The coalface: Paul Hunt, Darwin Home Loans

by Ben Abbott22 Nov 2011

Darwin mortgage broker numbers are dwindling fast as compliance and the poor local market take their toll, but for Darwin Home Loans director Paul Hunt there is plenty of upside.

Speaking with Australian BrokerNews, Hunt said that the region is seeing a marked decrease in the number of brokers, evidenced by thinning numbers at local MFAA meetings.

"Before we were consistently getting between 25 and 30, and now we are getting somewhere between 15 and 20. We think there has been a drop-off of about 25% in active brokers," he said.

Hunt puts the Darwin broker exodus down to the impact of compliance and a "very flat market" - but says there are upsides. "It's the same pie, but less players," he said.

Hunt said the last six weeks have seen a surge in first homebuyer inquiries, largely as a result of the announcement that INPEX will build a $25bn LPG plant in the area.

"The low-end is very active, with a lot of first homebuyers worried that they are going to be priced out of the market - prices will just soar once that [the LPG plant] gets built," he said.

Hunt said this is causing a lot of units and low-priced houses from the high $200K to low $400K range to be "snapped up". "People have got fairly aggressive with signing contracts," he said.

However, Hunt said that first homebuyers account for only 10% of Darwin Home Loans' business, which comes from referral, and that the high-end of the market remains lacklustre.

"What it does is push the stuff under it up a bit, and has a domino effect of some sort, but that transition hasn't been seen in the high-end yet, that is still very flat despite a lot of stock."

Hunt said another RBA cut could help. "If there is another RBA decrease there may be enough people who realise prices have corrected enough and cause positive sentiment for buyers."

Only a week after US President Barak Obama visited the city, Hunt said the added international attention was "good for Darwin". He added that Obama was "warmly welcomed" by locals.

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