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So the housing market is slowing. And interest rates look like staying low into 2018. Is this the time, at last, first timers can get a foot on the housing ladder?

Yes – but two things to know. You’ll probably need to move out of town, so you’ll need to factor in your commute costs.

And second – according to the Reserve Bank, you’ll have to accept next year’s housing stock will be of lesser quality and smaller.

The numbers from this year mean about one in three homes will be within the range of first time buyers next year.

But the quality of build will be as good. Or, to quote the RBA: “there had been some structural decline in the quality of housing that is affordable to first home buyers”.

What does that mean? The average number of bedrooms has fallen in all cities.

But there is good news. The September quarter edition of the Adelaide Bank/Real Estate Institute of Australia Housing Affordability Report shows an improvement in housing affordability,  with the proportion of median family income required to meet average loan repayments decreasing by 1.2 percentage points to 30.3%.

The number of first home buyers increased by 22.8% during the quarter or 32.6% year on year and there was some relief for renters, particularly in Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Rental affordability was steady in Victoria, but declined in NSW, the ACT and Tasmania.

Darren Kasehagen, Head of Business Development, Adelaide Bank said: “The increase in housing affordability across all States and Territories is to be welcomed and is reflected by heightened activity in the number of first home buyers coming back into the market.

Fast Facts:  Across the nation

Victoria:

Of the total number of Australian first home buyers that purchased during the September quarter, 8,786 were from Victoria. The number of loans to first home buyers increased by 32.2%. In Victoria, first home buyers now make up 26.2% of the State’s owner-occupier market. Rental affordability remained steady for the quarter with 23.1% of income required to meet median rents.

NSW:

The proportion of family income required to meet loan repayments decreased by 1.9% to 36.1%. New South Wales remains the least affordable State or Territory in which to buy a home. Of the total number of Australian first home buyers that purchased during the September quarter, 23.4% were from New South Wales. First home buyers now comprise 19.0% of the State’s owner-occupier market. Rental affordability declined for the quarter with an increase of 1.2% of income required to meet median rents.

Queensland:

The proportion of income required to meet home loan repayments decreased to 26.8%, a 0.5 percentage point decrease over the quarter. Of all Australian first home buyers over the quarter, 21.7% or 6,271 were from Queensland while the proportion of first home buyers in the State’s owner-occupier market was 26.1%. Rental affordability improved slightly with a decrease of 0.2% to 22.8% of income required to meet median rents.

South Australia:

South Australia recorded an improvement in housing affordability with the proportion of income required to meet monthly loan repayments dropping to 25.3%- a decrease of 1.5 percentage points over the quarter.  In the national breakdown, 4.8% of first home buyers were from South Australia while the proportion of first home buyers in the State’s owner-occupier market recorded an increase of 2.0% to 19.2%. Rental affordability improved by 0.2 percentage points to 21.7% of income.

Western Australia:

The number of first home buyers in Western Australia increased by 7.4% over the quarter and by 17.9% compared to the same time last year. 15.3% of all Australian first home buyers were from Western Australia. Housing affordability improved with the proportion of income required to meet loan repayments decreasing to 22.4%. This was 1.2 percentage points over the quarter or 1.4% year on year. Rental affordability decreased to 17.4% recording an increase of 0.7% for the quarter or 1.8% year on year.

Tasmania:

Housing affordability in Tasmania improved with the proportion of income required to meet home loan repayments decreasing to 23.3%, a decline of 0.6 percentage points over the quarter or 0.5 percentage points year on year.  Rental affordability in Tasmania declined with the proportion of income required to meet median rents increasing to 26.3%, a 0.5 percentage point increase or 2.3 points year on year.  First home buyers in Tasmania increased by 1.6% over the quarter but compared to the same quarter last year recorded a 3.3% decrease.

Australian Capital Territory:

Housing affordability in the Australian Capital Territory improved with the proportion of income required to meet home loan repayments decreasing to 18.5%, a 1.3 percentage point drop over the quarter and a decrease of 1.5 percentage points compared to the same quarter last year.  Rental affordability declined.  The proportion of income required to meet the median rent is now 18.1%, an increase of 0.2% for the quarter or 0.8% year on year.

Northern Territory:

Housing affordability in the Northern Territory improved with the proportion of income required to meet loan repayments decreasing to 19.4% for the quarter or 0.9 percentage points. This was a decrease of 1.1 percentage points year on year.   Rental affordability in the Northern Territory also improved with the proportion of income required to meet the median rent decreasing to 22.7% or 0.4 percentage points over the quarter or a decrease of 2.0 percentage points in September 2016.

And the reserve bank stays its hand – again

For the 16th straight month, the The Reserve Bank of Australia has left the official cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent at its last meeting before Christmas, ending the year the same way it started – with interest rates at a record low.

The RBA board said wage growth was low and inflation remained below the target of 2 per cent, adding household consumption in the lead-up to the festive shopping season was a ‘‘ continuing source of uncertainty’’ .

Now here’s something we can get behind.

A bank doing something about finacial literacy – not just spending a fortune on attempts to stave off royal commissions and pretending that ordinary Australians have a real stake in the big four’s enormous profits.

Suncorp’s Discovery Store promises to offer customers a unique retail experience in that hive of retail – Pitt Street Mall.

It will offer “an immersive retail experience including events and interactive workshops and is set to be the first of its kind in Australia.”

There will be educational workshops, guest speakers, live events, interactive digital tools. It opens on December 14.

CEO Michael Cameron said the decision is a strategic one. “We are creating strategically located retail stores to engage, educate and connect with our communities, while at the same time we are investing in and growing our range of digital services and online offerings. It will be open seven days a week and open for late trading. We want people to drop-in, bring the whole family along, have coffee and explore what’s on offer,” he said.

We’ll be there when it opens.

Grinch!  Aussies give less this Christmas

We’re the sixth most generous nation on earth but Australians are making fewer donations to charity.

The Australian Charities Report 2016 says donations and bequests have dropped almost $1 billion, from $11.2 billion to $10.5 billion over the past year.

Yet the country’s 52,000 charities increased their revenue to $142.8 billion in the past year.

Nearly half of all charity revenue was generated through membership fees, user pays services and other sources.

Government grants and contract payments accounted for 43 per cent of revenue, while donations and bequests generated just 7.3 per cent of the sector’s income.

With more than 50,000 registered charities in Australia – one for every 478 people in 2016 – donations remain a significant source of charity income.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission said it did not attribute the drop in donations to street collectors.

‘‘ Given the nature of the charity sector and the wide spectrum of organisations that it encompasses, there are likely to be several factors that may contribute to an explanation ,’’ a commission spokesman said.

While donations decreased, the report found volunteer numbers remained high, at 2.9 million.

‘‘ Australians are still incredibly generous,’’ said the ACNC’s acting commissioner, Murray Baird. ‘‘ We hope to see this bounce back this year and we encourage Australians to consider donating to a registered charity during the traditional Christmas giving period.’’