Every second, worldwide there are 63,000 Google searches, that’s 5.6 billion a day and I’m sure that like me, you’ve used Google to answer almost any sort of question, on any topic.

As my weekly ‘on-topic’ is property and local property markets, I wondered just what Google might help tell me about the market and concentrating on a few key topics and Google search trends in the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane markets, here’s what I found.

Price; this was for me an obvious starting point and specifically what are some of the key topics, and perhaps concerns that are tracking when people search both house and apartment price.

House Prices

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that ‘falling house prices’ was a common topic across all three markets. However, price falls was a much more active search term in Melbourne and far less so in Sydney and Brisbane.

The most common overlap between all three markets, and I’d suggest a very interesting trend, was how people searching Google were concerned about the direction of prices over the next 12-18 months. In all three cities searches relating to ‘predictions’ and ‘forecasts’ into 2019 and 2020 were very prominent terms that indicate some buyers are still cautious.

There were also two other interesting trends, one from Brisbane, where there’s an apparent greater interest in median suburban prices. While in Melbourne we see the only highly ranked example of a direct comparison between market prices, evidenced by the search term Melbourne versus Sydney.

Apartment Prices

Looking at search terms that related to apartment prices the results were a little different from the house search terms and the three apartment markets were far more aligned across a few key word trends.

By comparison to houses, price was generally a more prominent term in all three apartment markets however, it was highest in Melbourne and lowest in Sydney, and the related term of ‘rents’ feature more in Brisbane and Melbourne.

The most notable difference in search terms relating to apartments was the apparent emphasis on geographic and locational spread.

In all three cities search terms that related to price were more generally focused on either particular areas or buildings and in all three cities the CBD or city apartment prices were noticeable, while Sydney took a national view also searching Australian apartment prices.

We understand that location is important to all property buyers, but the emphasis among apartment buyers is to my thinking notable and I suggest is partly explained by the greater population density associated with apartments.

Search-Trends 2018 – Houses

It will come as no surprise that searching for a house/home for sale was largely flat through 2018 with very little variation month to month. The only two variations being slight lifts in April and December 2018. From this starting point what did the Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne (house/home) search terms look like?

Brisbane house searches were far more volatile with activity peaking in July 2018, after falling away in June, then in October and even more so in December.

Sydney house searches across 2018 were mixed but less volatile than Brisbane, they fell to their lowest point in April with peak activity seen in March and then in July.

Melbourne saw a more rollercoaster pattern in particular between July and October where it looked like the market could not make up its mind after a peaking in February only to markedly fall away in December.

While all three markets were volatile the patterns were not uniform beyond the fact that the variation between the highs and lows of search activity were very marked.

Search-Trends YTD 2019 – Houses

National search activity was all over the place peaking in January and July, and also as was to some degree expected, also peaking in May after the Federal Election.

Melbourne house searches YTD have been even more mixed than 2018 with peak activity seen in January, April and July and low activity in February, March and June. Post the Federal election activity did marginally lift, but then fell away.

Sydney search activity jumped about the place YTD with peaks and troughs occurring in the same months of April and May, that is a high and low of activity seen in the same month. More isolated but still increased search activity was notable in March and June.

Brisbane’s YTD search activity peaked in February perhaps inspired by the city’s many visitors in January and there have been three distinct low periods of search activity in March, May and June.

Search-Trends Apartments 2018

National search-activity remained in a relatively stable range of activity between January and November 2018 with the high point established in January and the low in November. However, what’s most interesting are the high and low variations that happened in both March and June when activity when up only to be quickly reversed, again showing a cautious market.

Over 2018, Sydney’s search activity looked remarkably stable operating almost on average trend for the full year with a modest high point in July 2018 and an equally modest low in December.

Melbourne’s search-activity also managed to stay within a modest range with a high point in May and a low in May, which represents a long spread of stable activity. An interesting period between May and September did see activity move up and then down in succession over those months and so producing a flat result.

Brisbane had more notable search trends resulting in a peak occurring in January and the low point in September. February and July were months that moved above the average range of results and below average in November. There was a downward trend between late February and May, but a largely stable period between October and December 2018.

Search Trends Apartments YTD 2019

Nationally YTD apartment search trends peaked in February and again in June however, what is notable is that the trend has been above average between January and April and again between May and July, indicating more interest among buyers.

Sydney YTD showed peak search activity in February however, the trend has been above average between March and June and notable in April, May and June. There was however, a period when activity was below average in January lasting until late February before peaking that same month.

Melbourne’s activity remained below trend right up until May when in late May the highest rate of search activity was seen. What’s also notable is that fact that search activity has remained above average since the May peak.

Brisbane’s apartment search activity peaked in late January and was somewhat aligned to the house market. However, activity remained below average between February and April although since late April and into June activity has been running above average.

Where to Now

Looking at these generally very volatile figures I ask myself the question where to now? I do not see an easy or standout answer, but make a few and I freely admit, general observations.

Over the last 18 months both the house and apartment markets, as reflected in Google’s search activity looked far less erratic than I had expected. What is obvious is that the apartment market appears to have been at its most erratic, or it’s turning point in June/July 2018 when the market could not make up its mind where to go! There were successive lows in February, April, May and July 2018 and deviations from the 18-month average trend on thirteen different weeks.

The housing market by contrast had less deviations with nine weeks outside of the 18-month average. The market low was more definite in November 2018 and its high point only reached in June 2019.

The figures are none-the-less interesting and while not every buyer would use Google search to find a house or apartment to buy, this search based activity does give us another set of valuable market in-sights. Where for at least the last 18-months buyers have been very alert and possibly cautious.