Home World Business House prices fall in Sydney for first time in 18 months

House prices fall in Sydney for first time in 18 months

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Sydney house prices are set to suffer their first fall in 18 months, new figures show, in the wake of strong action from regulators designed to curb the growth in investor loans.  

The figures for the first 27 days of April from property researcher CoreLogic show Sydney house prices declining by 0.1 per cent for the first time since December 2015, while Melbourne’s property prices have risen by 0.5 per cent, half as much as the previous month. 

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Supply is tight and rents have continued to rise for the March quarter.

The full analysis for April, which could see Sydney’s monthly prices fall by 0.2 per cent, is due to be released on Monday and is likely to be welcomed by the Turnbull government after Treasurer Scott Morrison urged regulators to clamp down on “the sharp increase in the level of investor credit” fuelling the runaway property market. 

“I have been concerned over the last couple of months that the measures that were put in place a few years [ago] have worn off and it is now for the council of financial regulators to determine what the next step is,” Mr Morrison said in March. 

The figures for the first 27 days of April from property researcher CoreLogic show Sydney house prices declining by 0.1 ... The figures for the first 27 days of April from property researcher CoreLogic show Sydney house prices declining by 0.1 per cent for the first time since December 2015 Photo: Glenn Hunt

The big four banks reacted swiftly by raising the interest rates of investor loans following the announcement, with the Commonwealth Bank moving again to raise rates in April by 0.25 per cent. ANZ followed suit on Friday, raising its interest only rates by 0.4 per cent to “reflect our need to closely manage our regulatory obligations, portfolio risk and the competitive environment.”

While the government has begun playing down expectations of the May budget’s housing affordability package, it has maintained it will be a key part of its policy pitch. Measures to help first home buyers pay for a deposit are still under consideration, while raiding super and adjustments to the capital gains tax concession appear to have been ruled out. 

The slower house price growth in the two east coast capital cities is also likely to be welcomed by the Reserve Bank after it warned regulators could take drastic action to slow Sydney and Melbourne’s runaway housing markets if interest-only loans were not brought back under control.

Interest-only home loans are typically used by investors to claim a tax deduction or buyers who only want the property for a few years before selling. The interest is paid over a set period, usually five years, before both the principal and the interest become payable, making it a more expensive option for longer term homeowners but attractive to quick turnover investors.  

Analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data in March showed investors had stormed back into the market, taking out nearly 50 per cent of all loans in January for the first time since 2015 with up to 40 per cent using interest-only loans, while foreign buyers spent $8 billion per year on new homes in NSW and Victoria, locking out owner-occupiers.

On top of higher interest rates putting a dampener on demand, new restrictions implemented by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority will require banks to limit interest-only lending to 30 per cent of residential lending. 

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