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Craig Pontey’s Blog – Looking Back Looking Forward

By Kenn Leong

Looking Back Looking Forward

April 23, 2014 by Craig Pontey

A sense of place and an appetite for quality of life have always been an essential part of Australia’s personality. And I think that fact goes a long way towards a better understanding of why homeownership and hence real estate plays such a central role in our everyday life.

Currently the residential market is, what some might describe as being in a state of excitement, and it is true that across Sydney we are seeing some remarkable outcomes. However if we look back over a little of our social history it is easy to see that this is nothing new, while today’s trends might be more magnified by the media we are still driven by a desire for a better life, and this flows onto helping to drive the demand for housing.

So I thought that I would share a closer look at some of the constant themes that pop up when we look back across the years when describing the Australian lifestyle. One thing you immediately notice is how big an impact the outdoors has had and continues to have on our reputation as a great place to live. Back in the 1930’s it was common to see Australia described as ‘A Place in The Sun’ a destination of ‘Sunshine & Romance’ ideas that we know today still attract off-shore buyers to our market. Clean air, clean beaches and sunny days still have their appeal.

Another far less romantic notion about Australia is the flexibility and stability of the local economy and it does seam our ability to move between different booms is nothing new.

Today we are moving out of the mining investment boom, while back in the 1940’s we were the world’s largest exporter of wool, and we also supplied wheat, meat, dairy products, fruit and metals to the world, but also we mass-produced aircraft and munitions. Here again I see an equivalent with today’s market where buyer confidence remains strong despite recent job losses. But somehow there is clearly a belief that the economy will successfully make the changeover from the mining boom era.

Australia also had a quest for growth and a real estate ‘boom’ in the early 1950’s and from that era I came across a marketing headline that read ‘Australia The Land of Tomorrow’. At the time the then immigration minister Arthur Calwell declared that ‘I want 20,000,000 people in Australia in my lifetime.’ It was a time when a rapid increase in our population was seen as vital for our defence and economic development. The ‘Land of Tomorrow’ was also being promoted well beyond the traditional ties with Britain. Today more than half a century later we continue to see big numbers of immigrants helping drive the demand for housing.

My two final observations concern Sydney’s ongoing interest in all aspects of the property market, and our pragmatic approach to infrastructure, which is, as I have already suggested nothing new. Back in 1965 the Sydney Morning Herald published a survey of CBD projects. The survey covered building starts, proposed and completed in the last 10 years. The result: some 84 plus sites with an estimated value of £200 million, and today we continue to always be captivated by similar surveys.

Today infrastructure is a topic very much back in the headlines. While back in 1966, during the construction of our most prized piece of infrastructure, The Sydney Opera House, Joern Utzon had been sacked from the project. And so in response staff of the Public Works Department started a Bring Back Utzon campaign in 1967, I think that this all sounds a bit familiar.

And so here we are back in 2014 and I think that while today’s residential market might look very different from the 1950’s and earlier, many of the underlying trends, pressures and assumptions remain the much same and I think show how persevering the market really is.

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