Housing sentiment at its most positive in over 5 years: Matthew Hassan

Housing sentiment at its most positive in over 5 years: Matthew Hassan
Housing sentiment at its most positive in over 5 years: Matthew Hassan

EXPERT OBSERVER

Housing-related sentiment has improved but part of the gain looks to be based on an expected further lowering in rates.

Our latest Housing Pulse report finds sentiment-based measures giving the most positive signal in over five years. However, a sustained lift in demand has yet to be confirmed and there remain important caveats. In particular much of the lift looks to be based on an expected further improvement in affordability that may not materialise if prices start rising again or if the RBA disappoints on expected rate cuts.

Interest rate expectations have seen a big shift over the last year. Back in Aug 2018 most consumers expected rates to be higher by now. That hawkishness evaporated in Feb following a clear signal from the RBA that rates were more likely to fall than rise. The Bank followed up with two 25bp cuts in June and July, indicating that it is prepared to cut further “if needed”. Accordingly, most consumers now expect rates to be the same or lower in a year’s time with markets and economists expecting rates to be about 50bps lower.

Our August update of an additional question on consumer expectations for mortgage rates. The simplest summary measure – the net % expecting rates to rise – declined to 9.8 from 38.7 in Feb, 50.4 in Aug last year and a peak of 68.2 in Aug 2017. The latest read is a touch below the 9.9 in Aug 2016 and the least hawkish/most dovish since late 2011.

The history of this question, which has been run since 2010, shows a clear ‘upward bias’. Adjusting for this the latest reading looks to be consistent with about a 45bp decline in rates over the next year. That would place the consumer reading as slightly less dovish than current market pricing which has 60bps in RBA cuts priced in by this time next year but more in line with that of economists. For the record, Westpac expects the RBA to cut rates by 50bps over the next year, with two moves likely coming in Oct and Feb (see here for more).

MATTHEW HASSAN is a Senior Economist for Westpac

Tags: 
Housing Sentiment Consumer Sentiment

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