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Can you time the property market?

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It's been a turbulent year for Australian property. Interest rates have risen fast, but already price growth has returned and there are signs in 2023 that the market could be rebounding

It's led sellers and buyers alike to wonder whether it's possible or wise to try to time the market and take a gamble on picking the 'right' moment to transact.

Can it be done? And should you try?

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What are forecasts saying about the market's future?

While nobody knows for sure what's up ahead, you can still find all kinds of predictions from economists and experts to help to try and make an informed decision.

Prices remain well above pre-Covid levels, but the big four banks all have a relatively pessimistic outlook for the rest of 2023. Their forecasts for Australian property prices sit between -6 per cent and -14 per cent for the year. 

It's well worth noting, though, that the banks' forecasting is notoriously conservative. The last time they predicted price falls of this degree was in the beginning of the pandemic. As the historic boom that followed, they couldn't have been more wrong. 

The latest Boom And Bust Report from SQM Research laid out a range of alternative scenarios for 2023, with nearly all outcomes pointing to positive price growth for the year. 

In light of the RBA pausing interest rates in April, SQM's Managing Director Louis Christopher made the prediction that "the market is going to recover, driven by the Sydney housing market."

"There will be more first home buyers in the marketplace looking to get out of the rental crisis. Once there is more evidence the downturn is over, property investors are going to jump into the market, looking for their hedge against inflation."

Considering the range of expert forecasts out there spans everything from -14 per cent declines to +9 per cent growth for the year, it's clear that reading the market's future is incredibly difficult. 

How do agents feel about trying to time the market?

While economists base their predictions on data, agents are the ones on the ground seeing the market up close every day. 

There's an understanding of the temptation to try to pick the right moment in the market to transact, but it rarely turns out to be the perfect choice. 

Tristan Tomasino of Buxton Inner West in Melbourne explained that getting that timing just right is generally more chance than science.

"This is my 18th year in real estate and I've never been able to time the market either. You never know when the peak is and you never know when the bottom is," he said.

For those sellers waiting on the sidelines to pounce on the right moment, Brenton Buttigieg from Ray White Nerang on the Gold Coast suggested they may have to be incredibly patient. 

"To any owners at the moment who are saying 'I might sit on my hands and wait until [the market] gets back to where it was' — I think it's going to be a long, long time before we see the kind of prices we saw [12 months ago]," he said.

"By the time we see prices getting back up to that point, I think it's just the natural inflation of the market which could take anywhere up to five more years before we see that again."

Max Klimenko at Sydney's Ray White Touma Group believes trying to predict the future is not a wise option for sellers. 

To the question of waiting for the perfect moment, he responded "wait for what? We know what the market is now and we can capitalise on that. We don't know where it's going to go in the future and we can't control that."

How else should sellers approach the market?

If there's no perfect way to time the market correctly, what should drive the decision to list?

Your own personal circumstances are generally going to dictate the right time. Simply put, if you're ready to sell, then that's probably going to be the right time to sell. 

Mr Tomasino pointed out that, "if you buy and sell in the same market, you will always be fine, you'll never have any issues."

Any market-related challenges on one side of the buying and selling equation will typically be balanced out by having an easier time on the other. 

It's also important to remember that there is no one Australian property market. Different cities, suburbs and streets will all have their own unique behaviours and won't necessarily line up with the national narrative. 

OpenAgent's guide to tracking market trends and data will help you research and get a clearer picture of exactly what's going on in your area so you can make an informed decision.