Lending figures could show investors increasingly worried about risk

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A slowdown in lending for investment home loans could point to people believing there is a growing level of risk in property investment according to one analyst.

Figures released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that August  was the first time in 13 months that the value of new lending (excluding refinances) was greater to owner occupiers than it was to investors.

According to the figures, August saw owner occupiers account for $20.8 billion worth of home loans, a 6.1% rise over the month and a 26.5% year-on-year rise.

Of that $20.8 billion, $1.7 billion was for the construction of new homes, $1.2 billion was for the purchase of new homes, $6.4 billion was for the refinancing of established homes and $11.5 billion was for the purchase of established homes.

Investors accounted for $13.6 billion in home loans during August, which is a 0.4% month-on-month decrease, but a 12% increase over the past 12 months.

Over August, investors borrowed $0.8 billion for the construction of new homes and $12.7 billion in for purchasing established homes.

CoreLogic RP Data senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said the changing lending landscape may be down to investors taking a step back from the market as they wait to see which way it moves.

“Value growth has been strong for more than three years in Sydney and Melbourne and investors may be becoming concerned about the longevity of the boom while growth outside of these cities has been sedate,” Kusher said.

“Once you also consider a record high pipeline of residential construction accompanied by a record low rate of rental growth and historical low yields perhaps a growing number of investors are looking towards other forms of investment they perceive as less risky at this stage in cycle,” he said.

Kusher said the changes may also have been accelerated by lenders raising interest rates on investor loans in response to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) push to slow investor lending growth.

Kusher also said APRA and the Reserve Bank will likely keep a close eye on the figures and Housing Industry Association (HIA)  economist Diwa Hopkins said the regulators need to be careful to not drive too many investors out of the market.

“Investors have played a key role in the current new home building cycle, which has been a vital element of the broader economy as investment into other sectors continues to ebb,” Hopkins said.

“Regulators and lenders alike must be cognisant of this in the context of the APRA interventions in the residential lending environment.”

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