Lending criteria unlikely to relax in 2012

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As property investors take stock of the New Year and the opportunities on offer, the possibility of financial institutions relaxing their lending rules in the year ahead remains unlikely.

Genworth Financial chief executive Ellie Comerford told the AFR that despite poor growth in 2011, there was an uptick in the housing market toward the end of last year – largely as a result of lender discounting. However, she indicated lenders will likely switch gears in the coming months to stimulate the market.

“The question is, is Australia likely to chase returns by relaxing the [credit criteria] guidelines? And we don’t see that happening,” she said. “We see lenders who want to grow their businesses positioning with tailored product offerings.”

Comerford indicated lenders would be driven to develop products for borrower groups struggling with housing affordability.

She noted that self-employed borrowers were particularly hard hit last year by higher exchange rates and a patchwork economy.

A recent Genworth survey showed that 56% of respondents were forgoing spending on groceries to save up for a deposit on a property.

“In the 1970s the average age for a first-home buyer was 27 and now it is 31.8,” she said. “Home affordability has been a [growing] issue since the 1960s.” 

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