Housing finance approvals dip in May: Westpac

Housing finance approvals dip in May: Westpac
Housing finance approvals dip in May: Westpac


Australian housing finance approvals were a touch firmer than expected in April, the number of owner occupier loans down just 1.4% vs expectations of a slightly larger 1.8% decline.

The value of investor loans recorded a 0.9% dip, much milder than March's 9% drop. Despite this, conditions were soft across most of the detail.

The number of new owner occupier approvals, i.e. excluding refinancing, was more in line with consensus, with a 1.9% decline in April taking approvals down 4.4%yr.

The total value of housing finance approvals, including investors but including owner occupier refi, dipped 0.4%mth to be down 5.8%yr (estimates excluding investor refi look to be down about 6.7%yr). Stepping back, the peak to trough move in the value of new finance approvals looks to be a fall of about 10%, roughly on a par with the 2015-16 pull back.

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Housing finance approvals dip in May: Westpac

The number of owner occupier construction approvals dipped 0.2% to be down 5.7%yr. The number of owner occupier approvals for the purchase of newly built dwellings fell 3.7%mth but is still up 2.9%yr. On a combined basis, construction-related approvals were down 1.4%mth, –2.9%yr.

The number of approvals to first home buyers (FHBs) continues to ease back from recent highs, declining 1.6%mth. Although approvals are still up 24%yr, they are now 10% off their Nov peak. Activity in this segment has been boosted by increased assistance from state governments in NSW and Vic – measures that in the past have typically generated a significant pull forward in activity that subsequently falls away.

The state breakdown had more detail than usual this month due to the timing of the release which coincided with the release of state lending data for investor loans. The combined figures shows the biggest annual declines in the total value of approvals (incl. investor loans but excl. owner occupier refi) have been in WA (–8.8%yr), NSW (–6%yr) and Qld (–6%yr) with a milder 2.9%yr fall in SA. Vic has seen a slight gain (+1.9%yr) while Tasmania has bucked the national trend with a strong surge (+15.4%yr).

More recent data, from auction markets in particular, suggest housing market conditions have seen a further weakening since April likely reflecting tighter lending criteria. With more stringent assessments also likely to delay loan processing, finance approvals could see a more significant decline in the next few months.

Matthew Hassan is senior economist with Westpac.

Approvals Matthew Hassan

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