The Fading Australian Dream

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Housing affordability is currently a key issue of discussion in Australia and while there are a number of factors at play, the main price driver is that demand for houses is exceeding supply. Population growth, a trend to smaller households (and so more homes needed relative to the population), and demand for homes not only from first home buyers but also from downsizers, overseas buyers, local investors, and self-managed super funds and trusts are all fuelling price rises.

While Australia’s current annual population growth of 1.4% may seem modest, this adds almost 340,000 to our population each year- which is one new Darwin every 20 weeks or a new Tasmania every 18 months.

Where population growth is strongest, house price rises are the highest

Sydney is growing much faster than this having averaged 1.8% per annum for the last five years. It will add almost two million to its population by 2037 – which is the equivalent of adding a new Perth into Sydney. Melbourne is currently Australia’s fastest growing city and based on the current growth trends, it will overtake Sydney to become the nation’s largest city around the middle of this century. Unsurprisingly where population growth is strongest, house price rises are the highest.

Earnings growth has not kept up with house price growth

In just twenty years, the average Sydney house price has increased more than five-fold from $233,250 in 1997 to $1,190,390 today while in Melbourne prices over the same period have increased by more than six times from $142,000 to $943,100 today. While it is true that wages have increased over this time, earnings growth has not kept up with house price growth. In 20 years, average annual full-time earnings have not quite doubled from $42,010 in 1997 to $82,784 today.

The impact of growing demand on house prices is most evident when comparing prices to average earnings. Twenty years ago, the average Sydney house was 5.6 times average annual earnings while in Melbourne it was an affordable 3.4 times annual earnings. Today Sydney homes are more than 14 times average earnings, and in Melbourne more than 11 times annual earnings. While the maxim that house prices double every 10 years is not always the case and growth fluctuates, since 1997 Sydney prices have in effect doubled every 8 years while Melbourne has managed this every 6 years.

If the growth metrics over the last two decades play out over the next two, the average home in both Sydney and Melbourne in 2037 will exceed $6 million. Clearly, the Australian dream of home ownership for the next generation is fading. Young people today need almost three times the purchasing power that their parents needed to buy the average place, so even double incomes will not quite do it. Additionally, today’s new households are starting their earnings years later than their parents, having spent longer in tertiary studies, and they begin their economic life not with zero savings like their parents, but well into the negative- with interest accumulating study debts to pay off. Even if today’s emerging generations start saving harder and earlier and live with their parents longer, home ownership is still not a given.

Policy settings around migration and baby bonuses have grown the population and policies around property tax incentives, self-managed superannuation and investment provisions have fuelled property demand therefore policy support will be required to bring the great Australian dream a little bit closer to reality.

Sources: Population at 2017 (ABS). 1997 prices: Macquarie University (Abelson). 2017 house prices: Core Logic. Analysis: McCrindle

Generation Y and Housing Affordability

Monday, October 24, 2016

As Australia’s leading social researchers, the senior research team at McCrindle are actively involved in media commentary. Last week our Principal, Mark McCrindle and Team Leader of Communications, Ashley McKenzie were featured in the media about Generation Y and their ability to access the housing market in Sydney.

Generation Y are today’s 22 – 36 year olds, and make up 22% of the Australian population (5.22 million). They also make up the largest cohort in the current workforce (34%). Gen Y’s are comprised of today’s parents, senior leaders, influencers, and increasingly wealth accumulators. With 1 in 3 being university educated (compared to 1 in 5 Baby Boomers), they have grown up in shifting times and are digital in nature, global in outlook and are living in accelerated demographic times.

While Generation Y are often accused of living a lavish lifestyle, which supposedly locks them out of the property market, it is important to remember that traditional expense categories such as food, transport, health and housing costs are higher for younger people today than that experienced by their parents at the same age. A generation ago the average house price was 5 times annual average earnings while today the average house price is 13 times the average annual full-time earnings.

Here is a quick snapshot of last week’s media coverage:

Housing Affordability Debate

"From the Baby Boomer perspective, they worked hard, they earned what they had but I can also see the Gen Y perspective. The reality is that it's a lot harder to buy a home, the costs have gone up. Gen Y do have to pay off the debt of their degree and there are new categories of spend; technology, internet and phone, costs that their parents didn’t have."  

Parental help becoming essential for young people trying to buy property

"Ms McKenzie, who works for social researcher Mark McCrindle, said borrowing from parents was becoming Sydney’s “new normal”. “Baby Boomers control about 50 per cent of the nation’s wealth so it makes sense young people look to their parents for help,” she said." 

For any media enquiries please email us at, or call our offices on +61 2 8824 3422. To arrange a media interview or if you are a journalist and would like to receive our media updates, please email

A Snapshot of the Changes Transforming Real Estate

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Change. It’s happening all around us, and it’s easy to be intimidated by the scope and scale of it, but if we can observe the trends and the shifts, then we don’t have to become victims of change but rather we can proactively respond. That’s what’s key. Having the confidence to move forward strategically and proactively, to embrace the trends rather than hide from them.

Earlier this year Mark McCrindle presented Understanding the Times, Shaping the Trends: A Snapshot of the Changes Transforming Real Estate at the Real Estate Institute of Victoria National 2016 Conference. Here are some of his thoughts on trends shaping the Real Estate Industry.

How are generational differences impacting the REAL Estate industry?

Generationally, it is more important than ever to understand the six generations that we have in Australia. While the younger generations might not be active clients in terms of real estate vendors, they do influence parental purchasing and decisions a lot.

We can sometimes pre-qualify people based on our perception of where they’re at in their life stage, but actually there are a lot of people in their late 70’s who are still active in property, perhaps downsizing to buy their next place. Then you’ve got someone in their early 20’s who’s maybe not buying their own place, but perhaps looking at an expensive home because they will be living in that home with their parents. We have to understand the diversity of the generations and all of them may well be active influencers in the buying decision.

Do you have any recommendations on how the Real Estate industry can engage their community?

Sometimes the best connections are actual connections, not just personal ones. The events, the openings, the events where we invite the community along and talk about the area and what’s happening. That brand experience, where people can come to meet and greet with free pizza or cocktails, that sort of thing is what works well, people are looking for that social interaction.

Any tips for those working in real estate?

Well I’d sum it up with the 4 R’s of Real Estate in the 21st Century:


Keep it real and authentic


To adjust and adapt


Keep it relational in terms of how we connect


We can’t just rely on yesterday’s wins, we have to adjust and adapt to remain responsive to the needs of today


Mark is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author, TedX speaker and influential thought leader, and is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of Australia’s leading organisations.

Mark’s understanding of the key social trends as well as his engaging communication style places him in high demand in the press, on radio and on television shows, such as Sunrise, Today, The Morning Show, ABC News 24 and A Current Affair.

His research firm counts amongst its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and his highly valued reports and infographics have developed his regard as a data scientist, demographer, futurist and social commentator.


The New Australian Dream

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Owning your own four bedroom house on a decent block of land with a big backyard and outdoor swimming pool used to be the quintessential 'Great Australian Dream'. But with rising property prices and increased living costs, that dream is being redefined.

what is the Average Australian Profile?

The average full time annual income in Australia is $80,000, which is bumped up a bit because of high income earners. Even though we are living longer now than a generation ago, the average retirement age is little changed, at 61.5 years.

The cost of housing is up with average rent prices per week at $485/week and the average house price (capital city) is $765,730. In Melbourne it is well above this and in Sydney it is around $1 million. This is where the challenge is for Australians: 40 years ago the average house price was around 5 time’s average earnings and now you can see it is almost 10 times the average annual fulltime earnings.

Other than affordability, what else are Aussies looking for?

Lifestyle is key. People are opting to live in higher density areas for the sake of convenience and location- within close proximity to transport, restaurants – the café culture as it has been called. Our Urban Living Index shows a strong correlation between the most urban/densified suburbs and those with the highest liability ratings.

Australians are opting for a lifestyle of Minimalism - we are 'decluttering' our lives and putting more value on the intangibles like travel. Generation Y aren’t opting for a big home with garages to store all their stuff but more of a focus on the easy-livability of apartment living. Indeed many baby boomers are downsizing from their larger homes in the suburbs to this style of living too.

Renting, as opposed to buying, what some of the benefits?

The ability to change locations easily is well regarded – the average Australian renter stays just 1.8 years per home. Our research shows that 1 in 3 renters are actually 'choice renters' and they choose to rent for lifestyle reasons, not primarily for affordability reasons. These choice renters are twice more likely to be living in medium and high density housing than the average Australian and they are almost 10 years younger than the average Australian. The ability to upsize and downsize easily and the flexibility to travel for extended periods of time is a driver for them. ‘Rentvesting’ is also becoming a ‘thing’. This is where people choose to rent in an area they like, but buy somewhere more affordable and use this as an investment

Generation Y are struggling to attain the Great Australian Dream – are they going to be ok?

There is a challenge emerging of "generational inequity" as shown by this infographic:

Gen Y’s have the least wealth of the working generations and their proportion of Australia’s wealth is less than half their demographic share, while the Baby Boomers who are a quarter of the population, own more than half of Australia’s wealth. (More information on this topic can be found here)

This is why Gen Y is reinventing the Aussie Dream and while they do still like the idea of owning something of their own, it is not just the big home with the back yard in the suburbs. But many in this generation will be absolutely fine thanks to the massive intergenerational wealth transfer set to happen in the next 20 years as those aged over 65 transfer much of their total wealth of $2.5 trillion.

Australia's Household Income and Wealth Distribution

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Land of the middle class?

Australia has long been labelled the land of the middle class but the latest analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics wealth and income data shows that this is less the case today.

Household income by quintiles

This infographic of annual household income by quintiles (20% categories, each comprising around 2 million of Australia’s 10 million households) shows the spread of total earnings. While the average household annually earns just over $107,000, the top 1 in 5 earns more than twice this (exceeding $260,000) while the bottom 1 in 5 takes home around one-fifth of this (a little over $22,000). This means that while the bottom fifth of households get 4% of all income, the top fifth get almost half of all earnings (49%).

Highest fifth have incomes 12 times the lowest fifth

The top quintile in gross terms earn almost as much as the other 80% of households combined. In ratio form, the highest quintile households average 12 times the average bottom quintile income.

Gini coefficient shows growing income divides

The Gini coefficient is a measure of income spread, with 0 being perfect equality and 1 being total inequality. The latest data shows that it is now at its highest (most unequal) level ever at 0.446 compared to 0.417 in the mid 1990’s. In the 20 years since, average household gross incomes have increased 60% from $66,196 to $107,276 today while over the same period, incomes of the top 1 in 5 households (highest quintile) have increased by 74% from $149,552 to $260,104.

Highest earners also had highest income growth

In the decade since 2005-06, most of the household categories have seen income increases of 18-19% with an average increase of 24% ($20,956 increase from $86,320 to the current $107,276) while the highest quintile has enjoyed income increases of 30% ($60,528 higher than a decade ago, up from $199,576 to $260,104).

Household wealth by quintile

Accumulated earnings are best represented by net wealth, and this is where the changing economic landscape is even more dramatically presented. While the average Australian household has net wealth of $809,900, the highest quintile household on average has a net wealth more than three times this ($2,514,400) while the lowest quintile household wealth is just a fraction of this (4% of the average wealth, or $35,500). The lowest 20% of Australian households own less than 1% (0.9%) of the national private wealth while the highest 20% own 62% of the national private wealth.

Wealthiest 20% own 71 times that of the lowest 20%

The wealth of the highest quintile households on average is 71 times that of the lowest quintile households. While the average Australian household has seen wealth increase by 6% in the last 2 years (an increase of $45,400), the highest fifth of households have averaged increases of 8% (an increase of $189,500). Only upon reaching the fourth of five quintiles does the average household net wealth ($830,600) exceed the average house price ($720,000), while the highest quintile households on average have a net worth exceeding 3 average Australian homes.

Wealthy have net worth many multiples of income

The net wealth of the lowest quintile is just 1.6 times annual income, for the average household wealth is 7.5 times incomes while for the highest quintile, their wealth is almost 10 their average annual income, and more than 23 times the average Australian household annual income.

Homes of the Future: Mark McCrindle discusses housing trends

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What is shaping our built environment?

The first is population growth. Australia has just reached 24 million which means we have added an extra million people in less than 3 years, and most of this growth is in our larger capital cities. This is creating a shift from suburban to urban living; from the traditional horizontal communities to the new vertical ones. In our largest capital cities, two-thirds of all new housing approvals are high or medium density rather than detached homes. This densification is creating walkable communities, multi-use areas where people live, work and play in a more localised space, and of course increased access to transit and transport hubs. The other factor shaping developments is affordability. With rising house prices, Australians are looking for financially sustainable options which meet the needs of both lifestyle and affordability, and create the flexibility for our homes to change in tune with our needs and lifestyles.

What are the current trends and will they last?

While design trends come and go with the changing fashions, there are some broader development trends that are here to stay. The increased access to open spaces, in-door out-door areas, balconies, natural light and bringing vegetation into urban environments are all timeless trends that resonates with our temperate climate and needs. Similarly, with food central to our social environment, open-plan kitchens and meal areas in homes and open social spaces in offices are trends we will see continue.

How is technology affecting it?

Today’s technology is seamlessly integrated into our lives, and we are seeing the same seamless integration into our homes. The internet of things means that lighting, sound, temperature, entertainment and security in our domestic environments are all manageable through our personal devices. The decade ahead will see our pantries and fridges talk to our devices to update shopping lists, our home entertainment experience continue playing seamlessly on our portable devices and our hydrogen cars help power our homes.

Image source: The Clipsal Smart Home range (courtesy of

What are the demographic trends?

Homes of the future will have the flexibility to accommodate multiple generations living under the one roof. They will meet the changing needs of a more culturally diverse community and have clever innovations to facilitate support to Australians living independently in their homes to a much older age than we currently see.

What does the future hold?

While Generation Z, who are just starting their careers, will have to pay more for their homes in the future, these buildings and the built environment in which they sit will far exceed what their parents experienced in their first homes. Not only will the technologies and fittings in the home be exciting but the community spaces, café culture and neighbourhood amenities will continue to adjust and adapt to meet the lifestyle expectations of the 21st Century generations.

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