APRA data shows new low doc loans potential cause for concern

APRA data shows new low doc loans potential cause for concern
APRA data shows new low doc loans potential cause for concern

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released their quarterly Authorised Deposit-taking Institution (ADI) Property Exposures data for March 2015 earlier this week.  The data always provides a valuable insight into current and historic mortgage lending by domestic ADIs and this quarter’s release was no different.  Given the heightened vigilance from APRA around investment lending and overall lending standards as well as recent changes to mortgage policies from many banks, the latest release from APRA may also signal a cyclical peak in investment lending as well as interest-only mortgage lending.

Chart 1

Based on the value of all outstanding mortgages by households to Australian ADIs, there was $852.5 billion outstanding to owner occupiers (65.4% of all housing loans) at the end of March 2015 and $450.2 billion to investors (34.6%).  Over the 12 months to March 2015, the total value of outstanding mortgages to owner occupiers has increased by 7.2% compared to a 12.4% rise in outstanding credit to investors.  This represents a reduction in the annual rate of increase in owner occupier lending over the quarter and the greatest rise in investor lending since September 2010.  Much like other data received more regularly, the chart indicates that there remains significantly more momentum in the investor lending space than that for owner occupiers where growth is more moderate.  With changes to investment lending criteria now being adjusted we are likely to see a slowing of that rate of change over the coming quarters.

Chart 2

At the end of March 2015, a record high 38.6% of loans outstanding had an offset facility, up from 35.4% a year earlier.  Also a record high was the 37.4% of all outstanding mortgages which were interest-only, up from 35.4% a year earlier.  Just 0.2% of all outstanding mortgages were reverse mortgages and 2.3% were low documentation which was down from 3.1% a year earlier and at a record low proportion.  Other non-standard loans accounted for just 0.1% of all outstanding mortgages.  It seems that more and more mortgagees are accessing offset accounts in order to reduce the interest payable on their mortgages and maximise repayments of the principal while interest rates are so low.  The data also indicates that a high proportion of lenders are accessing interest-only mortgages which seem somewhat counterintuitive at a time when interest rates are so low.  Following APRA’s letter to ADIs in late in 2014 they specifically called out interest only lending as a risk and we would expect that over the coming months these types of mortgages will become harder to obtain.

Chart 3

The average balance on all outstanding mortgages at the end of March 2015 was $243,500.  The average balance has increased by 3.6% over the past year, its fastest annual rate of growth since the year to June 2012.  Loans with an offset facility ($290,600) and interest-only mortgages ($315,100) have much higher average outstanding loan balances.  The annual growth in average outstanding loan balances has been slightly more moderate for mortgages with an offset and interest-only mortgages at 3.3% and 3.4% respectively.   The annual rate of growth for mortgages with an offset is the fastest since September 2012 and the rate of growth for interest-only mortgages is at its fastest pace since September 2010.  Encouragingly, the data indicates that outstanding balances are reducing for low documentation and other non-standard loans as they become less common.  Over the past year the average balance has fallen by -2.9% for low-documentation loans and by -6.7% for other non-standard loans.  With mortgage rates low and fewer of these loan types being written it seems those that have these types of loans are continuing to pay down these mortgages at a fairly rapid pace.

Chart 4

Turning the focus to new loans written over the March 2015 quarter, 63.0% of the total value of new lending was to owner occupiers and 37.0% was to investors. The proportion of new lending to investors has fallen from a record high of 37.9% in the June 2014 quarter.  Based on this data it suggests that growth in demand for both owner occupier and investment lending may have peaked.  The annual change in new owner occupier and investment lending was recorded at 9.3% and 15.4% respectively.  The annual change in owner-occupied mortgages is growing at its fastest pace since March 2014 while the annual change in investment lending has been trending lower over the past two quarters.

Chart 5

Over the March 2015 quarter, 0.7% of new loans approved were low-documentation, 42.3% were interest-only, 0.1% was other non-standard loans, 42.2% were third party originated loans and 2.8% were loans approved outside of serviceability.  The 42.3% of new loans which were interest-only was down over the quarter with the proportion at its lowest level since March 2014.  The data also seems to reflect the slowing of growth in investment demand, remember that interest only loans tend to be (but not always) reflective of lending for investment purposes.  The ADIs seem to be increasing the usage of their broker channels with 42.2% of loans originated by third parties.  With 2.8% of new mortgages approved outside of serviceability over the March 2015 quarter, this was down from 2.9% over the previous quarter.

In terms of the annual change in new lending, the value of new low documentation loans approved rose 31.1% year-on-year, interest-only loans rose 19.7%, other non-standard loans fell -24.3%, third party originated loans increased by 14.9% and loans approved outside of serviceability increased 25.2%.  Although low documentation and loans outside of serviceability make up a small overall proportion of lending, the significant increase in lending for these loan types over the year is a potential cause for concern.

Chart 6

Looking at the loan to value ratios (LVR) of loans written over the March 2015 quarter,  25.7% of new loans had an LVR of less than 60%, 41.4% of loans had an LVR of between 60% and 80%, 21.7% had an LVR of between 80% and 90% and 11.1% had an LVR of 90% or more.  The 11.1% of new loans with an LVR of more than 90% is the lowest proportion since December 2010.  The 25.2% of mortgages with an LVR lower than 60% was the highest proportion since June 2013.  This falling proportion of loans above 90% LVR suggests there are proportionally less high-risk mortgages being written.  It should be noted that around a third of all new mortgages written (32.8%) had an LVR of more than 80%.

Looking at the year-on-year change in mortgage lending by LVR bands, mortgages with an LVR above 90% were the only segment to record a fall down -7.8%.  Mortgages with an LVR below 60% were up 18.6% year-on-year, LVRs of 60% to 80% were up 12.4% and LVRs of 80% to 90% rose 13.9%.  The 18.6% rise in mortgages with an LVR of less than 60% was the largest since December 2013, the 12.4% rise in mortgages with an LVR of 60% to 80% was the lowest since March 2013, the 13.9% rise in mortgages with an LVR of 80% to 90% was the lowest since March 2013 and the -7.38% fall in mortgages with an LVR greater than 90% was the largest fall since March 2011.

Given that we have recently seen many banks starting to implement changes in their lending policies, mostly focussed on investors we would anticipate that investor and interest-only lending will likely moderate over the coming quarters.  The decline in higher LVR lending is an encouraging development given a focus on mortgage serviceability at this time of low mortgage rates.  The increase in lending outside of serviceability and low documentation loans over the past year is likely to be an area of scrutiny for APRA over the coming months.


Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at CoreLogic RP Data.

Mortgages Investor Warning


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