"For property shoppers, it may seem a welcome relief to secure a little more purchasing power – except of course every other property buyer in the market place also benefits."
Interest rate fall bad news for property buyers
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While a drop in interest rates is promoted widely as being good news for the housing market, with Wayne Swan bouncing around as if he’s a personal Jiminy Cricket sitting on the shoulders of the board during RBA’s monthly meetings, the bleak reality remains that for savers, many of whom are would-be first-home buyers, the news is not good at all.
Since the beginning of May, cuts of between 65 and 75 basis points have been chopped from the big four’s base rates for online saving accounts, and for many renters balancing work, rental payments and other such necessities, the savings account is perhaps the only area capturing the crumbs in which to advance to ownership.
For property shoppers, it may seem a welcome relief to secure a little more purchasing power – except of course every other property buyer in the market place also benefits. The resulting increased competition that predictably eventuates in upward pressure on median prices is of no benefit to buyers – only to vendors, who, if keeping up with previous repayments, watch their loans diminish faster and equity appreciate.
Investors fare a little better – they usually fix rates on interest-only terms, which at present are extremely favourable, sitting between 5.29% and 5.69% for two- to five-year terms. Therefore, the recent increase in yields and subsequent tightening of vacancy rates, coupled with the low cost of borrowing and numerous tax incentives, complements a portfolio nicely, making long-term investment in bricks and mortar ever more tempting.
So far, we’ve not seen any significant uplift in sentiment to signify a call to arms from property investors. A further reduction in the value of investment loans – which for the month of August dropped 0.8%(ABS) – also doesn’t indicate sentiment in this sector is improving – although it’s yet to be seen if more positive data emerges after the latest RBA cut in rates.
At the very least, the perception of low rates coupled with the fact that housing affordability is judged to be at its most favourable level since 2003 will force growth in some sectors of the market. The recent release from RP Data citing a national rise of close to 2% over the September quarter in median prices (the strongest quarterly increase since 2010) seems to underline this.
The RBA is all too conscious of the housing bubble risks so often associated with a low interest rate environment. Deputy governor Phillip Lowe said the central bank would be watching “very carefully” for resulting signs. However, the Treasury have not been so prudish in its commentary, stating boldly it “expects recent interest rate cuts, and the possibility of more, to kick-start the second housing boom in a decade,” It would – Treasury says – be “a natural and desirable development” compensating for any future downturn in the commodity sector.
However, one direct consequence of the previous boom, which locked increasing numbers outside of the housing market, was a national rise of 49.2% in yields over the five-year period to 2011 – outpacing growth in home loan repayments for the same period. Clearly for the vulnerable homeless sector of our community, another housing boom would not be viewed as both “natural and desirable”.
Recent data from Australian Property Monitors places the median rent for a house in
News this past week that new home construction across the country has hit a 10-year low has inspired state governments to once again busy their hands devising new grants and incentives for the purchase of new property – principally aimed at the first-home buyer sector.
However, you only need glance back at the historical lessons associated with the first-home buyer grants to assess re-introduction, with no analysis of the underlying issues that deter buyers from purchasing new accommodation in grant-free environments, is poor short-term policy.