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ABS housing finance numbers show ‘cautious optimism’ is needed: REIA

15 July 2019 Hafizah Osman

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has called for “cautious optimism” around the declining number of housing loans.

Following the May 2019 Lending to Households and Business figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the national professional association identified the value of investment in housing commitments.

The figures for May 2019 showed that the number of loans for housing, excluding refinancing, continued to decline, but at a slower rate.

“Overall, the figures for May 2019 show, in trend terms, that the number of owner-occupied finance commitments, excluding refinancing, decreased by 0.5 [of a percentage point] — the 21st consecutive month of decreases and the lowest since August 2012,” REIA president Adrian Kelly said.

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In addition, the report stated that the value of investment housing commitments, excluding refinancing, decreased by 1.5 per cent in May.

“This is down [by] 27.8 per cent from a year ago and is at its lowest level since March 2009,” Mr Kelly mentioned.

“The number of loans to first home buyers increased by 0.8 [of a percentage point] and is the highest since November 2018, whilst the proportion of first home buyers, as part of the total owner-occupied housing finance commitments, increased in May to 18.8 per cent from 18.2 per cent in April.”

REIA previously said, following the release of the February 2019 Lending to Households and Business figures, that the number of loans for housing, excluding refinancing, was declining.

Mr Kelly mentioned that many Australians were feeling uncomfortable about the future.

“There is a clear risk that the decline in activity in the residential property market will become a major drag on the economy,” he said.

“Overall, the figures for February 2019 show, in trend terms, that the number of owner-occupied finance commitments, excluding refinancing, decreased by 1.4 per cent — the 17th consecutive month of decreases and the lowest since January 2013.

“Decreases were recorded in all states and territories, except Tasmania, which had a modest increase of 0.6 [of a percentage point]. The largest decrease of 3.2 per cent was in the Northern Territory.”

Mr Kelly added that while the total number of finance commitments for May show a continuing, but modest, decline, possible policy changes to property taxation by the government could alter the outcome.

“With the post-election boost in confidence in the real estate market, as evidenced by higher levels of enquiry, two cuts in interest rates and changes in APRA’s [the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority] requirements will most likely mark the bottom of the lending cycle,” Mr Kelly said.

ABS housing finance numbers show ‘cautious optimism’ is needed: REIA
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