The Great Rotation – The Property Imperative Weekly 3rd June

The great rotation is well underway as investors vote with their feet whilst first time buyers are getting greater incentives to buy into the market at its peak. Welcome to the Property Imperative Weekly for 3rd June 2017.

In this weeks review we look at changes to mortgage interest rates, new first time buyer incentives and new findings from our core market model, freshly updated to end of May.

We saw a litany of rate hikes during the week, and other changes to lending conditions. On Monday NAB reduced the maximum LVR for interest only loans from 95% to 80% for both owner occupied and investor purchasers.  They also reduced the LVR for construction loans to 90%.

On Tuesday, AMP bank lifted its variable interest rate for owner occupied loans by 28 basis points and the bank also hiked fixed rates for owner-occupied and investment interest-only loans by 20 basis points. They dropped the maximum loan-to-value ratio for interest-only loans from 90 per cent to 80 per cent. On the other hand, fixed rates for owner-occupied principal and interest loans have decreased by 10 basis points.

On the same day Westpac reduced the LVR for new and existing interest only loans to 80%, across the board including both owner occupied and investment loans. They also said they would no longer accept new standalone refinance applications from external providers. But they waived the switching fees for borrowers who wanted to shift from interest only to principal and interest loans.

On Wednesday NAB offered new white label principal and interest mortgages through its Advantedge wholesale funder, with a maximum LVR of 80%, including at 4.24% loans to residential investors.

On Thursday, Teachers Mutual brought out a new hybrid combination mortgage, which limits the amount of the loan which can be interest only.  They also increased the interest only loan rate by 40 basis points.

And on Friday, Bank West, the CBA subsidiary announced a new LVR band at 95% plus, with a mortgage rate of 5.29%, up by three quarters of a percent. Other lending will be capped at 95% LVR.

So mortgage rates continue to rise, especially for interest only loans, and investors; and underwriting standards continue to tighten.  Many households will see their repayments rise, again, despite no change in the RBA cash rate, so adding to their financial stress.

This week we got the April lending data from the RBA and APRA. The Reserve Bank said housing lending rose 0.5% in the month, or 6.5% over the past year to $1.66 trillion dollars. Within this, owner occupied loans rose 0.55% whilst investment loans grew 0.36%, and another $1.1 billion were reclassified by the banks, making a total of $52 billion which is nearly 10% of the investment loan book. This ongoing switching should be concerning the regulators because it means that either the bank data is just wrong, or borrowers are deciding to switch an investment loan to an owner occupied loan to get a lower rate, but we wonder what checks are being done when this occurs.

The proportion of lending to productive business fell again, so housing lending is still dominating the scene to the detriment of the broader economy and sustainable long term growth.

APRA showed that the banks lifted their investor loans by $2.1 billion in April though all the majors are well below the 10% speed limit. The quarterly property exposures showed a fall in higher LVR lending, but interest only loans still well above the 30% threshold APRA set. But weirdly APRA warned that we should not use these statistics to access the impact of their latest moves, because the reported data is based on approved loans, whereas their measure is on funded loans. So plenty of wriggle room and more fog around the data.

Talking of wriggling, Wayne Byres gave evidence to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee and under sustained questioning said alarm bells were ringing on home prices and that we had entered a high risk phase.  It is worth watching the video of the session, which is linked on the DFA Blog.  The regulators continue to be coy about the issue, which by the way is confronting many other countries too. The truth is the financialisation of property is the root cause of the property bubbles around the world, and it will be very hard to tame. Australia is not the only country with a bubble.

Amid all this mayhem, and with bank stocks under pressure relative to the rest of the market, New South Wales released their housing affordability plan. NSW has perpetuated the “quick fix” approach to housing affordability, alongside taxing foreign investors harder and making changes to planning. The removal of stamp duty concessions to property investors may slow that sector, but the fundamental issue is that supply is not the problem many claim it to be.

First time buyers are potentially able to get up to $34,360, but we think this will just push prices higher. The new arrangements start 1 July, so we expect a slow June. With the enhanced incentives in Victoria and Queensland also coming on stream, we are expecting a pick-up in first time buyer demand as investor appetite slows. Our latest surveys show this rotating trend, and we will publish the detailed finding over the next few days. But already we see some investors are selling, to lock in capital growth, and some first time buyers have renewed their search to buy, on the back of the new incentives, and greater supply.

Meantime there was further evidence that property prices are indeed drifting lower . According to CoreLogic’s Home Value Index they fell in Sydney and Melbourne over the month of May, by 1.3% and 1.7% respectively.  It is becoming increasingly clear the momentum is easing, so it now is a question of how far it eases down, and whether prices go sideways, or fall significantly.

We expect mortgage rates to continue to rise. ANZ said their new APRA risk weight for mortgages was now 28.5%, which was at the top end of expectations.  But whilst this is higher than the sub-20 lows, it is still significantly lower than the regional banks capital weights, and even allowing for the bank tax, they remain at a capital disadvantage.  We think APRA will lift capital weights further down the track, and when we take account of expected US rate rises also, mortgage rates will continue to climb. This feeds into, and reinforces the potential slide in prices. Whilst first time buyers may take up some of the slack, we think the market dynamic is morphing into something rather ugly.

And that’s the latest Property Imperative Weekly. Check back next week for the latest installment.

Author: Martin North

Martin North is the Principal of Digital Finance Analytics

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