The 'single biggest factor' driving the rise in first homebuyer activity for Australians
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The ‘single biggest factor’ driving the rise in first homebuyer activity for Australians

The number of loans issued to first home buyers has risen by 20 percent over the past 12 months

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Jan 16, 2024 10:08amGrey Clock 3 min

The number of new loans being issued to the most budget-conscious cohort of buyers in the property market – first-time purchasers – has increased by 20 percent over the past 12 months, according to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Almost 10,400 new loans were written for first home buyers in November, 31 percent of them in Victoria, 23 percent in New South Wales and 19 percent in Queensland.

Despite the common affordability challenges faced by younger Australians, lending to first homebuyers is currently tracking at 29.4 percent of all new owner-occupier finance, which is above the 10-year average of 24.3percent. The value of all owner-occupier loans rose by 0.5 percent in November to $17.86 billion, up 10.6 percent over the past 12 months. The value of investor loans rose by 1.9 percent to $9.72 billion, which is 18 percent higher than a year ago. But the boost to first homebuyer finance is much bigger, up 2.8 percent in November to $5.25 billion, but more significantly, it’s up 25.8 percent compared to a year ago.

The ABS points out that a large component of November’s increase in first home buyer finance was due to a surge in Queensland. This coincides with a doubling of the state’s First Home Owner Grant to $30,000 for eligible first home buyers purchasing or building a new home. The grant is the equal highest state grant available to young buyers and triple the size of grants available in New South Wales and Victoria.

There are two key factors underpinning rising first home buyer activity, despite today’s high interest rates. The first and most significant is the growing impact of the Bank of Mum and Dad, with parents typically getting involved at the start of the process. They are either gifting cash to help fund the deposit, offering rent-free accommodation to their children throughout their 20s so they can save a deposit themselves, or going guarantor on their loans.

Research published last year by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) found parental help has “become one of the key enablers of the transition into home ownership”. According to AHURI’s findings: “Parental transfers, both direct and in-kind, are increasingly assisting individuals make a more rapid transition into home ownership. Analysis identified that in-kind transfers in the form of co-residence with parents (and not renting) lifts the likelihood of transitioning into home ownership by 40 percent.”

AHURI says first homebuyers’ ability to save a deposit using their earnings alone had diminished over time as property values – and thus the required deposit amounts have risen. According to PEXA data, buyers in NSW needed a median deposit of just below $120,000 to buy a home in FY23, up 3.9 percent on FY22. In Victoria, the median deposit was $84,723, down 0.5 percent, and in Queensland it was $78,143, up 8.5 percent.

AHURI said family support “was found to be the single biggest factor in supporting being able to buy a home. In Australia’s most expensive market, Sydney, where the median house price is currently $1.4 million and the median apartment value is above $830,000, according to the latest CoreLogic figures, AHURI says family support was an essential component of being able to buy a home in all cases …”.

The second factor boosting first home buying today is higher uptake of the Federal Government’s expanded Home Guarantee Scheme, which enables eligible buyers to qualify for a loan with just a 5 percent deposit and a government guarantee on the rest, saving them thousands of dollars in mortgage insurance.

Housing Australia says one in three of all first home buyers in FY23 used the scheme, up from one in seven in FY22. This reflects the expansion of the scheme, with more places funded by the Albanese Government and broader eligibility criteria enabling more people to participate.

Higher interest rates have also encouraged more participation, says Housing Australia’s head of research, data and analytics, Hugh Hartigan.

“The broader macroeconomic environment with rapidly rising interest rates has substantially decreased mortgage serviceability with flow-on effects for affordability and this has led to first home buyers relying more heavily (proportionally) on the scheme than in previous years,” Mr Hartigan said.



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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