Property investors are starting to boost their presence in the housing market, with investment lending hitting its highest growth in a year in November, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The value of investor loans grew by 2.2% in November, the highest growth recorded by the segment over the past 12 months. Investor lending has risen by around 10% from the low point it registered earlier in 2019.
This growth is consistent with other indicators pointing to the housing market's early stages of recovery from the downturn, said Master Builders chief economist Shane Garrett.
"The renewed enthusiasm amongst investors for Australian housing is the result of a return to solid house price growth in key markets as well as the more attractive financing conditions flowing from three RBA interest rate cuts last year," he said.
While the gains in the segment also provide an early sign that investors back on their feet, investor activity remained subdued compared to the peak level it reached in 2015.
On the other hand, first-home buyers witnessed a marginal decline during the month, with financing falling by 0.9%. However, the overall lending to this segment remained strong, said Geordan Murray, an economist at the Housing Industry Association (HIA).
"Stimulus measures, including interest rate cuts, tax cuts, and the easing of APRA's lending restrictions are having a positive impact on the housing market. The governments First Home Loan Deposit Scheme will also assist eligible first home buyers enter the market from this month," he said.
However, the loans issued to households for the building and purchasing of new homes remained weak. In fact, construction loans declined by 8.4%, dropping to its lowest level since 2012.
"The weakness in construction lending in November is largely a legacy of the very soft sales volumes that home builders were experiencing during the first half of the year," Murray said.
This decline could be related to the drop in building approvals. Recent approval figures from ABS show that the overall building approvals dropped by 20%. In New South Wales, the number of private-sector houses approved dropped by 3.4%.
Despite the dip in financing for new home construction, the overall loan commitments from owner-occupiers rose by 1.6% in the month, clocking a sixth straight month of growth.
"If these conditions remain, the market will stabilise this year," Murray said.
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