Why last year was a ‘wonderland’ property market

It’s not very often in the real estate game that you can tie in one of the world’s most loved stories when talking about market conditions, is it?

However, when I was pondering on last year’s extraordinary property price growth – everywhere around the nation – the phase “curiouser and curiouser” kept popping up in my head. 

Of course, Alice used the term “curiouser and curiouser” during her travels in Wonderland because she couldn’t quite make sense of it all. 

Well, it was almost the same thing for buyers’ agents last year, as property prices kept on growing and growing to hit levels that were unthinkable a mere year or two prior.

There were myriad reasons why real estate assets soared in value last year, with low supply and strong demand being the predominant ones, rather than low interest rates as some pundits seem to suggest. 

But one of the most curious elements of last year’s market conditions was the fact that prices were rising everywhere at the same time, which is not usually the case at all. 

Distinct markets and cycles 

Australia has eight capital cities and dozens of major regional centres, which all have unique local economies and property markets. 

Sure, some nationwide policies, like lending criteria, can have an impact on real estate prices, but generally speaking property markets tend to be at different stages of a market cycle at the same time. 

This is part of the reason why professional buyers’ agents often target particular locations for a period of time for their investor clients, and then move on to the next area that has been identified due to it shifting into a capital growth phase.

Let’s take a look at SQM Research data to highlight this in action. 

– The previous Sydney market boom began in about 2013, when the asking price for all houses was about $866,000. By the time that period finished, in 2017, the asking price had soared to $1.366 million – or an increase of some 57 per cent. Prices softened for the next few years, until taking off as part of the “wonderland” market conditions in late 2020 and throughout 2021. By April this year, the asking price for all houses in Sydney was as high as an astonishing $1.75 million!

 – Melbourne’s last rising market cycle began in about 2015, when the asking price for all houses was $640,000. Prices kept rising until about 2018, when the asking price hit $1.066 million – or an increase of 66 per cent! Like Sydney (and everywhere else,) prices started to climb during the pandemic with the asking price for all houses in Melbourne in April hitting $1.179 million. 

– Brisbane is indeed a curious case, because while Sydney and Melbourne were experiencing rising prices during the 2010s, its property market was not doing much at all. In fact, from 2009 to 2017, the asking price of all houses only increased by 18 per cent in eight years. Brisbane’s prices were firming before the pandemic, but not in an overly significant way. However, from October 2020 to April this year, the asking price for all houses in Brisbane had skyrocketed from about $650,000 to nearly $900,000 – or an increased 38 per cent in just 18 months. 

As you can see from the above analysis, market cycles usually operate at different times because of a variety of factors, which is why the past year or so has been so curious. 

Of course, prices are starting to soften in some locations, but for some areas, such as Brisbane and Adelaide where supply is still constrained, one has to believe that their market cycles still have some way to run.


If you’ve been thinking about investing in property, you need to have the experts at Atlas Property Group on your side. As national finalists for Buyers Agent of the Year and Rising Star of the Year, we are here to help! We are constantly analysing new markets that our clients are able to take advantage of as they progress towards their own large and fantastic portfolios.