% to $1,234.
  • The median monthly housing loan repayment rose by 38.5% to $1,800.
  • The median weekly rent rose by 49.2% to $285.
  • The average number of persons per bedroom was unchanged at 1.1 persons.
  • The average household size was unchanged at 2.6 persons.

Some of the most noteworthy points out of the data are:

  • While the number of occupied dwellings has grown by 7.7% over the past five years it has not matched the 8.3% increase in population.
  • 10.7% of Australia’s houses are unoccupied compared to 10.4% at the time of the 2006 Census.
  • Growth in housing loan repayments over the past five years has outpaced the growth in individual, family and household incomes.
  • Growth in weekly rents over the past five years has outpaced growth in housing loan repayments.

The data becomes a lot more powerful once it is paired with other available data (such as home prices). As at August 2011, the median dwelling price (houses and units combined) across Australia was recorded at $404,000. Five years earlier, the median home price was $325,000 which indicates total growth over the period of 24.3%. It is noteworthy that family incomes, housing loan repayments and rental payments all increased by a greater amount than median home prices over the period.

When you compare the current median price of a home to the median family income it shows that the typical home is 5.2 times more expensive, down from 5.3 times five years ago. In comparison to household income, median home prices are 6.3 times more expensive, up from 6.1 times five years ago. Either way you look at the results they are quite significantly different from other more regular measures.

Dwelling type data shows that separate houses account for 75.6% of all homes across the country, down from 76.6% the previous census. In comparison, semi-detached homes account for 9.9% of the housing stock and units account for 13.6%. The proportion of semi-detached homes and units has risen since the last census while the proportion of separate houses has decreased. Overall, the results highlight that more affordable housing options, such as higher density housing types, are growing in popularity.

Household tenure data from the latest census shows that there has been a decline in the number of homes fully owned. 32.1% of households were completely owned by the person living there in 2011, down from 34.0% last census. The proportion of households which were being purchased (i.e. have a mortgage) rose from 34.1% the previous census to 34.9% and the number of households being rented increased from 28.1% to 29.6%. These results highlight that levels of home ownership are falling; this is most likely linked to a shortage of supply of houses at affordable price points in many regions of the country.

Data on the number of bedrooms across Australian households showed that on average, Australian households had 3.1 bedrooms up from 3.0 bedrooms at the time of the 2006 census. Over the five years the proportion of two bedroom homes rose from 19.1% to 19.4%, as did the proportion of three bedroom homes (43.6% to 45.4%). Conversely, the proportion of homes with one bedroom fell from 4.7% to 4.4% and homes with four or more bedrooms fell to 28.1% of housing stock down from 30.3% last census.


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