Tag Archives: Reserve Bank

Signs that LVRs may be having an impact

April 2014

The Wall Street Journal reports:

New Zealand house prices fell in April while the number of residential properties sold dropped sharply on the year, adding weight to comments by the central bank’s deputy governor last week that new regulations on bank lending are starting to have an impact.

Data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Monday showed the national median home price fell to 432,250 New Zealand dollars (US$371,735) in April from NZ$440,000 in March. On the year, however, the figure was up from NZ$390,500 in April 2013.

REINZ Chief Executive Helen O’Sullivan said the sharp fall in sales volumes impacted all regions, as well as Auckland and Christchurch–the scene of much of the recent price pressure.

“The number of sales in the sub-$400,000 category continue to fall faster than the market overall, suggesting that the LVR (loan to value) restrictions are continuing to have an impact on buyer intentions at the lower price points. The lift in the Official Cash Rate by 0.5% over the past two months is likely to have also had an effect,” Ms. O’Sullivan said.

I have noted before that it seems the Canterbury market is currently “catching its breath”. In Christchurch, despite a drop in sales volumes (487 in April cf. 608 in March), the city-wide median of $412,500 is only 1.3% on a month ago – and up an impressive 10% on last year. For sellers – the market is still in your favour, and with interest rates set to only increase this year, it may be better to act sooner rather than later!

Reserve Bank exempts new builds from LVR restrictions

House ConstructionIn what some may consider an about-face, the Reserve Bank has announced that it will be exempting new builds from its new lending restrictions. The Press reports:

New builds will be exempted from new lending restrictions, the Reserve Bank has announced.

It comes after the building industry raised concerns the lending restrictions would affect the number of new houses being built, affecting Government efforts to increase the supply of new homes to help curb house price inflation.

The Registered Master Builders Federation had claimed the central bank policy could jeopardise the construction of up to 5000 new homes a year and they were seeing an increased number of planned new builds cancelled as a result.

Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Grant Spencer said they had decided on the exemption following consultation with the industry.

“While high LVR construction lending is only around 1 per cent of total residential lending, it finances around 12 per cent of residential building activity.

“This exemption will help to support the supply of new housing and, in doing so, reduce some of the pressure arising from excess demand in the New Zealand housing market,” he said.

It did seem that an exemption for new builds would be inevitable. Further, it is a good move for housing affordability. The exemption now creates an incentive for first-home buyers who are short of a 20 per cent deposit to embark upon a new build, which will in turn create an increase in housing supply.

A recent report entitled, Priced Out: How New Zealand Lost its Housing Affordability by the New Zealand Initiative notes that despite a richer and larger population, our country’s rates of building since the 1980s have not reached the levels of the 1960s and 70s. As a result, our new house building is lagging with a shortfall of at least 10,000 new houses annually – a shortfall that is continuing to grow. Here’s hoping that this exemption will go some way in mitigating that shortfall – but we still have a long way to go yet!

A dissenting view on LVR restrictions

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler has indicated that he wants LVR restrictions as a way to shore up stability and take the heat out of the housing market.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler has indicated that he wants LVR restrictions as a way to shore up stability and take the heat out of the housing market.

A guest post by my son, Caleb:

The proposed move by the Reserve Bank to curb low-deposit lending has received a fair amount of attention in the national media. In previous speeches, Prime Minister John Key has called for an exemption for first-home buyers. However, as Brian Fallow states, because first-home buyers represent about 30 per cent of new mortgage lending, with probably a significant chunk of that being on deposits of less than 20 per cent of the value of the property, such an exemption would undermine the effectiveness of the policy. Fallow continues:

… in a speech to Local Government New Zealand’s conference yesterday Key contented himself with saying that “first-home buyers are a priority for the Government”.

He moved swiftly on to acknowledge that for the Reserve Bank its plans to regulate high loan-to-value-ratio (LVR) lending are primarily about protecting the stability of the financial system and averting the consequences, apparent in recent years in several Northern Hemisphere countries, of a property bubble bursting.

Now I can understand part of the rationale for the policy embarked upon by the Reserve Bank. It’s undesirable for banks to be making high-risk, low-deposit loans to home buyers where there it there is a risk that a downturn in the housing market could result in a number of people being saddled with debts that far exceed the market value of their properties.

It is also an attempt by the Reserve Bank to an extent deflate the housing bubbles that are becoming increasingly apparent in Auckland and Christchurch. But I don’t think trying to dampen demand is the right way to go about the problem. What is needed is wide-ranging supply-side reform of the housing market. Metropolitan limits need to be extended, intensification allowed for in certain areas, and brownfield development opened up. Local and central governments must also examine options surrounding the granting of building consents, and bringing down the costs of construction. At the end of the day, this country needs more houses for its residents. An increase in the supply of homes will bring prices down in the long-run and lessen the need for high risk, low-deposit loans.

We must also ask whether low-deposit borrowing is really a significant problem that needs addressing. David Farrar at Kiwiblog provides some useful analysis of the data from the five major banks:

Farrar Graph

Farrar provides some analysis of the data above:

So the top three lines are all mortgages with LVRs below 80%.  They comprise four fifths of the total mortgages, and this was much the same in 2008.

There has been virtually zero growth in high LVR loans (over 90%) since 2008 despite there being solid growth in the housing mortgage market.

Essentially, of the approximate $185 billion of housing lending in NZ currently around $150 billion worth of it has an LVR of under 80%.

I think both the RBNZ are the Government somewhat over egging the problem and the need for LVRs.

We also have to be careful of the possibilities of unforeseen consequences. Restrictions on how much a bank can loan to home buyer may mean that they seek unsecured funding, rather than secured funding. This actually happened in Sweden, and actually works to decrease financial stability.

My father commented in his latest blog post:

Call me old school, conservative or irrelevant but I fully support the reining in of “high risk/low equity” lending. What was wrong with the old days when a minimum deposit of 20% was required? And yes we worked, scraped and saved to get it but somehow we used to do it.

My response is that we are now in a different age. This proposed policy is not merely a return to the “old days”. Yes, while back then 20 per cent deposits were the norm, housing was also considerably cheaper not only in nominal terms, but also relative to the median household income. Twenty per cent deposits aren’t so bad if the price of your property is relatively affordable. This graph from a paper presented at the Centre for Housing Research Aotearoa New Zealand displays how much property has become unaffordable since the “old days”:

RBNZ Graph

While the ratio has eased off since the housing boom of the mid-2000s, we are now seeing it move upwards yet again, largely driven by the Auckland and Christchurch markets. The New Zealand Herald also provides a handy infographic with the latest data.

The prospect of owning one’s own home is becoming ever more elusive for young New Zealanders. It’s my view that the proposed changes to LVRs by the Reserve Bank is a blunt instrument that seeks to correct market distortions primarily in Auckland and Christchurch, but will restrict access to credit for all home buyers, and will result in the door being firmly closed to those who might have otherwise aspired to getting on the property ladder. Clearly the Reserve Bank is using this policy to attempt to take some heat out of the housing market without raising interest rates, which would otherwise negatively impact exporters with an appreciating dollar. Should this policy be implemented – and it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be the case – it will certainly be interesting to see whether it has its intended effect.

Caleb has works with Griff as a marketing and administration assistant. He has recently completed his LLB/BA (Political Science) at Canterbury University. 

Tightening up on lending

Mortgage-FormFrom Stuff.co.nz:

One in every two to three first-home buyers could be shut out of the housing market as the Reserve Bank forges ahead with controversial restrictions on home loans. Banking sources say the central bank will announce new rules within the week that will rein in riskier mortgage lending to 12 per cent of new loans.

The changes will dramatically reduce the amount of high loan-to-value (LVR) loans that the banks are writing, making it much harder to get a mortgage with a deposit of less than 20 per cent. In theory, the new regime could strip close to $2 billion out of the loan market in a year, equal to more than 4000 homes at average prices.

I say let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Is it so bad if the lending criteria are tightened?
  • Have we become accustomed to purchasing property with skimpy deposits?
  • In this material age have we lost sight of “no pain, no gain”?
  • Is living with debt the accepted thing?

Call me old school, conservative or irrelevant but I fully support the reining in of “high risk/low equity” lending. What was wrong with the old days when a minimum deposit of 20% was required? And yes we worked, scraped and saved to get it but somehow we used to do it.

Yes, sure it is going to hurt by raising the bar of lending, but wherever a new level is set it will always be too high for some. Once established, the rules become the new accepted norm and form the baseline for what is acceptable. Look at what the no tolerance drink driving rules has done for our teens. It has brought back some good old black and white rules and I think the new lending criteria will do the same in the long run.

If you really want something bad enough, you will always find a way of getting it.

So what’s the big deal about needing a larger deposit?

Isn’t it a good idea that the Reserve Bank is making sounds about requiring higher deposits for bank loans? At the risk of sounding like an old codger, back in the day  when I bought my first home you needed at least 20 per cent deposit (some of which could be a government Home Start Loan that you had saved a portion of) and no more than a 1/3 of your income in debt servicing. Are we now allergic to saving money and has it just become the norm to buy everything on tick including houses?

Some sensible comments from REINZ chief Helen O’Sullivan:

Encouraging people to have a decent deposit when buying a property was a good thing, and that a loan-to-value ratio limit might help prevent future house price bubbles.

The reality for all first-home buyers is that it’s always difficult to get the deposit. But the less equity you have, the more at risk you are to variations in your personal circumstances.

One can either afford to buy a home or not and saving a decent deposit is the biggest step toward to affordability! And let’s not forget about the lessons learned from the US subprime mortgage crisis…

Get started now, it is never too late.