The evolution of residential property price premia in a metropolis: Reconstitution or contamination?

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis


Residential property price premia (‘premia’) have long fascinated investors, particularly in times of euphoria, but their social, climatic and urban ramifications are much wider. A proper understanding of premia is hindered by the variety of exogenous influences determining them. They occur within idiosyncratic, complex, and continuously reconfiguring metropoli, conditioned by topography, history, regime, commerce, and culture. Given imperfectly competitive housing markets, conventional explanations for premia are either restricted to their financial dissection, trawl though metrics or cast around for hedonic coefficients. However, premia illuminate affordability and other problems in the broader planning and social debate. With the general significance of premia clarified, the research question of the project becomes: ‘What drives residential property price premium evolution in a metropolis?’ A complete answer involves dissecting the nature and establishing the location of putative premia and disentangling the influence and interactions of their various price drivers. To provide it, the project conducts a property and urban literature review. Based on theory’s insight that higher order contains lower order systems, it develops and investigates a general systems model of residential premia with two modes. The system is conditioned by ideology but forced by population and capital inflows. Within it, premia mutate, influenced by a nested hierarchy of more or less contaminated information. To investigate the model and its different modes, the project employs tests across system pointers, at the macro, meso (all urban) and micro spatial resolutions. First, the turbulence and permeability of residential property markets to exogenous influences is assessed. The project then looks at the urban mosaic in the growing Sunbelt migration city of Brisbane, Australia, over the boom period from 1998-2004. Locally, it conducts a case study and survey in one micro-location, seeking clues in transaction patterns (output), property system agents (components) and the information they use (feedback mechanisms). Finally, the project draws some relevant policy implications. Its key findings are that urban housing markets are open, complex and polarised. In an exuberant economic climate, migration and debt fuel metropolitan price escalation. Public urban initiatives reinforce central incumbent affluence or spark fresh bouts of speculation. Individual premia are heterogeneous but often feed off local construction projects or iconic refurbishment. Reflecting their demographics and motives, agent risk appetites are diverse although investors are usually less averse to renewal. System feedback involves a congruence of media and local activity signals. Neither local conviviality nor Bohemian influences are, by themselves, significant. Rather, buyer rationality is validated by post-purchase infrastructure completions. The thesis of this project is, hence, that in euphoric capital markets, migration and debt accelerates the endogenous mutation of property from homes within a community towards speculative paper assets. The implication is that the excessive proliferation of premia indicates economic imbalance and urban malaise which requires recognition and treatment. While premia are paid for perceived privilege or prospects, cognitive risk representations and expectations evolve. Sometimes judgment is contaminated by media fantasy but often validated by accommodating government policy and central revitalisation projects. Yet, within a wider social and ecological remit, rampant premia suggest flaws in urban strategy, governance and planning practice. In terms of windfall events or unearned rent, the cumulative effects of ill-considered projects and price distortions can be ugly and wasteful. They alienate and accentuate spatial privilege without generating sustainable jobs. The project has procedural and substantive policy implications. The dynamics of residential premia cannot be disentangled from capital market volatility, urban fragmentation and reconstitution. Enlightened property development requires visionary urban planning beyond electoral cycles. Rather than unregulated markets or disjointed incrementalism, the project points to the advantages of cohesive projects and inclusive hubs. It impels ecological and people-focused development to nurture capable, connected and considerate edge communities. Its first steps are theoretical recognition, policy clarification, government reform, market constraints, price and tax rationalisation and spatial transparency.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Queensland
  • Wadley, David, Supervisor, External person
  • Stimson, Robert, Supervisor, External person
  • Elliott, Peter, Supervisor, External person
Award date10 Aug 2010
Place of PublicationBrisbane
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Real estate
  • Property
  • Premium
  • Investment
  • Urban developments
  • Sustainable development
  • Communal land governance
  • Planning
  • Social structure


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of residential property price premia in a metropolis: Reconstitution or contamination?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this