Distressed property listings on the rise


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Scammers pocket $2 billion, online shopping records smashed, and Australians name their worst financial nightmare. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

Scammers fleece Aussies of $2 billion

The consumer watchdog says Australians lost a record $2 billion to scams in 2021, despite government, law enforcement, and the private sector disrupting more scam activity than ever before.

distressed property listings on the rise

The $2 billion figure is based on more than 560,000 reported scams though the ACCC says one-third of victims never contact authorities to report a scam.

The ACCC's report coincides with an announcement by the Commonwealth Bank that it has introduced new artificial intelligence technology to detect suspicious and unusual behaviour on its digital banking platforms.

The technology tracks unusual changes to the way a customer normally interacts with their devices.

According to CommBank, customers develop habits and patterns of behaviour in relation to their banking including when they bank, on what devices, and even their keystrokes and the way they use a mouse. Deviations from these patterns could be a sign an account has been compromised or that someone else is using their devices.

This new "protect, detect, and resolve" approach is aimed at identifying irregularities and scammers, and shutting down activity not authorised by the customer.

Online shopping records tumble... again

The financial year just ended saw a record-breaking online shopping bonanza, with 9.3 million households buying online, driving a 12% uptick in the value of online spending.

It's only the second time we've passed the 9 billion mark - the previous record being set in the 2019/2021 financial year.

Australia Post's head of eCommerce analytics, Rose Yip, says the growth in online shopping has accelerated beyond expectations throughout the pandemic.

"We've seen more than 900 million parcels delivered in the last three years alone, which says so much about how quickly eCommerce has grown in a short amount of time," she adds.

"It's now the norm for so many Australians, with more than 5 million households regularly shopping online every month."

Surprisingly, pet products saw the biggest growth in online sales, up 38% for the year.

One in 10 homes sit empty, but that's a marked improvement

Despite the rental vacancy rate sitting at a tiny 1.0% nationally - and as low as 0.3% in Adelaide, the latest Census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows one in 10 Australian homes were unoccupied on Census night in 2021.

However, this is a sharp fall from the 11.2% that sat empty in 2016, and is the lowest share since 2006.

Unoccupied homes are more common in regional areas than capital cities. Across regional South Australia for example, one in five homes were unoccupied on Census night.

The findings don't spell out why a home is vacant. However, analysis by REA Group suggests the city versus country difference is consistent with people having holiday homes in regional areas.

Australians name their top indicator of financial stress

According to a Savvy study, being unable to raise $2000 in a week for something important is the top financial stress indicator nominated by one in three (34%) Australians.

That was followed by being unable to raise $500 in a week (16.7%), followed by being unable to pay power, gas or phone bills on time (15.6%).

While 86% of households said they had no difficulty paying bills in the past 12 months, rising interest rates could see more people struggle to raise emergency cash.

Analysis by Finder shows three consecutive interest rate rises since May are costing the average homeowner an extra $424 per month - more than $5,000 annually.

Distressed property listings on the rise

The number of homes listed for sale across Australia fell 2.1% in June according to SQM Research.

However, the number of 'distressed' listings rose by 4.5% nationally, with the number of desperate sellers climbing by 10.3% in NSW.

A distressed property listing occurs when a property must be sold quickly. This may be the case in a divorce, a bank-forced sale or a cash-strapped vendor.

SQM Research says distressed property sales often result in a financial loss for the seller who must accept a lower price than would normally be the case.

The largest concentrations of distressed sales to date have been occurring on Queensland's Gold Coast and the Central Coast of WA.

Louis Christopher, managing director of SQM Research, says we can expect to see further increases in distressed listings following ongoing rises in interest rates and the end of the COVID relief period within the banking sector.

He adds, "It is not something I would be overly concerned about unless numbers rise well above 15,000 properties."

As at June 2022, more than 6000 listings were regarded as distressed sales.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.