Slowdown in house prices to continue: HSBC

From Australian Broker.

Economists from HSBC have joined calls that Australia’s house market boom is reaching an end, predicting a moderation in house price growth to single digits in the coming quarters.

In the bank’s most recent Downunder Digest, Australian housing: Cooling Not Crashing, chief economist Paul Bloxham and economist David Smith write that slowdowns in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets will continue to weigh in on national house price growth for the next few quarters.

“[We] retain our forecast that national housing pricing growth will slow from the double-digit rates of recent years to 3-6% in 2018,” the economists said.

They expect house price growth to be between 2-4% in Sydney and 7-9% in Melbourne for the upcoming year. In other cities, low single digit rates are expected.

Bloxham and Smith attribute cooler property markets in Sydney and Melbourne to increased housing supply through greater volumes of apartment construction, tighter prudential lending regulations, and a crackdown on foreign investors both locally and within China.

HSBC does not expect a sharp decline in house prices however, with a hard landing only caused by an unexpected shock from overseas or a steep rise in Australia’s unemployment rate.

Sudden changes from within the country are also off the table, the economists predicted.

“Although we see the RBA beginning to lift its policy rate in 2018, we expect only a slow pace of cash rate tightening and some relaxation of current tight prudential settings as the housing market cools.”

Overall, past upward trends of house price growth have been more boom than bubble, they wrote.

New Home Sales Slide

According to the HIA, New Homes Sales Report – a survey of Australia’s largest home builders – there has been a fall in the number of new homes sold in 2017. New home sales were 6 per cent lower in the year to November 2017 than in the same period last year. Building approvals are also down over this time frame by 2.1 per cent for the year.

The HIA expects that the market will continue to cool as subdued wage pressures, lower economic growth and constraints on investors result in the new building activity transitioning back to more sustainable levels by the end of 2018.

This is a smaller down-turn than we anticipated and bodes well in terms of the likelihood of a modest and orderly reduction in new house building.

The story is not consistent across all of the states with Western Australia and Victoria providing the book ends on five very different stories.

In the middle of the year it looked like Western Australia had turned the corner after a significant decline in activity over three years, but the new financial year brought even lower results as more restrictive first home buyer policies were implemented.

At the other end of the market in Victoria, the expected slowdown in building activity has not yet materialised. Sales of new houses increased by 6.3% for the 12 months to November 2017 and approvals rose by a further 8.7 per cent in the three months to November compared with the same period in 2016.

Property prices down across Australia: REIA

From The Real Estate Conversation.

The median house price for Australia’s combined capital cities fell 0.8 per cent during the September quarter, according to the latest REIA Real Estate Market Facts report.

Only Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart recorded higher property prices during the September quarter, according to the latest REIA Real Estate Market Facts report.

With weaker markets in the remaining capitals, country-wide median averages were dragged into negative territory.

The weighted average median price for ‘other dwellings’, which includes apartments and townhouses, declined 2.6 per cent, according to the REIA data.

The weighted average median price for houses across the eight capitals dropped to $762,000, as median prices in five of the eight capitals – Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Darwin – decreased during the quarter. Darwin house prices fell the most sharply, falling 8.3 per cent during the September quarter.

The weighted average median price for other dwellings fell to $588,400, with median prices decreasing in  the same five cities – Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Darwin.

Over the quarter, again Darwin prices fell the most sharply, dropping 13.8 per cent.

REIA President Malcolm Gunning said, “It is usual for the September quarter to show a slight dip or at least a slowdown in the rate of change in prices, as buyers and sellers alike gear up for the traditional spring sales season.

“The September quarter figures also need to be interpreted against a background of sustained growth over a number of years, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, and can be seen as an extremely active market ‘catching its breath’.”

Gunning pointed out that, over the quarter, median rents for three-bedroom houses increased or remained steady in all capital cities except for decreases in Perth and Darwin.

Hobart had the largest increase in median rents for three-bedroom house at 2.8 per cent.

Median rents for two-bedroom other dwellings also increased or remained steady in all capital cities, except for a decrease in Perth. Melbourne had the largest increase at 2.4 per cent.

“Vacancy rates declined in all capital cities except for Perth. Darwin had the largest decrease of 0.6 percentage points. Both Perth and Darwin continue to have high vacancy rates at 6.9 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively.

“The weighted average vacancy rate for the eight capital cities remained steady on 2.8 per cent during the September quarter,” Gunning said.

REIA Real Estate Market Facts: State by State

Australian Capital Territory

Over the September quarter, the median house price for Canberra decreased to $640,000, a fall of 1.5 per cent over the quarter but an increase of 7.9 per cent over the previous year.

The median rent for three-bedroom houses in Canberra increased to $480 per week, an increase of 2.1 per cent over the September quarter and an increase 6.7 per cent over the previous year. The vacancy rate in Canberra decreased to 0.7 per cent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points, over the September quarter.

New South Wales

Over the September quarter, the median house price in Sydney decreased to $1,176,567, a decrease of 2.0 per cent over the quarter but an increase of 9.0 per cent over the previous year.

The median rent for three-bedroom houses in Sydney increased to $510 per week, a rise of 2.0 per cent over the September quarter and an increase of 8.5 per cent over the past year. The vacancy rate in Sydney decreased to 2.0 per cent, a decrease of 0.1 percentage points over the quarter.

Northern Territory

Over the September quarter, the median house price in Darwin decreased to $495,000, a decrease of 8.3 per cent over the quarter and a decrease of 10.0 per cent over the previous year.

The median rent for three-bedroom houses in Darwin decreased to $478 per week, a fall of 1.2 per cent over the September quarter and a decrease of 6.5 per cent over the previous year. The vacancy rate in Darwin decreased to 5.9 per cent over the September quarter 2017, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points.

Queensland

The median house price for Brisbane increased to $516,900, an increase of 0.4 per cent over the September quarter and an increase of 3.4 per cent over the previous year.

Over the September quarter and over the previous year, the median rent for three-bedroom houses in Brisbane remained steady at $380 per week. The vacancy rate in Brisbane decreased to 2.9 per cent during the September quarter, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points

South Australia 

Over the September quarter, Adelaide’s median house price decreased to $450,000, a fall of 2.1 per cent over the quarter but an increase of 2.3 per cent over the previous year.

Over the September quarter and over the previous year, the median rent for three-bedroom houses in Adelaide remained steady at $340 per week.

Tasmania

Over the September quarter, the median house price in Hobart increased to $436,300, an increase of 1.5 per cent over the quarter and an increase of 13.3 per cent over the previous year.

The median rent for three-bedroom houses in Hobart increased to $370 per week, an increase of 2.8 per cent over the September quarter and an increase of 12.1 per cent over the previous year. The vacancy rate in Hobart decreased to 1.7 per cent during the September quarter, a fall of 0.3 percentage points.

Victoria

Over the September quarter, the median house price in Melbourne increased to $817,000, a rise of 0.7 per cent over the quarter and an increase of 12.7 per cent over the previous year.

The median rent for three-bedroom houses in Melbourne increased to $385 per week, an increase of 1.3 per cent over the September quarter and an increase of 2.7 per cent over the previous year. The rental vacancy rate in Melbourne decreased to 2.1 per cent over the September quarter, a decrease of 0.1 percentage points.

UK Property Investors Head For The Exit

The UK Property Investment Market could be a leading indicator of what is ahead for our market. But in the UK just 15% of all mortgages are for investment purposes (Buy-to-let), compared with ~35% in Australia.  Yet, in a down turn, the Bank of England says investment property owners are four times more likely to default than owner occupied owners when prices slide and they are more likely to hold interest only loans. Sounds familiar?

According to a report in The Economist,  “one in every 30 adults—and one in four MPs—is a landlord; rent from buy-to-let properties is estimated at up to £65bn ($87bn) a year. But yields on rental properties are falling and government policy has made life tougher for landlords. The age of the amateur landlord may be”.

Investing in the housing market has seemed like a one-way bet, with prices trending upwards in real terms for four decades, mainly because government after government has failed to loosen planning restrictions on building new houses. Now, however, there are signs that regulatory changes have begun to send the buy-to-let boom into reverse.

Yields on rental properties have fallen. House prices have risen faster than rents, in part because buy-to-letters have reduced the supply of housing available to prospective owner-occupiers while simultaneously increasing the supply of places to rent. Britain’s ratio of house prices to rents is now 50% above its long-run average. All this makes buy-to-let investment less lucrative. Data from the Bank of England suggest that yields in September were below 5%, their joint-lowest rate since records began in 2001, when they were above 7.5%.

One consequence of this could be a more stable financial system. Roughly 15% of mortgage debt is on buy-to-let properties. The Bank of England has warned that there are risks associated with this. One problem is that property investors buy when house prices are rising but sell when they are falling, making house prices more volatile. Buy-to-let landlords are also more likely to default than owner-occupiers. One reason is that doing so does not force them out of their home. Another is that buy-to-let mortgages are more likely to be interest-only (ie, where the principal is not repaid). That can be tax-efficient but it means that monthly repayments can jump sharply if interest rates rise. The Bank of England’s stress tests last month showed that the rate at which landlords’ loans turn sour could be four times greater than the rate for owner-occupiers’ loans. All things considered, the shrinking of the buy-to-let sector may come as a relief to regulators.

The future for buy-to-letters will not get much brighter. In January a tweak to the rules on capital-gains tax will increase the liabilities of landlords who register as businesses. Large institutional investors are moving on to buy-to-letters’ turf, hoping to benefit from their economies of scale to offer better-quality housing to tenants. It was good while it lasted, but the golden age for the amateur landlord may be over.

Sydney Leads Home Prices Lower

Further evidence of a fall in home prices in Sydney, as lending restrictions begin to bite, and property investors lose confidence in never-ending growth. So now the question becomes – is this a temporary fall, or does it mark the start of something more sustained? Frankly, I can give you reasons for further falls, but it is hard to argue for any improvement anytime soon.  Melbourne momentum is also weakening, but is about 6 months behind Sydney.

The Residential Property Price Index (RPPI) for Sydney fell 1.4 per cent in the September quarter 2017 following positive growth over the last five quarters, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Sydney established house prices fell 1.3 per cent and attached dwellings prices fell 1.4 per cent in the September quarter 2017.

Hobart leads the annual growth rates (13.8%), from a lower base, followed by Melbourne (13.2%) and Sydney (9.4%). Darwin dropped 6.3% and Perth 2.4%.

“The fall in Sydney property prices this quarter was consistent with market indicators,” Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman said.

Falls in the RPPI were also seen in Perth (-1.0 per cent), Darwin (-2.6 per cent) and Canberra (-0.2 per cent). These were offset by rises in Melbourne (+1.1 per cent), Brisbane (+0.7 per cent), Adelaide (+0.7 per cent) and Hobart (+3.4 per cent).

For the weighted average of the eight capital cities, the RPPI fell 0.2 per cent in the September quarter 2017. This was the first fall in the RPPI since the March quarter 2016.

“Residential property prices have continued to moderate across most capital cities this quarter,” Mr Hockman said.

The total value of Australia’s 10.0 million residential dwellings increased $14.8 billion to $6.8 trillion. The mean price of dwellings in Australia fell by $1,200 over the quarter to $681,100.

Sydney and Melbourne Property Markets Soften

From CoreLogic.

This week across the combined capital cities, auction volumes remained high with 3,353 homes taken to auction returning a preliminary clearance rate of 63.1 per cent, increasing from last week when the final clearance rate across the capitals recorded the lowest not only this year, but the lowest reading since late 2015/ early 2016 (60.3 per cent).

The lower weighted clearance rates of late can be attributed to the continual softening conditions across the two largest markets of Melbourne and Sydney, with clearance rates tracking below 70 per cent across Melbourne for 5 consecutive week’s now (67.4 per cent), however volumes across the city have been consistently higher; with volumes this week reaching their second highest level this year (1,837), while Sydney’s clearance rates have tracked around the mid-high 50 per cent range over 7 consecutive week’s (58.7 per cent). Across the smaller markets, Canberra recorded the highest preliminary clearance rate this week, with 66.7 per cent of homes selling, while Brisbane returned the lowest with only 46.6 per cent of auctions successful.

2017-12-11--auctionresultscombinedcapitals

Comprehensive Credit Reporting: What Does it Mean for Home Buyers?

Our friends at finder.com.au have written an excellent article for us on the impact of Comprehensive Credit Reporting, authored by Richard Whitten*. It highlights the changes afoot, and the impact on home buyers. Well worth reading!

Comprehensive credit reporting is coming, Australia. The new credit system has big implications for Australian borrowers and lenders and could make it easier to apply for a home loan and get a better interest rate.

So what is comprehensive credit reporting?

Unlike most leading economies, Australia still uses a purely negative credit reporting system.

This means that an individual’s credit report only contains negative events: defaults, debts, overdue payments, applications for credit, bankruptcies and court judgements. It doesn’t cover any positive actions and it doesn’t mention whether a credit application was successful (at the moment, applying for credit results in a negative mark on your credit report regardless of whether you get approved or not).

Comprehensive credit reporting (CCR) rounds out the picture of a borrower’s credit history by including information such as the state of your accounts, when you’ve paid back debts and how reliable you are in meeting your financial commitments.

It gives lenders access to more data about you, which some might find troubling, especially in light of recent scandals with data leaks in the credit reporting industry. But it could help you establish to lenders how credit-worthy you are with much less effort.

What does comprehensive credit reporting mean for home loan customers?

CCR could be very good news for responsible borrowers applying for a home loan. After all, it’s often easier to prove a positive than it is to disprove a negative. If there are a few red marks on your credit report, you’ll be able to offset these by showing a lender that you’ve made regular repayments on debt, saved a regular amount of your income and set low limits on your credit cards.

If you’re applying for a home loan and you can prove that you have a very good credit report (rather than a lack of negatives), you could get a better home loan rate. As lenders start to implement CCR, it’s likely they’ll offer lower mortgage rates to good credit borrowers.

If you’re a borrower with few details in your credit report, CCR means that you can build positive credit far more easily. This is great for younger borrowers, people who don’t have credit cards or people who live with their parents and may not have taken on many financial commitments yet.

Comprehensive credit reporting is good for lenders too, which could help home loan customers

With a greater understanding of the credit-worthiness of potential customers, banks can determine ahead of time which customers are likely to fall behind on their repayments and which aren’t.

With greater certainty, lenders may offer entirely new rates or products to home loan customers with good credit. We’re already seeing lenders offer a dizzying array of product variants with different interest rates determined by the loan-to-value ratio (the amount you borrow relative to the value of the property).

It’s easy to envision lenders doing the same with their applicants’ credit history, assigning grades based on reporting, with lower rates for customers with excellent reports.

There’s also the likelihood that CCR will increase competition in the home loan market. CCR requires more customer data and more systems to process it. The industry is already seeing new fintech players entering the home loan market with online-only, data-savvy platforms. They promise faster application approvals and lower costs.

Leveraging CCR is another method by which lenders can stand out in a crowded market, and greater competition and transparency will almost certainly lead to better rates.

At the moment, the federal government requires the big banks to have at least half of their credit data available for comprehensive credit reporting by July 2018. It remains to be seen whether the government will extend this requirement to all lending institutions. But in the words of the federal treasurer, the new credit reporting system represents “a game changer for both consumers and lenders”.

*Richard Whitten is a member of the home loans team at finder.com.au. His role is to explain all the complexities of the home loan industry in ways that help consumers make better life decisions.

Auction Results 09 Dec 2017 – Going Down!

The preliminary auction results are in from Domain.  We see an ongoing weakening trend, especially in Sydney where last week clearances settled at 51.4%, and the preliminary today is 58.2% so far, but will settle lower.

Comparing the results with last year, both the volume of sales and auctions are down. This will continue to lead home prices lower.

Brisbane achieved 44% of 117 scheduled, Adelaide 67% of 108 and  Canberra 68% of 80.

First Time Buyers Keep The Property Market Afloat – The Property Imperative Weekly – 9th Dec 2017

First Time Buyers are keeping the property ship afloat for now, but what are the consequences?

Welcome to the Property Imperative weekly to 9th December 2017. Watch the video, or read the transcript.

In our weekly digest of property and finance news, we start this week with the latest housing lending finance from the ABS. The monthly flows show that owner occupied lending fell $23m compared with the previous month, down 0.15%, while investment lending flows fell 0.5%, down $60m in trend terms. Refinanced loans slipped 0.13% down $7.5 million. The proportion of loans excluding refinanced loans for investment purposes slipped from a recent high of 53.4% in January 2015, down to 44.6% (so investment property lending is far from dead!)

While overall lending was pretty flat, first time buyers lifted in response to the increased incentives in some states, by 4.5% in original terms to 10,061 new loans nationally. At a state level, FTB’s accounted for a 19% per cent share in Victoria and 13.7% in New South Wales, where in both states, a more favourable stamp duty regime and enhanced grants were introduced this year. But, other states showed a higher FTB share, with NT at 24.8%, WA at 24.6%, ACT at 20.1% and QLD 19.7%. SA stood at 13% and TAS at 13.3%. There was an upward shift in the relative numbers of first time buyers compared with other buyers (17.6% compared with 17.4% last month), still small beer compared with the record 31.4% in 2009. These are original numbers, so they move around each month. The number of first time buyer property investors slipped a little, using data from our household surveys, down 0.8% this past month. Together with the OO lift, total first time buyer participation has helped support the market.

The APRA Quarterly data to September 2017 shows that bank profitability rose 29.5% on 2016 and the return on equity was 12.3% compared with 9.9% last year. Loans grew 4.1%, thanks to mortgage growth, provisions were down although past due items were $14.3 billion as at 30 September 2017. This is an increase of $1.5 billion (11.8 per cent) on 30 September 2016. The major banks remain highly leveraged.

The property statistics showed that third party origination rose with origination to foreign banks sitting at 70% of new loans, mutuals around 20% and other banks around the 50% mark. Investment loan volumes have fallen, though major banks still have the largest relative share, above 30%.  Mutuals are sitting around 10%.  Interest only loans have fallen from around 40% in total value to 35%, but this represents a fall from around 30% of the loan count, to 27%. This reflects the higher average loan values for IO borrowers. The average loan balance for interest only loans currently stands at $347,000 against the average balance of $264,000.  No surprise of course, as these loans do not contain any capital repayments (hence the inherent risks involved, especially in a falling market).

But there has been a spike in loans being approved outside serviceability, with major banks reporting 5% or so in September. This may well reflect a tightening of standard serviceability criteria and the wish to continue to grow their loan books. We discussed this on Perth 6PR Radio.  So overall, we see the impact of regulatory intervention. The net impact is to slow lending momentum. As lenders tighten their lending standards, new borrowers will find their ability to access larger loans will diminish. But the loose standards we have had for several years will take up to a decade to work through, and with low income growth, high living costs and the risk of an interest rate rise, the risks in the system remain.

On the economic front, GDP from the ABS National Accounts was 0.6%. This was below the 0.7% expected. This gives an annual read of 2.3%, in trend terms, well short of the hoped for 3%+. Seasonally adjusted, growth was 2.8%. Business investment apart, this is a weak and concerning result.  The terms of trade fell. GDP per capita and net disposable income per capita both fell, which highlights the basic problem the economy faces.  The dollar fell on the news. Households savings also fell. No surprise then that according to the ABS, retail turnover remained stagnant in October. The trend estimate for Australian retail turnover fell 0.1 per cent in October 2017 following a relatively unchanged estimate (0.0 per cent) in September 2017. Compared to October 2016 the trend estimate rose 1.8 per cent. Trend estimates smooth the statistical noise.

So no surprise the RBA held the cash rate once again for the 16th month in a row.

The latest BIS data on Debt Servicing ratios shows Australia is second highest after the Netherlands. We are above Norway and Denmark, and the trajectory continues higher. Further evidence that current regulatory settings in Australia are not correct. As the BIS said, such high debt is a significant structural risk to future prosperity. They published a special feature on household debt, in the December 2017 Quarterly Review. They call out the risks from high mortgage lending, high debt servicing ratios, and the risks to financial stability and economic growth.  All themes we have already explored on the DFA Blog, but it is a well-argued summary. Also note Australia figures as a higher risk case study.  They say Central banks are increasingly concerned that high household debt may pose a threat to macroeconomic and financial stability and highlighted some of the mechanisms through which household debt may threaten both. Australia is put in the “high and rising” category.  The debt ratio now exceeds 120% in both Australia and Switzerland.  Mortgages make up the lion’s share of debt.  In Australia mortgage debt has risen from 86% of household debt in 2007 to 92% in 2017.

Basel III was finally agreed this week by the Central Bankers Banker – the Bank for International Settlements – many months later than expected and somewhat watered down. Banks will have to 2022 to adopt the new more complex framework, though APRA said that in Australia, they will be releasing a paper in the new year, and banks here should be planning to become “unquestionably strong” by 1 January 2020.  We note that banks using standard capital weights will need to add different risk weights for loans depending on their loan to value ratio, advanced banks will have some floors raised, and investor category mortgages (now redefined as loans secured again income generating property) will need higher weights. Net, net, there will be two effects. Overall capital will probably lift a little, and the gap between banks on the standard and internal methods narrowed. Those caught transitioning from standard to advanced will need to think carefully about the impact. This if anything will put some upwards pressure on mortgage rates.

The Treasury issues a report “Analysis of Wages Growth” which paints a gloomy story. Wage growth, they say, is low, across all regions and sectors of the economy, subdued wage growth has been experienced by the majority of employees, regardless of income or occupation, and this mirrors similar developments in other developed western economies. Whilst the underlying causes are far from clear, it looks like a set of structural issues are driving this outcome, which means we probably cannot expect a return to “more normal” conditions anytime some. This despite Treasury forecasts of higher wage growth later (in line with many other countries). We think this has profound implications for economic growth, tax take, household finances and even mortgage underwriting standards, which all need to be adjusted to this low income growth world.

Mortgage Underwriting standards are very much in focus, and rightly, given flat income growth.  There was a good piece on this from Sam Richardson at Mortgage Professional Australia which featured DFA. He said that over four days in late September two major banks added extra checks to an already-extensive application process. ANZ introduced a Customer Interview Guide requiring brokers to ask questions about everything from a customer’s Netflix subscription to whether they were planning to start a family. Three days later CBA introduced a simulator that would show interest-only borrowers how their repayments would change and affect their lifestyle. Customers would be required to fill in an ‘acknowledgement form’ to proceed with an interest-only application.

Getting good information from customers is hard work, not least because as we point out, only half of households have formal budgeting. So, when complete the mortgage application, households may be stating their financial position to the best of their ability, or they may be elaborating to help get the loan. It is hard to know. Certainly banks are looking for more evidence now, which is a good thing, but this may make the loan underwriting processes longer and harder. Improvements in technology could improve underwriting standards for banks while pre-populating interactive application forms for consumers and offering time-saving solutions to brokers and Open Banking may help, but while Applications can be made easier, this does not necessarily mean shorter.

More data this week on households, with a survey showing Australians have become more cautious of interest only loans with online panel research revealing that 46 per cent of Australians are Adamant Decliners of interest-only home loans according to research from the  Gateway Credit Union. In addition, a further quarter of respondents are Resistant Approvers, acknowledging the benefits of interest-only loans yet choosing not to utilise them. Of the generations, Baby Boomers are most likely to be Adamant Decliners and therefore, less likely to use interest-only products. While Gen Y are most likely to be Enthusiastic Users.

Banks continue to offer attractive rates for new home loans, seeking to pull borrows from competitors. Westpac for example, announced a series of mortgage rate cuts to attract new borrowers, as it seeks to continue to grow its portfolio, leveraging lower funding costs, and the war chest it accumulated earlier in the year from back book repricing, following APRA’s tightening of underwriting standards and restrictions on interest only loans. Rates for both new fixed rate loans and variable rate loans were reduced.  For example, the bank has also increased the two-year offer discount on its flexi first option home for principal and interest repayments from 0.84% p.a. to 1.00% p.a. putting the current two-year introductory rate at 3.59% p.a.

The RBA released their latest Bulletin  and it contained an interesting section on Housing Accessibility For First Time Buyers.  They suggest that in many centers, new buyers are able to access the market, thanks to the current low interest rates. But the barriers are significantly higher in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. They also highlight that FHBs (generally being the most financially constrained buyers) are not always able to increase their loan size in response to lower interest rates because of lenders’ policies. Indeed, the average FHB loan size has been little changed over recent years while the gap between repeat buyers and FHBs’ average loan sizes has widened. They also showed that in aggregate, rents have grown broadly in line with household incomes, although rent-to-income ratios suggest housing costs for lower-income households have increased over the past decade.

Housing affordability has improved somewhat  across all states and territories, allowing for a large increase in the number of loans to first-home buyers, according to the September quarter edition of the Adelaide Bank/REIA Housing Affordability Report. The report showed the proportion of median family income required to meet average loan repayments decreased by 1.2 percentage points over the quarter to 30.3 per cent. The result was decrease of 0.6 percentage points compared with the same quarter in 2016. However, Housing affordability is still a major issue in Sydney and Melbourne they said.  In addition, over the quarter, the proportion of median family income required to meet rent payments increased by 0.3 percentage points to 24.6 per cent.

Our own Financial Confidence Index for November fell to 96.1, which is below the 100 neutral metric, down from 96.9 in October 2017. This is the sixth month in succession the index has been below the neutral point. Owner Occupied households are the most positive, scoring 102, whilst those with investment property are at 94.3, as they react to higher mortgage repayments (rate rises and switching from interest only mortgages), while rental yields fall, and capital growth is stalling – especially in Sydney.  Households who are not holding property – our Property Inactive segment – will be renting or living with friends or family, and they scored 81.2. So those with property are still more positive overall. Looking at the FCI score card, job security is on the improve, reflecting rising employment participation, and the lower unemployment rate.  Around 20% of households feel less secure, especially those with multiple part time jobs. Savings are being depleted to fill the gap between income and expenditure – as we see in the falling savings ratio. As a result, nearly 40% of households are less comfortable with the amount they are saving. This is reinforced by the lower returns on deposit accounts as banks seek to protect margins. More households are uncomfortable with the amount of debt they hold with 40% of households concerned. The pressure of higher interest rates on loans, tighter lending conditions, and low income growth all adds to the discomfort. More households reported their real incomes had fallen in the past year, with 50% seeing a fall, while 40% see no change.  Only those on very high incomes reported real income growth.

Finally, we also released the November mortgage stress and default analysis update. You can watch our video counting down the most stressed postcodes in the country. But in summary, across Australia, more than 913,000 households are estimated to be now in mortgage stress (last month 910,000) and more than 21,000 of these in severe stress, the same as last month. Stress is sitting on a high plateau. This equates to 29.4% of households. We see continued default pressure building in Western Australia, as well as among more affluent household, beyond the traditional mortgage belts across the country. Stress eased a little in Queensland, thanks to better employment prospects. We estimate that more than 52,000 households risk 30-day default in the next 12 months, similar to last month. We expect bank portfolio losses to be around 2.8 basis points, though with losses in WA rising to 4.9 basis points.

So, the housing market is being supported by first time buyers seeking to gain a foothold in the market, but despite record low interest rates, and special offer attractor rates, many will be committing a large share of their income to repay the mortgage, at a time when income growth looks like it will remain static, costs of living are rising, and mortgage rates will rise at some point. All the recent data suggests that underwriting standards are still pretty loose, and household debt overall is still climbing. This still looks like a high risk recipe, and we think households should do their own financial assessments if they are considering buying at the moment – for home prices are likely to slide, and the affordability equation may well be worse than expected. Just because a lender is willing to offer a large mortgage, do not take this a confirmation of your ability to repay. The reality is much more complex than that. Getting mortgage underwriting standards calibrated right has perhaps never been more important than in the current environment!

And that’s the Property Imperative to 9th December 2017. If you found this useful, do leave a comment, sign up to receive future research and check back next week for the latest update. Many thanks for taking the time to watch.

ATO to Scrutinise Rental Property Market

From The Real Estate Conversation.

The Australian Tax Office is ramping up scrutiny of the rental property market in a bid to stamp out tax rorts, reports The Australian.

In one of a series of interviews with The Australian about ATO priorities, tax commissioner Chris Jordan said the ATO will be looking closely at the practise of declaring rented properties vacant. He said the tax office will go so far as to monitor real estate agent, electricity and gas records to identify fraudulent claims.

Over the last few months, the Australian Taxation Office has already investigated 100,000 rental properties to ensure they are not involved in black-market activity or misclaiming of negative gearing.

The size of the rental market in Australia means it must be watched extremely closely for rorts, said Jordan.

Jordan told The Australian that ATO data shows deductions claimed for rental property exceed the rental income earned for privately owned rental properties in Australia.

“In the rental income space, there’s $40.1 billion of income and $43.6 billion of expenses,” he said.

With the 2016 census showing that 11 per cent of Australian properties, or 1.1 million homes, were unoccupied, rental income in Australia should be much higher, said Jordan.

Jordan said he is concerned about the growing amount of rental income disappearing into the cash economy.

“It appears that many landlords are not declaring their rental income, and many more are overstating their deductions,” he told The Australian.

The ATO is already using data-matching to check if properties are unoccupied. For example, Jordan said the ATO can match utility records, such as for electricity and gas, against the addresses of properties that owners claim are unoccupied.

The Australian reports that from next year, auditors will begin approaching real estate agents to request information about landlords.