Australia’s property market has experienced a significant downturn over the past year, driven mostly by losses in Sydney and Melbourne, but there are signs of an imminent improvement.A growing number of buyers are starting to emerge with the belief that the downward trend will bottom out and plateau in coming months, before prices begin to rise.Buyer’s agent Nick Viner believes now is the time to buy in Sydney and Melbourne, with many discounted premium properties available with minimal competition.“This environment is the absolute perfect time to buy because you’ve got more time to consider your options and there’s more choice in terms of available homes,” Mr Viner, principal of Buyers Domain Australia, said.“You also have the ability to focus on really blue chip properties in your budget. You can bag a more superior property that you can really only get for cheaper in markets like this.”Most economists believe the total property price falls in Sydney will be within the vicinity of 15 per cent, which means some prime suburbs have already bottomed out.“I saw the data out on Monday that the market in Sydney has come off nine per cent from its peak last year. What I’m finding in some suburbs is that price declines are probably closer to 10 to 15 per cent, even 20 per cent in some instances. I think we’re probably reasonably close to the bottom.”media_cameraProperty prices in Sydney have fallen by more than nine per cent from their peak in October 2017. Picture: AAPAlthough this assessment is not universal, he said, with homes in less desirable suburbs and investment properties likely to see further falls.“In general terms, the closer you are to the CBD the more likely prices will hold and then recover first.”When it comes to future price prospects in other markets, the latest analysis by BIS Oxford Economics concluded that Brisbane, Canberra and Perth will record the strongest growth in the next three years.Although in almost all locations, the investor market is likely to remain sluggish in the medium-term due to tighter restrictions by banks and sharp falls in rental returns.Rents have fallen in large parts of Sydney and Melbourne after a prolonged period of flat growth, Mr Viner said.“That makes it an interesting time for investors,” he said. “I can’t recall a time where rents and sale prices have gone down concurrently.”media_cameraThe Brisbane property market is tipped to be one of the strongest performers in the next three years, after a year of minimal growth. Picture: AAPMortgage Choice boss Susan Mitchell said prospective buyers are struggling with tighter lending criteria from banks in the shadow of the royal commission.Despite home values falling, it is much tougher to buy than during the boom due to difficulties in obtaining a mortgage, Ms Mitchell said.“This tightened lending environment, means a larger number of Australians are experiencing difficulty securing a home loan due to new, stricter assessment criteria in which their savings and living expenses are being forensically examined.”Ms Mitchell believes house price slumps could usher in a new crop of buyers, who will eventually drive renewed growth.“The decline in dwelling values, particularly in the nation’s capitals, could open the door to those looking to get their foot in the property market,” she said.media_cameraNick Viner believes Sydney and Melbourne could be nearing the point of bottoming out after more than a year of price falls.A survey of experts and economists by comparison website finder.com.au found the majority support ANZ’s prediction of 15 to 20 per cent falls in total in Sydney and Melbourne.“ANZ’s suggested 15 per cent drop would see $145,500 and $118,500 wiped off the average house price in Sydney and Melbourne respectively,” said finder.com.au insights manager Graham Cooke.“A 20 per cent drop would see nearly $200,000 disappear from the equity of Sydney homeowners.“If we do see these types of price drops in the market, recent homebuyers who laid down a 20 per cent deposit could see themselves in negative equity by the end of the year.”Originally published as Is now the time to buy property?