Lower interest rates reducing mortgage stress – Roy Morgan

New results from Roy Morgan’s mortgage stress data show that in the three months to April 2017, 16.8% or 666,000 mortgage holders can be considered to be ‘at risk’ or facing some degree of stress over their repayments. This compares favourably with 18.4% or 744,000
mortgage holders 12 months ago.

These are the latest findings from Roy Morgan’s Single Source survey of 50,000+ people pa, which includes more than 10,000 owner occupied mortgage holders.

Mortgage stress is much higher among the lower income groups (Under $60kpa) where it currently reaches 85.3% for those considered ‘at risk’ and 65% for ‘extremely at risk’.

Mortgage stress is based on the ability of home borrowers to meet the repayment guidelines currently provided by the major banks. The level of mortgage holders being currently considered ‘at risk’ is based on their ability to meet repayments on the original amount borrowed. This is currently 16.8%, which is well below the average over the last decade.

DFA comments – interesting findings, presumably looking at owner occupied mortgages? The basis of assessment is different. Also, current repayment guidelines are in our opinion too generous, given current income growth. We think underwriting standards need to be tighter, judging by overall household cash flow, which have been tracking in our mortgage stress analysis.

Finally, whether 666,000 households from Roy Morgan, or 794,000 from DFA, are both big numbers!

 

What’s The Correlation Between Mortgage Stress And Loan Non Performance?

Last night DFA was involved in a flurry of tweets about the relationship between our rolling mortgage stress data and mortgage non-performance over time. The core questions revolved around our method of assessing mortgage stress, and the strength, or otherwise of the correlation.

We were also asked about our expectations as to when non-performing mortgage loans will more above 1% of portfolio, given the uptick in stress we are seeing at the moment.

Our May 2017 data showed that across the nation, more than 794,000 households are now in mortgage stress (last month 767,000) with 30,000 of these in severe stress. This equates to 24.8% of households, up from 23.4% last month. We also estimate that nearly 55,000 households risk default in the next 12 months.

However, it got too late last night to try and explain our analysis in 140 characters. So here is more detail on our approach to mortgage stress, and importantly a chart which slows the relationship between stress data and mortgage non-performance.

Our analysis uses our core market model which combines information from our 52,000 household surveys, public data from the RBA, ABS and APRA; and private data from lenders and aggregators. The data is current to end May 2017.

We analyse household cash flow based on real incomes, outgoings and mortgage repayments. Households are “stressed” when income does not cover ongoing costs, rather than identifying a set proportion of income, (such as 30%) going on the mortgage.

Those households in mild stress have little leeway in their cash flows, whereas those in severe stress are unable to meet repayments from current income. In both cases, households manage this deficit by cutting back on spending, putting more on credit cards and seeking to refinance, restructure or sell their home. Those in severe stress are more likely to be seeking hardship assistance and are often forced to sell.

We also make an estimate of predicated 30 day defaults in the year ahead (PD30) based on our stress data, and an economic overlay including expected mortgage rates, inflation, income growth and underemployment, at a post code level.

Here is the mapping between stress and non-performance of loans.

The red line is the data from the regulators on non-performing mortgage loans. In 2016 it sat around 0.7%. There was a peak following the 2007/8 financial crisis, after which interest rates and mortgage rates came down.

We show three additional lines on the chart. The first is our severe stress measure, the blue line, which is higher than the default rate, but follows the non-performance line quite well. The second line is the PD30 estimate, our prediction at the time of the expected level of default, in the year ahead. This is shown by the dotted yellow line, and tends to lead the actual level of defaults. Again there is a reasonable correlation.

The final line shows the mild stress household data. This is plotted on the right hand scale, and has a lower level of correlation, but nevertheless a reasonable level of shaping. After the GFC, rates cuts, plus the cash splash, helped households get out of trouble by in large, but since then the size of mortgages have grown, income in real terms is falling, living cost are rising as is underemployment. Plus mortgage rates have been rising, and the net impact in the past six months, with the RBA cash rate cut on one hand, and out of cycle rises by the banks on the other, is that mortgage repayments are higher today, than they were, for both owner occupied borrowers and investors. Interest only investors are the hardest hit.

Households are responding by cutting back on their spending, seeking to refinance and restructure their loans, and generally hunkering down. All not good for broader economic growth!

So, given the severe stress, mild stress and our PD30 estimates are all currently rising, we expect non-performing loans to rise above 1% of portfolio during 2018. Unless the RBA cuts, and the mortgage rates follow.

 

Australians Curb Spending as Household Debt Balloons

From Reuters.

Australia’s economy may have achieved a remarkable winning streak, avoiding a recession for 25 years, but there are now clear signs that the consumers who have driven much of the growth are running out of puff.

With cash interest rates at a record low and house prices near record highs, the nation’s household debt-to-income ratio has climbed to an all-time peak of 189 percent, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

That means there are an increasing number of people who have little cash for discretionary spending – on everything from cars to electrical appliances and new clothes – as their pay packets get consumed by large mortgages and high rental payments in the country’s red-hot property market.

And it’s not as if a sudden plunge in home prices would help – it might well expose and exacerbate the problem, at least in the short run, squeezing many who have bought into the frothy market with high mortgage repayments and little equity in their homes.

“We are seeing a considerable spike in stress even in more affluent households. Large mortgages, big commitments but no income growth,” said Digital Finance Analytics (DFA) Principal Martin North. “Stressed households are less likely to spend at the shops, which acts as a drag anchor on future growth.”

North estimates a record 52,000 households risk default in the next 12 months and that 23.4 percent of Australian families are under mortgage stress, meaning their income does not cover ongoing costs. That compares with about 19 percent a year ago.

“People are up to their ears in mortgages,” said Brad Smith, a car sales consultant at MotorPoint Sydney which has seen a stark slowdown in sales in the past six months. “They are all on a budget. Everyone’s got all their money in houses, that’s how it is.”

Australians are also facing a cash crunch because price inflation in essential items such as food, electricity and insurance is accelerating at a 3.4 percent annual rate at a time when Australian wages are rising at their slowest pace on record, just 1.9 percent in the year to March.

Meanwhile, growth in retail sales, personal loans and luxury car sales are all at multi-year lows, suggesting the household sector – nearly 60 percent of Australia’s A$1.7 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy – is under severe strain.

A CONSUMPTION PROBLEM

Australia’s love affair with property is worrying the RBA which has repeatedly warned against the danger of excessive real estate borrowing and the impact on spending elsewhere in the economy.

The central bank is reluctant to raise interest rates to cool the property market as it is concerned that would hit domestic demand at a time when real wages growth has turned negative. Besides, borrowing by businesses is growing at the slowest rate in three years.

Still, signs of a spending pullback is prompting economists to rethink Australia’s strong growth projections.

Only last month, the RBA upgraded its gross domestic product (GDP) forecast by 25 basis points to an annual 2.75-3.75 percent by the middle of next year from 2.50-3.50 percent it projected in February.

RBA’s confidence emanates from a levelling off in mining investment after years of steep falls, a rebound in the price of iron ore and coal prices – Australia is a major exporter of both – from 2015 lows, and the home building boom.

However, many believe the central bank’s forecast might prove too optimistic.

Both Morgan Stanley and National Australia Bank believe the economy might have slammed into reverse in the March quarter, after rising 1.1 percent in the December quarter. First-quarter GDP data is due on June 7.

“As the housing market slows, we see consumption growth as a major risk amid record-low wages growth and ongoing headwinds to discretionary cash flows,” Morgan Stanley economist Daniel Blake said.

RETAILING PAIN

Weak consumer spending is proving a huge drag on retailers’ performance, with shares in furniture and appliance chain Harvey Norman and electronics shop JB Hi-Fi both trading near one-year lows.

Retail sales have hardly grown in the past few months. Even online sales have slowed, with all major categories including homeware, games and toys, daily deals and takeaway food shrinking in April, according to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index.

Car sales have flattened this year after solid growth in 2016 while sales of luxury cars and sports utility vehicles are at a four-year low.

For consumers such as Sydney resident Marie-Aimee Guillermin, there’s little ‘play money’ left after stepping into Sydney’s housing market with a A$1.4 million 3-bedroom house last month.

“We thought once we had the house we could take our foot off the brake a little bit but now that we have it I feel even less certain in terms of stability and financial security,” she told Reuters.

“So whether we’ll end up spending a bit more on clothes and restaurants and going out and what have you I don’t see that happening.” ($1 = 1.3377 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Jonathan Barrett and Martin Howell)

 

Mortgage Stress Accelerates Further In May

Digital Finance Analytics has released mortgage stress and default modelling for Australian mortgage borrowers, to end May 2017.  Across the nation, more than 794,000 households are now in mortgage stress (last month 767,000) with 30,000 of these in severe stress. This equates to 24.8% of households, up from 23.4% last month. We also estimate that nearly 55,000 households risk default in the next 12 months.

The main drivers are rising mortgage rates and living costs whilst real incomes continue to fall and underemployment is on the rise.  This is a deadly combination and is touching households across the country,  not just in the mortgage belts.

This analysis uses our core market model which combines information from our 52,000 household surveys, public data from the RBA, ABS and APRA; and private data from lenders and aggregators. The data is current to end May 2017.

We analyse household cash flow based on real incomes, outgoings and mortgage repayments. Households are “stressed” when income does not cover ongoing costs, rather than identifying a set proportion of income, (such as 30%) going on the mortgage.

Those households in mild stress have little leeway in their cash flows, whereas those in severe stress are unable to meet repayments from current income. In both cases, households manage this deficit by cutting back on spending, putting more on credit cards and seeking to refinance, restructure or sell their home.  Those in severe stress are more likely to be seeking hardship assistance and are often forced to sell.

Martin North, Principal of Digital Finance Analytics said “Mortgage stress continues to rise as households experience rising living costs, higher mortgage rates and flat incomes. Risk of default is rising in areas of the country where underemployment, and unemployment are also rising. Expected future mortgage rate rises will add further pressure on households”.

“Stressed households are less likely to spend at the shops, which acts as a drag anchor on future growth. The number of households impacted are economically significant, especially as household debt continues to climb to new record levels. The latest housing debt to income ratio is at a record 188.7* so households will remain under pressure.”

“Analysis across our household segments highlights that stress is touching more affluent groups as well as those in traditional mortgage belts”.

*RBA E2 Household Finances – Selected Ratios Dec 2016.

Regional analysis shows that NSW has 216,836 (211,000 last month) households in stress, VIC 217,000 (209,000), QLD 145,970 (139,000) and WA 119,690 (109,000). The probability of default has also risen, with more than 10,000 in WA, 10,000 in QLD, 13,000 in VIC and 15,000 in NSW.

Probability of default extends the mortgage stress analysis by overlaying economic indicators such as employment, future wage growth and cpi changes.  Regional analysis is included in the table below.

Record numbers of home owners approaching Mortgage stress

From Ten Eyewitness News

When it comes to paying off the Mortgage, it’s a slippery slope that could see the entire house of cards come tumbling down.

New figures released by the Australian National University have found that one in five Aussies are constantly struggling to pay their mortgage, while others have admitted to falling behind.

The results showed that almost one in every four mortgage holders would face difficulty keeping up with their repayments if interest rates increased by two percentage points.

It’s an ugly picture to paint, with one of four households nationwide in mortgage stress, Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North said the risk of default was rising, especially in areas where underemployment and unemployment were also rising.

“Mortgage stress continues to rise as households experience rising living costs, higher mortgage rates and flat incomes,” Mr North said.

“Expected future mortgage rate rises will add further pressure on households.”

Tuesday’s Federal budget is predicted to contain housing affordability measures, but the ANU poll found 68 percent of those not in the housing market are concerned they will never be able to afford a home.

It’s a stark contrast; 75 percent of those surveyed believe owning a home is part of the Australian way of life, yet 87 percent are concerned future generations won’t be able to afford to buy a house.

Associate Professor Ben Phillips said the survey showed support for an increase in the supply of housing and public housing.

“The ANU poll also found almost half of homeowners would be willing to see their property stop growing in value to improve housing affordability while only 31.8 percent would not.

“This may suggest that the issue of housing affordability is acute enough that Australians may accept policy change that could reduce prices or the rate of price growth to allow more equitable access to the housing market,” he said.

The Latest Top 10 Post Codes In Risk Of Mortgage Default

Today using our latest mortgage stress and probability of default data, we explore the top ten highest risk post codes across the country. Specifically, we look at where we expect the largest number of mortgage defaults to occur over the next few months.

We explore the latest mortgage stress and default modelling, using data to the end of April 2017. We have already highlighted that overall mortgage stress is rising, with more than 767,000 households in stress compared with last month’s 669,000. This equates to 23.4% of households, up from 21.8% last month. 32,000 of these are in severe stress. We also estimate that nearly 52,000 households risk default in the next 12 months.

But now we look at individual post codes, and explore the top ten based on the number of households we expect to default. This is calculated using our 52,000 household sample with economic overlays for employment, inflation, interest rates and costs of living.

Note the labels in the chart above are only examples of locations within the postcodes.

As a general observation, many of the worst hit post codes are areas containing large numbers of newer property in the outer urban ring. Households here have large mortgages and limited income growth relative to house prices. But there are some important differences in terms of recent house price movements across the post codes.

We will count down the top 10, from 10th down to the highest risk postcode. So stay with us to the end!

The tenth highest risk post code in Australia is 6027 in Western Australia. This is the city of Joondalup and includes places like Ocean Reef and Edgewater. It is about 25 kilometres north of Perth. It’s a fast growing area with lots of young families, lots of new homes and large mortgages relative to income. The average house price is $510,000, down from $570,000 in 2014. We estimate there are more than 1,900 households in mortgage stress in the area, and 211 are likely to default in the next few months.

In ninth spot is Victorian post code 3064. This includes Craigieburn, Mickleham and Roxburgh Park. This area is about 25 kilometres north from Melbourne. The average house price is $438,000, up from $330,000 in 2014.  Again it is a fast growing area, with more than 60% of households holding a mortgage. The average age here is 30 years. We estimate there are 4,320 households in mortgage stress, and 212 are likely to default in the next few months.

Next at number eight is 4740 in Queensland. This includes Mackay and the surround areas, including Alexandra, Beaconsfield, Richmond and Slade Point. This area is more than 800 kilometres north of Brisbane, and is the gateway to the Bowen Basin coal mining reserves of Central Queensland. The average house price is $240,000 compared with $400,000 in 2014.  We estimate there are more than 3,600 households in mortgage stress in the region, and 244 are likely to default in the next few months.

We go back to Victoria for the seventh placed postcode which is 3029, Hoppers Crossing. This is a suburb of Melbourne about 23 kilometres’ south-west of the CBD and has grown to become a substantial residential area, with about half of properties there mortgaged. The average age is around 35. The average house price is $440,000 compared with $340,000 in 2014. We estimate there to be more than 3,400 households in mortgage stress, and we expect 266 households to default in the next few months.

In sixth place in Western Australia, is 6164, the city of Cockburn. It is about 8 kilometres south of Fremantle and about 24 kilometres south of Perth’s central business district. It includes areas like Jandakot, South Lake and Success. Around 40% of homes in the region are mortgaged and the average age is 31 years. Average house prices are around $730,000 about the same as in 2014. More than 2,530 households are in mortgage stress here, and the estimated number of defaults in the next few months is 308.

Next, counting down to number five, is another WA location, 6065, the city of Wanneroo which is around 25 kilometres north of Perth on the rail corridor. Again a fast growing suburb, the city has had the largest population expansion out of any other local government area in greater Perth. The average house price is $425,000 compared with $480,000 in 2014. Nearly half of households here have a mortgage, and more than 7,400 are in mortgage stress. We estimate that 339 households are likely to default in the next few months.

In fourth spot is Cranborne in Victoria, 3977. It is a suburb in the outer south east of Melbourne, 43 kilometres from the central business district. Its local government area is the City of Casey which is one of Victoria’s most populous regions, with a population of well over a quarter of a million. The average house price is $425,000 compared with $330,000 in 2014. In 3977, close to half of all homes are mortgaged, and we estimate 2,750 households are in mortgage stress, including 344 in severe stress. We estimate around 340 households will default in the next few months.

So down to the top three. The third most risky postcode according to our analysis is Victorian post code 3030 which is the region around Derrimut and Werribee. Werribee is a suburb of Geelong and is about 29 kilometres south west of Melbourne. The median house price is $405,000, well above its 2014 level of $310,000. Here 3,730 households are in mortgage stress, and 342 are likely to default in the next few months.

In second place is another Western Australian post code, 6155, Canning Vale and Willetton. It’s a large southern suburb of Perth, 20 kilometres from the CBD. The population has been growing quickly with significant new builds, and 60% of households have a mortgage. The average house price is around $560,000, down from $610,000 in 2014. The average age is 32 years. We estimate there are 4,150 households in mortgage stress and 342 households risk default in the next few months.

So finally, in top spot, at number one, is another Western Australian postcode 6210, Mandurah. This also includes suburbs such as Meadow Springs and Dudley Park. Mandurah is a southwest coast suburb, 65 kilometres from Perth. The average home price is around $300,000 and has fallen from $340,000 since 2014. Here there are 1,430 households in mortgage stress but we estimate 388 are at risk of default in the next few months.

As a final aside, in twenty second place, is the highest risk postcode in New South Wales, 2155, Kellyville, which is 36 kilometres north-west of the Sydney central business district in The Hills Shire. The average house price here is $1.1 million, compared with $860,000 in 2014. We estimate there are 1,240 households in mild stress and we estimate 151 households risk default in the next few months.

So that completes our analysis of the current most risky postcodes. We will update our modelling next month, so check back to see how the trends develop. But in summary households in Western Australia are most exposed in the current environment, especially with house prices there falling.

Mortgage Stress On The Radio

I had the chance to discuss our latest mortgage stress research with Jon Faine on ABC Radio Melbourne today.

The ABC also did an on-line segment based on the interview:

Almost 52,000 Australian households are at risk of defaulting on their mortgages in the next 12 months and a quarter of home owners are under home loan stress, a data analyst has said.

Key points:

  • Mortgage stress now spreading to more affluent areas, researcher says
  • Half of people under financial strain don’t have a budget, survey finds
  • WA, Victoria and Queensland leading the way on default risk

According to Digital Finance Analytics (DFA), 767,000 households were in mortgage stress in April, meaning they had little leeway in their finances, up from 669,000 the previous month.

Of those, it said 32,000 were in severe stress and unable to meet repayments with their current income.

It estimated almost 52,000 households were at risk of defaulting in the next year.

“It’s a concerning trend, and it’s a growing trend, and essentially there’s quite a smattering [of households under stress] across the country,” DFA’s principal Martin North told ABC Radio Melbourne.

    “What’s significant about the research is it isn’t just in the usual suspects, in other words the mortgage belt, the battling areas you might expect.

“We’re seeing households in all sorts of different areas now experiencing quite some difficulty in just managing their mortgage repayments.”

Traditionally well-off suburbs like Hornsby in Sydney, Brighton in Melbourne and Mount Claremont in Perth were also seeing high levels of stress.

The data was drawn from household surveys conducted by DFA, data from the Reserve Bank, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and APRA.

WA, Victoria lead the way on default risk

Of the 20 postcodes with the most risk of default, the majority fell in WA, followed by Victoria and Queensland.

Mr North said in New South Wales mortgage stress was spread out in a number of different areas, compared to Victoria’s, which was more concentrated in its booming growth suburbs.

Postcodes with high default risk:

  • WA – Mandurah, Wanneroo, Canning Vale, Beeliar
  • VIC – Derrimut, Point Cook, Werribee, Cranbourne, Craigieburn
  • QLD – Mackay, Carrara, Nerang, Hervey Bay, Toowoomba

    In those states, and around Brisbane, stress was related to flat incomes, big mortgages and rising costs of living exacerbated by investors.

    “While the economic indicators are reasonably good in Victoria, if you actually look at real incomes, they are actually not great. The cost of living is growing faster in Victoria than elsewhere,” he said.

In NSW, high home values have pushed up repayments. Mr North also highlighted high childcare costs as a particular problem.

“In WA, we’ve got prices falling significantly and unemployment rising. It’s pretty scary what’s happening there,” he said.

In some parts of Queensland it’s a similar story to the west. Home values, employment and incomes are falling in the resource-heavy areas like Mackay and the Bowen Basin.
What should you do if you’re in mortgage stress?

Mr North said there were a few things you could do if you were struggling, or to avoid getting into trouble.

Set out a clear budget so you know what you’re spending on
Prioritise what you spend money on
Go to the bank for help

“Only half the households we surveyed actually have a formal household budget, so they know what they’re spending and what they’re earning, and some people don’t want to look and some never bother,” he said.

“Make some choices about where to spend your money. Some people would say things like high-speed internet connectivity on your phone and all those sorts of things are really critical. But is it as critical as paying that mortgage?”

He said banks were obligated by law to help those struggling with their repayments.

    “Many people think it’ll be OK and just muddle on through, what I would say is if you’re in difficulty have a conversation with your bank and see what can be done,” he said.

“But many people muddle along for too long and get to a point where they have no choice but to sell.”

Big loans, flat wages driving financial troubles

Mr North said household debt in Australia was higher than ever before, combined with the growing cost of living.

“Prices have been rising significantly and people have been reaching for ever-larger mortgages to get into the market, so people have fundamentally bigger debts than previously,” he said.

“What we’re finding is things like childcare costs, school fees, rates, all those things have gone up a lot and then the fact that these larger mortgages, because prices have gone up, are being impacted by interest rate rises.

“Don’t underestimate the small, incremental interest rate rise translating into quite a big dollar-a-month increase when you’ve got a big mortgage.”

Mr North said the issues stemmed from the combination of underemployment and stagnant wages.

“In the early 2000s when we had very strong property price growth and mortgage growth we had very, very strong income growth to match, so essentially things worked OK,” he said.

“But this time around we’ve got a combination of very large mortgages, but income [is] static or falling in real terms and that’s the difference.

“What that means is this is not going to get worked out anytime soon, so all this talk about housing affordability and helping new people get into the market are missing the key point.

“These are people in the market now with their properties, dealing with these mortgages, dealing with the day-to-day issues of trying to manage their finances and it’s really tough.”

Wealthy feel pinch of housing costs as one in four Australians face mortgage stress

From The Guardian Australia.

The burden of housing costs is biting even in Australia’s wealthiest suburbs as an unprecedented one in four households nationally face mortgage stress, according to the latest in a 15-year series of analyses.

Households in Toorak and Bondi, prestigious pockets of affluence in Australia’s biggest cities, have made the list of those struggling to meet repayments amid rising costs and stagnating wages, research firm Digital Finance Analytics has found.

The firm’s principal, Martin North, said it was surprising new evidence showed that financial distress from property price surges reached beyond “the battlers and the mortgage belt” and was a “much broader and much more significant problem”.

The survey, which analyses real cash flows against mortgage repayments, finds more than 767,000 households or 23.4% are now in mortgage stress, which means they have little or no spare cash after covering costs.

This includes 32,000 that are in severe stress, meaning they cannot cover repayments from current income.

The firm predicts that almost 52,000 households will probably default on mortgages over the next year. Risk hotspots include Meadow Springs and Canning Vale in Western Australia, Derrimut and Cranbourne in Victoria, and Mackay and Pacific Pines in Queensland.

Overall, New South Wales and Victoria, whose capital cities have seen a recent surge in home prices, accounted for more than half the probable defaults (270,000) and households in mortgage distress (420,000).

North said the numbers were “an early indicator of risk in the system”.

The underlying drivers were “flat or falling wage growth”, much faster rising living costs and the likelihood mortgage interest payments would only go up.

Widespread mortgage burdens were limiting spending elsewhere and “sucking the life out of the economy”, and the problem should be addressed to head off a housing crash and its repercussions, North said.

“If we start seeing house prices slipping then this can turn into a US 2007 scenario rather quickly,” he said.

North is not alone in highlighting household vulnerability. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s financial stability review last month observed one-third of Australian borrowers had little or no mortgage “buffer”, which North said was “the first time they’ve ever admitted it”.

Finder.com last week found 57% of mortgagees could not handle a rise of $100 or more in monthly repayments.

“The surprising thing is that people in Bondi in NSW, for example, or even young affluents who have bought down in Toorak in Victoria are actually on the list [of mortgage stressed],” North said.

“The reason is they’ve bought significantly large mortgages to buy a unit, modified or brand new.

“They’ve got bigger incomes than average but essentially they are highly leveraged so they have little wiggle room and of course any incremental rate rise, because they’ve got such big mortgages, slugs them pretty heavily.”

Semi-retirees who moved to central coast NSW but are still exposed to large mortgages while their incomes were falling away were another atypical snapshot of those in financial distress, North said.

“And the people at the top, the most affluent households, the ones who’ve got really big properties, have the lifestyles to match. So again, their spare cash is not huge.

“And that point – it isn’t just the mortgage belt, it isn’t just the typical battlers who are actually exposed here – shows is a much broader, more significant problem.”

Brokers have ‘important role to play’ for stressed households

From The Adviser.

Mortgage brokers have an important role to play for the increasing number of households experiencing mortgage stress, as they are a “very good source of advice” according to a market analyst.

Around 52,000 households are now at risk of default in the next 12 months, according to mortgage stress and default modelling from Digital Finance Analytics for the month of April.

The modelling revealed that across the nation, more than 767,000 households are now in mortgage stress (669,000 in March) with 32,000 of those in ‘severe’ stress. Overall, this equates to 23.4 per cent of households, up from 21.8 per cent on the prior month.

Speaking to Mortgage Business, Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North remarked that mortgage brokers have a role to play for stressed households in terms of helping them “find their way through the maze”.

“Maybe that’s a restructure, maybe it’s a different type of loan… I think [brokers] are a very good source of advice for households and for people who come and seek guidance [for example] refinancing may help,” Mr North said.

In saying this, Mr North noted that when it comes to identifying an appropriate loan for customers, brokers should remain “conservative” in their estimation of what households can afford.

“Don’t encourage households to borrow as big as they can. That 2 to 3 per cent buffer is really important, and those spending and affordability calculations are really important.

“There’s an obligation both on brokers and on lenders to do due diligence on borrowers to make sure that they’re not buying unsuitably, and that includes detailed analysis of household expenditure.

“My observation is that some of those calculations don’t necessarily get to the real richness of where households are at, so I think that all those operating in the market need to be aware of the fact that how we look at spending becomes really important on mortgage assessments.”

Mr North added that brokers should operate on the assumption that rates and the cost of living will continue to rise, while incomes remain static.

“So, don’t try and flog that bigger mortgage,” he recommended. “I would say be conservative in your advice and the structure of the conversation you have.”

The latest results of Digital Finance Analytics’ mortgage stress and default modelling are “not all that surprising”, Mr North said, considering that incomes are static or falling, mortgage rates are rising, and the cost of living remains “very significant” for many households.

“All those things together mean that we’ve got a bit of a perfect storm in terms of creating a problem for many households,” he said, adding that for many households, any further rises in mortgage rates or the cost of living would be sufficient to move them from ‘mild’ to ‘severe’ stress.

“It doesn’t take much to tip people over the edge. It takes about 18 months to two years between people getting into financial difficulty and ultimately having to refinance or sell their property or do something to alleviate it dramatically, so I think we’re in that transition period at the moment as rates rise… over the next 12 to 18 months my expectation is that we would see mortgage stress and defaults both on the up.”

According to Mr North, Digital Finance Analytics’ data uses a core market model, which combines information from its 52,000 household surveys, public data from the RBA, ABS and APRA, and private data from lenders and aggregators. The data is current to the end of April 2017.

The market analyst examines household cash flow based on real incomes, outgoings and mortgage repayments. Households are “stressed” when income does not cover ongoing costs, rather than identifying a set proportion of income, (such as 30 per cent) directed to a mortgage.

What The Mortgage Stress Data Tells Us

Following the initial release yesterday, and the coverage in the AFR, today we drill down further into the latest mortgage stress results.

By way of background, we have been tracking stress for years, and in 2014 we set out the approach we use. Other than increasing the sample, and getting more granular on household finance, the method remains the same, and consistent. We can plot the movement of stress over time.

Remember that the recent RBA Financial Stability review revealed that 30% of households were under pressure with no mortgage buffer, and a recent Finder.com.au piece suggested more than 50% were unable to cope with a $100 a month rise. So we are not alone in suggesting households are under greater financial pressure.

For this analysis we plot the number of households in mild stress (making mortgage repayments on time but tightening their belts so to do); severe stress (insufficient cash flow to pay the mortgage), and also an estimation of the number of households who may hit a 30-day default within the next 12 months. This is calculated by adding in a range of economic overlays into the stress data. This is all done in our core market model, which contains data from our rolling surveys, private data from lenders and other sources, and public data from the RBA, APRA and ABS.  This model is unique in the Australian context because it runs at a post code and household segment level, allowing us to drill into the detail. This is important because averaging masks significant variations.

The analysis shows that there are more severely stressed households in NSW than other states, and that around 13,000 households risk default in the next year, a similar number to VIC. WA is third on this list, with the number of defaults lower elsewhere.

Another lens is by the locations of households, in the residential zones around our major cities. The highest risk of default resides in the our suburbs, where a higher proportion of households are in severe stress. Households in inner regional Australia are next, followed by the inner suburbs, where again more households are in severe stress.

Our core household segmentation shows that the highest count of defaults are likely among the suburban mainstream, then the disadvantaged fringe, followed by mature stable families and young growing families. It is also worth noting that the young affluent and exclusive professional, the two most affluent segments contain a number of severe stressed households. This have larger mortgages and lifestyles, but not necessarily more available cash.

Finally, for today, here is the mapping across the regions. No surprise that the largest number of stressed households are in the main urban centres of  Melbourne and Sydney.

Next time we will look at post codes across the country.