Australian mortgage holders defying predictions and managing debt
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Australian mortgage holders defying predictions and managing debt

However, there is one group spending their savings at a faster rate than the rest

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Mar 26, 2024 10:09amGrey Clock 3 min

The number of home loans in arrears are less than one percent of all borrowers, defying predictions of dire outcomes from a ‘mortgage cliff’ and the impact of high interest rates and cost of living pressures.

Most borrowers are making their home loan repayments on time, and although the number of loans in arrears has increased since late 2022, they represent only a tiny portion of the market, according to the Reserve Bank (RBA). Less than 1 percent of all housing loans are 90 or more days in arrears, which is lower than the pre-pandemic peak.

In its latest Financial Stability Review released this month, the RBA said households remain under pressure from high inflation and interest rates, with consumer sentiment very weak. More Australians than usual are seeking support from community organisations, and lenders have a small but rising number of borrowers on temporary hardship arrangements.

“Based on their latest assessment of the economic outlook, banks expect arrears rates to increase a bit further from here but remain low relative to history,” the RBA said.

The RBA notes that since the start of 2022, real disposable income has fallen by about 7 percent to be near its pre-pandemic level in per capita terms. Most mortgagors have seen 30-60 percent increases in their minimum home loan repayments since rates began rising in May 2022. However, only about 5 percent of variable-rate owner-occupier borrowers today have expenses exceeding incomes, giving them a cash flow shortfall.

Households are coping well due to a strong labour market, which is allowing them to increase their hours or get a second job if necessary. They are also drawing on large savings buffers, partly created by pandemic stimulus and lower spending during lockdowns, and have reduced their discretionary spending as necessary.

The loan arrears rate is highest among highly leveraged borrowers, however it is still very small at less than 2 percent. The share of mortgagors estimated to have a cash flow shortfall combined with low savings has risen over the past two years but still represents less than 2 percent of variable-rate owner-occupier borrowers. Unusually, the arrears rate among recent first home buyers is lower than average, possibly reflecting the Bank of Mum and Dad enabling young buyers to purchase properties with less debt.

The arrears rate among borrowers who rolled over from low fixed rates to variable rates in one hit – an event labelled ‘the mortgage cliff’ which was expected to hit hardest late last year – are managing their repayments just as well as other borrowers. “This resilience partly reflects that these borrowers were able to build up savings buffers over a longer period of unusually low interest rates,” the RBA said.

High income earners are depleting their pandemic savings at the fastest rate because they tend to be servicing greater debt. But they still have the highest savings and are likely using some of it to support continued discretionary spending. Conversely, the lowest-income mortgaged households grew their savings in 2023.

The RBA says nearly all borrowers should be able to service their loans even if inflation is more persistent than expected and interest rates remain higher for longer. While the RBA expects a rise in unemployment, it noted that historically mortgagors are less likely to lose their jobs. Many mortgagor households also have multiple incomes, and about half of all borrowers have enough savings to service their debts and essential expenses for at least six months. Lenders can also offer temporary support to borrowers who lose their jobs.

The RBA said most borrowers also have strong equity positions, which protects them from default and limits risk for lenders. Rising property prices last year gave homeowners more equity and banks have been issuing fewer high loan-to-value (LVR) loans since 2021. These types of loans are now at near-historical low levels.

“The share of loans (by number or balances) estimated to be in negative equity at current housing prices remains very low,” the RBA said. While usually a last resort and very disruptive for owner-occupier borrowers, this would allow almost all borrowers to sell their properties and repay their loans in full before defaulting.”

Hypothetically, in a severe economic downturn during which housing values fell 30 percent, the RBA estimates that the share of loans falling into negative equity would increase to about 11 percent. The RBA said significant losses for lenders would only materialise if more borrowers became unable to service their loans.



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Australia’s top 10 most affordable regional property markets investors should watch

Whether you prefer the country or the coast, there are plenty of east coast options for cashed up buyers

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Apr 19, 2024 3 min

There are 10 local council areas scattered along the East Coast of Australia that offer both affordability and solid fundamentals for sustainable future growth, according to the research team at residential property network, PRD. The areas have been selected based on five criterion. They are affordability – defined as a median house price below $600,000, rising house values, strong rental yields to encourage investment, a strong pipeline of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects to facilitate local economic development, and low unemployment.

Here are Australia’s 10 most affordable regional property markets with great future potential.

Mackay, QLD

Mackay is a tropical coastal area located in north Queensland. It’s known for its closeconnection to the Great Barrier Reef. The median house price is $462,750, up 8.9 percent in 2023. Mackay attracts a lot of interstate migrants and is home to more than 120,000 people. It has a healthy economy with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and $1.7 billion worth of projects due to commence this year.

Toowoomba, QLD

The Toowoomba median house price was up 10.9 percent in 2023.

Toowoomba is located west of Brisbane and is known for its Victorian buildings, street artand surrounding national parks. The median house price is $560,000, up 10.9 percent in 2023. The city has a population of more than 180,000. The unemployment rate is 4 percentand there is $6.1 billion in projects commencing in 2024.

Townsville, QLD

Townsville is a coastal city in north-eastern Queensland. The median house price is $420,000, up 5 percent in 2023. It is home to more than 200,000 people. Unemployment is very low at 2.5 percent and there is $3.2 billion of projects commencing this year.

Dubbo, NSW

Dubbo is located west of Newcastle in the Orana Region and is home to the Western Plains Zoo. The median house price is $530,000, up 11.6 percent in 2023. The population has exploded in recent years to more than 56,000 people. The unemployment rate is just 2.2percent and the economy is thriving. There is a pipeline of $4.7 billion in projects commencing this year.

Tamworth, NSW

Located in north-east NSW, Tamworth is known for its popular annual Country Music Festival. It’s also the largest retail centre for the New England and Northwest Slopes regions. The median house price is $490,000, up 14 percent in 2023. With a population of more than 65,000 people, the economy is strong with unemployment of just 2 percent and $112.4million worth of projects commencing this year.

Griffith, NSW

Located west of Sydney and northwest of Canberra, Griffith is known for its prime produce production and wine cultivation. The median house price is $531,000, up 2.1 percent in 2023. Griffith’s population is about 27,000 people. The city boasts high economic resilience with a 2 percent unemployment rate and $258.7 million in projects in the pipeline.

Ballarat, VIC

Ballarat, Victoria

Ballarat is a 1.5hour drive west of Melbourne. It’s popular with city commuters who move here for housing affordability and a relaxed lifestyle with easy access to the city via train. The median house price is $570,000, down 4.2 percent in 2023 but up 92.9 percent over the past decade. The city has the third highest population in Victoria at about 118,000. Ballarat has an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a total projects pipeline worth $2.3 billion for 2024.

Shepparton, VIC

Shepparton is a rural area about two hours north of Melbourne. It is popularly referred to as the food bowl of Australia. The median house price is $475,000, up 4.4 percent in 2023. The population is about 70,000. The unemployment rate is just 2 percent and there is $1.8 billion in projects for 2024.

Wodonga, VIC

Wodonga is located on the border of NSW on the southern side of the Murray River. It is approximately 320km from Melbourne and 345km from Canberra. The median house price is $567,250, up 4.7 percent in 2023. With a population of about 44,000, the city’s jobless rate is 3 percent and there is $388.2 million in development set to commence in 2024, primarily new infrastructure.

Burnie, TAS

Burnie is a bustling port city located in Emu Bay in Tasmania’s north-west. Overlooking beaches and parklands, the area is known for its rich agriculture and mining projects. The median house price is $435,000, up 3.6 percent. Despite a rising population, the unemployment rate is falling and is currently 5.6 percent. In 2024, Burnie’s project pipeline is valued at approximately $1.6 billion. A significant portion is commercial development, primarily renewable energy projects.

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