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Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg
economics

Australian Housing’s Resilience Buoyed by Cheap and Easy Credit

Australian Housing’s Resilience Buoyed by Cheap and Easy Credit

  • First-home buyers purchasing homes as investors vacate market
  • Government grants are supporting demand during the recession
Sydney Home Prices Fall Most In 30 Years As Slump Deepens
Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Australians are diving into home ownership, taking advantage of low interest rates and government stimulus programs -- undeterred by the nation’s first recession in almost three decades.

Credit for home purchases rose by 0.2% in August for an annual gain of 3.2%, Reserve Bank of Australia data showed Wednesday. A separate release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed building approvals fell 1.6% in August, giving back a little bit of a 12.2% surge in July.

Borrowing Down Under has never been cheaper, thanks to extraordinarily low rates, and with investors stepping aside, first-home buyers are jumping at the chance of gaining a foothold in property. Access to credit is set to become even easier due to the relaxation of lending regulations announced last week.

“The intensity has definitely picked up over the last month,” said Aaron Christie-David, managing director and finance broker at Atelier Wealth, a Sydney-based mortgage broker. “Buyer confidence is there because they’re not seeing the price drops they were expecting.”

Home Sweet Home

Credit growth remains robust for owner-occupier housing

Reserve Bank of Australia

Approvals jumped 4.8% in August for standalone homes. However, permits for apartment blocks remained weak as investors shied away from rising rental vacancies that saw the first quarterly fall in rents in almost 50 years.

The market has been helped by the introduction of grants for eligible builders, sending first-time buyers flocking to purchase homes, according to Mario Biasin, chief executive officer of Metricon Land Pty Ltd, a Melbourne-based property developer with a footprint across Australia.

“It had an immediate impact on sales,” he said. “We made record sales across all of the markets we work in.”

Holding On

Single family construction supported by fiscal grants

Australian Bureau of Statistics

The housing market may still have challenges ahead. Unemployment is still expected to climb toward 10% -- from the current 6.8% -- while the government has partially wound back wage subsidies and expanded unemployment benefits.

Yet, these aren’t concerns for the present selling season.

Australia has entered spring, typically a period of increased property sales with potential buyers and sellers keen to deal before year’s end. The lockdown in Melbourne has thwarted opportunities for physical house inspections, but Metricon’s Biasin expects a rebound as restrictions slowly ease. Online and phone inquiries from Melbourne clients are still at “good” levels, pointing to future sales, he said.

That view is shared by Christie-David, who says this season feels different.

“People actually have more cash,” he said. “Given our clients are white collar professionals and they would have taken, typically, a European or American adventure, and they’re not driving, and they’re not traveling for work -- they’ve actually got far more disposable cash because their incomes haven’t been affected.”