FHB Loans Highest for a Decade

Increased borrowing activity has been spurred on by owner occupiers and first-home buyers following the relaxation of APRA’s lending criteria and interest rate cuts in 2019.

Data from the ABS shows loans to owner-occupiers increased by 5% in December and were 18% higher than a year ago.

New FHB loans rose by 6% month-on-month and were 38% above the same month a year earlier.

“This is the highest number of FHB loans since December 2009,” says HIA economist Angela Lillicrap,

“This positive lending data is consistent with other leading indicators, including new home sales and building approvals, showing that the housing market reached a turning point mid-way through 2019,” she says.

“This confirms our expectations that the market reached a relatively shallow trough in 2019.”

Across the country, lending to owner-occupiers for new dwellings increased in the December quarter for all states and territories except for Tasmania. The biggest increases were in the ACT (up 40%), South Australia (16%), Queensland (13%) and the NT (7%).

Shortage Looms In Eastern States

Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will suffer a
shortage of new housing by 2022 as construction
of new high-rise dwellings recedes, according to
property advisory firm, Charter Keck Cramer.

“All of the east coast capitals are facing a significant
shortage by the end of 2021,” says national director
of research and strategy Rob Burgess.

Last year, Melbourne – which needs about 50,000
new dwellings a year to keep up with its growing
population – launched 6,300 new units, half the
number of 2018.

Metropolitan Sydney’s new apartment releases last
year totalled 5,700, well down from the 16,300 in 2018. While larger than Melbourne, Sydney has slower
population growth which means it needs about
40,000 new homes every year – and traditionally 60%
would be apartments.

“Sydney faces a very significant supply issue pushing
into 2022,” Burgess says.

Brisbane, which started its downturn in the
apartment development cycle earlier than the two
southern capitals, also suffered a fourth straight
year of fewer new unit launches, although the pace
of decline slowed.

Land Sales On The Increase

The number of Australians buying land has risen
sharply as buyers take advantage of affordability.

Land sales rose 46% across the nation in the six
months to the end of the September 2019 Quarter,
according to the latest data from the Housing
Industry Association. The 10,563 lots sold during
the period were much higher than the March 2019
Quarter, when sales were the lowest on record.

The uptake has yet to have an impact on land prices,
though CoreLogic’s Eliza Owen says it may not be
long until demand drives prices higher.

“Demand for land and dwellings has rebounded
strongly since June last year, which is also reflected
in a 6.7% rebound in national dwelling values over
the past seven months,” she says.

The rebound in the housing market follows the
Federal Election result, a relaxation in lending
standards, tax cuts and reductions in interest rates.

The Federal Government’s first-home buyers lending
scheme is contributing to a rise in the number of
market entrants, with more than half of the 10,000
slots already filled.

Vacancies Fall, Rents Rise

In good news for landlords, vacancy rates are falling and
rents are increasing in most markets across the nation.
Fresh research by SQM Research shows that, at
2.1%, the national vacancy average is tighter than
the December 2019 rate of 2.5% and slightly lower
than a year ago when it was 2.2%. The figures
suggest most major markets have a shortage of
homes available for renting.

All cities recorded decreases in vacancy rates in
January, except Hobart which remained steady at
0.6%, the lowest of all capital cities.

Adelaide (1%) and Canberra (1.4%) have very
tight rental markets, while Perth, Brisbane and
Melbourne all have vacancy rates a little above 2%.
Darwin recorded the highest vacancy rate at 3.2%
followed by Sydney at 3.1%.

Over the last 12 months, the capital city average
for house rents has increased 1.6%. In this time,
rents for both houses and units have increased in
Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart.
However, rent for both houses and units in Sydney
and Darwin remain lower than they were a year ago.

Sales Rates Continue To Rise

Auction clearance rates continue to rise with the
latest national average of 79% well above the strike
rate of 51% for the same period last year, according
to CoreLogic.

Melbourne cleared 79% of its 717 auctions and of
Sydney’s 578 properties auctioned, 80% were sold.
Canberra had the highest success rate of 90%, though
there were only 48 properties under the hammer.

Of the 104 properties in Brisbane, 62% were cleared
at auction, a big improvement on the 29% of a year
earlier. Adelaide offloaded 75% of the 82 properties
under auction while a good result of 90% was also
achieved in Geelong.

Results in regional areas were promising, including
the Central Coast (55%), the Mornington Peninsula
(63%), the Hunter Region (69%), Wollongong (61%) and
Gold Coast (52%).

The clearance rates of the combined capital cities were
around 75% in 2016 and 2017 before they began to fall,
bottoming at around 40% in December 2018/January
2019. Apart from a dip over the Christmas holiday
season, they have been rising over the past year.

Building To Drive Economy Forward

The Reserve Bank forecasts Australia’s economy will grow by about
2.75% this year, and by 3% next year, confirming a positive outlook for
the nation despite the bushfires and the coronavirus.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe says falling unemployment
through reconstruction activity will counterbalance any damaging
effects of the bushfires and the virus. He says the economic hit from
the devastating bushfire season and unfolding virus threat will only
“temporarily weigh on domestic growth”.

He notes that the slowdown in global growth that started in 2018 was
“coming to an end” and that global growth is expected to be slightly
stronger this year and next than it was last year.

He attributes the expected growth to the low level of interest rates, recent tax refunds, ongoing spending on infrastructure, a brighter outlook for the resources sector and, later this year, an expected recovery in residential construction.

Lowe also points to the Australian dollar being “around its lowest levels in recent times”, which will boost exporters.

FHBs Loans Reach Decade High

First-home-buyer home loans surged in December
to their highest level since late 2009, according to
new ABS data.

Master Builders chief economist Shane Garrett says
the volume of home loans to FHBs increased 6.2%
to record a monthly total of 9,606. The last time a
higher monthly total was recorded was exactly 10
years ago – back in December 2009.

“The good news is that FHB activity has stepped up
even further since the start of this year,” he says.
“The new First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is
already a big success and the official data will show
more big gains for FHBs once it is released.”

During December, the FHB share of the owneroccupier
market was highest in Western Australia
(43%) followed by Victoria (41%), the Northern
Territory (38%) and the ACT (33%).

This week’s figures also show that other areas of
the housing market are recovering well. Property
investor loans expanded for the third consecutive
month and hit a 14-month high during December,
Garrett says.

Home Buyers Lead Fastest Recovery

With record-high values for Australian dwellings
expected in a few months’ time, 2020 will see the
fastest market recovery on record. And it’s being led
by owner-occupiers, says CoreLogic.

Since national dwelling values bottomed out 8.4%
below their peak at June 2019, the Australian
dwelling market has quickly recovered 6.7%, says
CoreLogic’s Eliza Owen.

“If growth rates continue at the January trajectory,
Australia’s dwelling market will make a full nominal
recovery by April, marking a 10-month recovery
period,” she says.

“This compares to an average recovery time of 11.7
months in previous cycles. This is remarkable when
considering the relatively long time it took for the
market to bottom-out.”

Owen says housing finance data from the ABS
shows much more activity from first home buyers,
upgraders, and down-sizers in this recovery. During
the previous upswing – from 2012 to 2017 – owner
occupiers accounted for 59% of new housing finance,
but over the past seven months this has risen to 71%.