Australians preparing for economic downturn

New research from comparison website finder.com.au shows Australians have a preference for saving money in the bank rather than borrowing for a home loan.

The analysis of data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reveals that the amount of money borrowed from banks for owner-occupied home loans has grown at a slower pace than the amount of money in household bank deposits.

Owner-occupied home loan lending by banks grew by 7.5 per cent meanwhile household deposits increased by 10.4 per cent in the last 12 months.

The value of owner-occupied home loans across all banks sits at an all-time high of $843 billion, and total household deposits is also at a record high of $737 billion.

Graham Cooke, insights analyst at finder.com.au, said the trend could suggest consumer confidence is waning and people are preparing for tougher economic conditions.

“Before the GFC, we saw the gap between household bank deposits and owner-occupier home loans widening, which saw a peak of $128 billion more home loans funded than what was being saved by households in bank deposits in early 2008. When the GFC hit by the end of 2008, this gap shrunk to $95 billion.

"The gap now sits at $106 billion, close to where it was at the height of the GFC."

The analysis shows a preference for holding savings and reducing mortgages and borrowing for owner-occupied houses. The data could also be an early indicator of a cooling property market.

Mr Cook said that Australians are obviously concerned about their financial prospects and property owners and prospective buyers should be wary of over-capitalising in the current conditions.

With Westpac the latest bank to announce an increase in variable home loan rates, now is the time for existing borrowers to look at their current home loan and consider refinancing, he said.

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Liz Shaw

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