AMP Capital warns SMSFs about overvalued property

SMSFs that are heavily exposed to residential property could be adversely affected in the future, with Australians “loaded to the gunwales” with overvalued property, according to AMP Capital.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, AMP Capital chief economist and head of investment strategy Shane Oliver said that, in general, he found activity by SMSFs in the housing market concerning, given that it is another way Australians are speculating on the residential property market.

“For the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been battling excessively expensive home prices, poorer housing affordability and excessive growth in household debt,” said Mr Oliver.

“There is a risk that SMSFs heavily exposed to property could be adversely affected at some point if the property market turns down sharply.”

Given that many SMSF trustees are already invested in residential property outside their SMSF, Mr Oliver said there is an argument against making large allocations to property in super as well.

“Australians are loaded to the gunwales with property; about 50 per cent of household wealth is invested in residential property,” he said.

“You can make a case for commercial property, but residential property is over-valued and over-owned by Australians so it makes more sense to me for SMSFs to be diversifying where they’re not heavily exposed and that’s probably not residential property.”

Another concern, Mr Oliver said, is that until recently, APRA had been underestimating the amount of money flowing to residential property investors.

“Once APRA started looking more closely at what the banks are doing they found the flows to investors were even greater than they previously thought,” he said.

Off-the-plan residential property is particularly worrisome since investors who have bought off the plan may have difficulty getting finance from the banks further down the track.

“There could be a period of short-term indigestion and some of the recent surge in unit construction or apartment construction coming into the market could be a dampener on prices in some areas,” he said.

“Australia still has a shortage of property but there will be certain suburbs in certain areas in Sydney and Melbourne where we’re going to have a potential oversupply. For example, the inner city parts of Melbourne and also the Western suburbs of Sydney, the supply of units is starting to have a dampening impact on prices.”

If SMSFs are investing into these areas where there’s a lot of new supply, it could affect the value of the buildings the SMSFs have bought into, according to Mr Oliver.

“SMSFs may not be directly affected by it because they’ve got financing themselves, but they may end up being indirectly affected by weakness in the broader market around them,” he said.

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