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Mortgage demand sees surprising surge

Demand for home loans grew stronger in November despite expectations of a decline, according to new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Housing finance data revealed 56,798 home loans were approved over the month – an increase of 1.8 per cent from October despite prior forecasts of a 0.5 per cent decline.

“In November, more than $33 billion worth of home loans were written,” Mortgage Choice chief executive officer John Flavell said.

“This spike in both the number and value of all home loans written can largely be attributed to the growth in lending for owner-occupied housing.”

The ABS data revealed that the total value of all owner-occupier home loans written was up 2.4 per cent in November, compared to the month prior, while the total value of investment loans written rose 0.7 per cent.

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Mr Flavell said the slight increase in the value of investment loans written was surprising given the policy and pricing changes installed by Australia’s lenders over recent months.

“Last month, we saw a significant drop in the total value of investment loans written – a drop we attributed to the recent investment lending changes,” he said.

“This month, we have seen investment lending increase slightly, which is very pleasing as it suggests the housing market remains robust.”

However, Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said the industry shouldn’t get ahead of itself when it comes to the value of total loans written.

“For investor loans, that [November result] follows a substantial pull-back over the previous six months reflecting regulatory measures that have seen a tightening in lending conditions and an increase in rates for borrowers in this segment,” he said.

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“Some of that pull-back resulted in ‘spillover’ positives for owner-occupier loans. However, this switching effect was expected to have largely run its course by November with the broader slowdown apparent in housing markets since late last year becoming more evident.

“Instead, the November reading suggests a firmer finish [for demand], although we caution that for volatile monthly data, one observation is not enough to base a firm view on ongoing trends.

“Indeed we would tend to see it as a bit of a head fake with most other market indicators still pointing to a clear slowing in demand.”

[Related: Investor activity set to rise]

Mortgage demand sees surprising surge
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