Surprising March lending figures revealed

by Madison Utley07 May 2020

New loan commitments for housing held steady in March, even with the increasing pressure COVID-19 has been exerting on the economy.

The value of new loan commitments rose 0.2% over the month, up 17% year on year, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released yesterday.

The value for new owner occupier home loans rose 1.2%, while the investor side fell 2.5%.

However, some lending institutions reported a slowdown in new loan applications received towards the end of the month, with yesterday's result largely reflecting loan applications submitted in February or the first half of March before major social distancing restrictions were introduced. 

The standout demographic in the March data was first home buyers, with the value of lending to the market segment up 2.5% and the number of owner occupier home loan commitments at a "decade high" of 9,841 - representing 37.1% of all owner-occupier loans.

By state, New South Wales was the primary driver of new owner-occupier home loan growth, up 11% on the month before excluding refinancing. The Northern Territory was the only other region to post growth, up by 4.3%.

Conversely, Western Australia was down by -5.3%, South Australia by -1.3%, Queensland -1.6%, Tasmania -2.7%, Victoria 0.7% and the ACT by -0.2%.

While rising unemployment, elevated household mortgage debt, and the indeterminate continuation of COVID-19 uncertainty are expected to decrease housing market activity over the winter months, the soft return of open home inspections and onsite auctions in New South Wales may provide a small boost to the state and serve as a model for others moving ahead.