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House prices post biggest gain in 3 years

Capital city house prices rose on average by 2.8% in the March quarter, its largest jump in three years, amid signs the property market is starting to pick up.

The RP Data-Rismark Home Value index shows home prices increased by 1.3% in March alone, although Adelaide was the only capital city to see a decline (0.5%) in the quarter.

Hobart showed the strongest rise for the quarter, posting a 6.1% increase in value, followed by Perth with 4.3%, Canberra 3.8% and Sydney 3.4%. Melbourne bucked fears of further price falls with a modest 2.5% rise. Year-on-year results show Darwin has recorded the strongest gain in values – up by 7.3%.

RP Data also said that auction and private treaty home sales have shown strong results, so it appears the housing market is continuing its recovery trend. Auction clearance rates in capital cities have averaged 60% and haven’t been below 55% so far this year. Sydney and Melbourne have even seen clearance rates nudging 70%.

Since November 2011, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has cut official cash rates by 1.75%, which finally appear to be working their magic in the housing industry, despite the major banks not passing on all rate cuts in full.

With capital city rental yields of around 5% and mortgage rates not far off that, investors may have cottoned on faster than owner occupiers. That will be something the RBA will be watching closely, as the central bank is keen to avoid creating a housing bubble (although many commentators have suggested Australian housing is already overpriced).

Foolish takeaway

The banks and mortgage brokers including Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ), Suncorp Group (ASX: SUN), Mortgage Choice (ASX: MOC) and MyState Limited (ASX: MYS) will be pleased with the news as it will likely translate into an uplift in credit growth, which like the housing industry, has been in the doldrums for some time.

With its legendary, fully franked 28 cent dividend, Telstra is the darling of Aussie investors. Chances are even if you don’t own Telstra shares directly, your superannuation fund does. But with its share price skyrocketing over the past year, is Telstra past its prime? Click here for our brand-new report: Buy, Sell, or Hold Telstra?

More reading

The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead.  This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.

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