Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA

Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA
Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA

Australia does have its own history in the early 1990s of large losses on commercial property lending, according to the RBA.

Noting a classic boom-bust or ‘hog cycle’ story, the bank's head of Financial Stability recalled over those five years, Australian banks experienced losses of around 10 per cent of their loans, concentrated in their commercial property lending.

"One part of the commercial property sector that the Reserve Bank has been watching closely is loans for the development of residential property," according to Jonathan Kearns the bank's head of Financial Stability.

He said in a speech to the Aus-China Property Developers, Investors & Financiers that the surge in apartments recently completed and under construction in the major cities "raises the risk of price falls."

The construction of new apartments has been largest relative to the existing stock in Brisbane and inner-city Melbourne, though it is largest in absolute numbers in Sydney.

"Prices for other types of commercial property have risen sharply with a strong increase in demand from international investors seeking the relatively high yields available on Australian commercial property. Exceptionally low long-term interest rates globally have pushed up valuations for property and other assets, all the more so because relatively strong and stable global economic growth in the past few years has reduced investors' perception of the current risks.

"While there has not been a surge in construction, the run up in commercial property prices raises the risk of a sharp correction, for example if there is a change in sentiment or a pick-up in long term interest rates."

Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA

He noted commercial office markets have been strongest in Sydney and Melbourne with low vacancy rates and rising prices.

"In contrast, conditions have been weaker in Perth where vacancy rates increased sharply with the downturn in the state economy from the decline in mining investment.

"Conditions in retail property markets have also been relatively subdued across Australia.

"In part, this reflects strong competition in the retail sector from new entrants and online retailers.

Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA

"However, banks have continued to grow their lending for new retail developments and refurbishments with an increased focus on entertainment, hospitality, services and mixed residential.

"Overall, Australian banks have tightened their lending conditions for commercial property in recent years."

Risk of sharp correction exists in commercial property: RBA

Kearns suggested restrained lending by Australian banks had provided an opportunity for new entrants into the market.

"Asian banks have grown their commercial property lending sharply, more than doubling their market share in just two years, although it remains relatively small.

"This strong growth in commercial property lending by Asian banks is reminiscent of European banks' growth in the lead up to the financial crisis. However, whereas Australian banks eased their lending standards in that pre-crisis period in order to compete, this time Australian banks do not appear to have eased lending standards."

Commercial Property Rba Insights


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