Housing finance accelerating again: Pete Wargent

Pete WargentAugust 10, 20160 min read
Measures taken to slow the housing market in 2015 did their job effectively, largely by restricting the amount that people could borrow.
Although there have been two interest rate cuts since May - a valedictory "double tap" from Governor Stevens, if you will - serviceability calculations continue to be assessed at a more stringent level.
As a result borrowers can generally borrow little more than was the case before the most recent salvo of easing.
This was to some extent reflected in the Housing Finance figures for June, released by the ABS today following a troublesome Census night website crash.
Although the average loan size has been increasing steadily again from $352,200 to $360,100 since February, this figure remains below the peak of $382,300 seen in November last year. 
And it's a similar story for first homebuyer loan sizes. 

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At the state level, the first homebuyer loan sizes figures show the impact of tighter serviceability calculations.

Total finance

The net effect of this is that although trend total monthly housing finance has also now been rising again for the past few months - back up to well above $32 billion - the total value of commitments for now remains below the peak of $32.7 billion seen in June last year.
Investor lending was the main target of the macroprudential crackdown, as you can see in the chart below. 
With the speed of investor credit growth now only about half of the arbitrary 10 per cent "speed limit", investor lending has now been trending up again for the past six months, albeit at a far less frantic pace than seen previously.

Homebuyers return
The level of activity of homebuyers in the market has generally been relatively lower than we have seen in previous cycles, in part due to the sheer volume of investors in the Sydney and Melbourne markets since interest rates were dropped.
However, following the effectively imposed caps on investor lending banks are now targeting the home loan market, and the trend number of monthly owner-occupier commitments has continued to rise to the highest level since June 2009. 

State versus state

The number of owner-occupier commitments is trending solidly higher in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the ACT.
Homebuyer activity remains high in Sydney and Melbourne, but these markets will also be impacted by serviceability constraints.

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Indeed, this is reflected in the dampened trend monthly value of owner-occupier commitments in the two most populous states in the chart below.
The homebuyer trend value of commitments appears to be strongest in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the ACT.

That said there has been a marked resurgence in investor lending in Sydney, sending preliminary auction clearance rates to their highest level of the year, at above 80 per cent.
The wrap
Overall, despite lots of alarmist reporting housing finance is tracking both at a historically high level, and is now accelerating again.
And remember that these figures for June pre-date an interest rate cut delivered in August.
It's also worth remembering that the underlying demand for mortgages right now is enormous - the only reason lending slowed was because regulators were getting concerned about the sheer wight of demand for borrowing.
The data seem to be following a remarkably similar trajectory to what we saw in the United Kingdom following its own macroprudential intervention (the so-termed Mortgage Market Review). 
That is the initial shock clonked the market on to the back foot, but as the dust settles lending is on the rise again - just more steadily than it was before.

Finally, the ABS reported a small increase in first homebuyer activity, but as disclosed by the ABS these data remain incomplete.

NAB's survey for Q2 2016 showed that first homebuyers accounted for 1 in 3 new home sales in the June quarter, and 29 per cent of established home sales.

Pete Wargent

Pete Wargent is the co-founder of BuyersBuyers.com.au, offering affordable homebuying assistance to all Australians, and a best-selling author and blogger.
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