Owner-occupied and investor finance boosted in February

ABS says investor finance commitments have surged to a new high – but one analyst believes the winds of investor dominance are about to change



The number of owner-occupied finance commitments has been boosted in February and investor finance commitments have surged to a new high, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The housing finance statistics for February, released yesterday, show total lending in seasonally adjusted terms was up.

In trend terms, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions rose 1.0%. Investment housing commitments rose 1.1% and owner occupied housing commitments rose 0.9%. In seasonally adjusted terms, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions rose 2.9%.

The average loan size fell 2.2% over the month but was up 5.9% over the year.
The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) believe the latest ABS housing finance figures reflect a stable lending pattern.

 “Increases were recorded in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with NT having the biggest rise, up 1.2%. South Australia’s fall of 0.6% was the country’s largest,” REIA president Peter Bushby said.

But he said the figures highlight the plight of first home buyers and the need for all governments to work together on a national response to address housing affordability.

In original terms, the number of first home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments fell to 12.5% in February from 13.2% in January.

“Disturbingly, the proportion of first home buyers in the number of  owner-occupied  housing finance commitments again decreased… This is far lower than the  long-run  average proportion of 19.9%, despite eight interest rate cuts since November 2011.”

The data also shows investor finance commitments surged to a new record high, jumping by a seasonally-adjusted 4.4% in February and by 32% over the year.

But those investors looking to get high rental returns may be plum out of luck.

RP Data’s quarterly rental review shows rental markets remained relatively flat with little growth to report in some areas over the first quarter of this year.

Across the capital cities, rental rates remained unchanged over the first quarter of 2014 at $430 per week for houses and $410 per week for units.

Nationally, rents also remained unchanged for houses at $395 per week and increased by 1.3% over the quarter for units to $390 per week.

Analyst Cameron Kusher said some cities continue to record annual rental growth, but at a much more subdued level than the five year average.

“With home value growth comparatively strong we are seeing a deterioration of rental yields in most capital cities.  We expect that rental growth is likely to continue at moderate levels over the coming year, due largely to the climbing demand for housing which is highlighted by escalating sales transactions nationally.

“A slow down across some of the previously strong resource intensive areas of Australia can be attributed to a downturn in overall housing market conditions within these regions.”

But Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North believes the winds of investor dominance may be about to change.

“There are early signs from our latest our household surveys that investor momentum is about to slacken,” he wrote on his blog.

“Overall, we see the number of investors seeking to purchase the next 12 months is down for the first time in 18 months, and the proportion who believe that house prices will continue to rise over the coming 12 months is also down. We could be on the cusp of a significant trend change.”


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