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Melbourne lockdown to ‘stifle’ short-lived lending recovery

Home lending volumes bounced back in June, according to the ABS, but stage 4 lockdown measures in Melbourne are set to have a “material” impact on demand over the coming months.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest Lending Indicators data, the value of housing finance approvals (seasonally adjusted) increased by 6.2 per cent in June to $17.4 billion.

This followed an 11.6 per cent plunge in May and a 4.8 per cent slide in April.

The recovery was spurred by 8.1 per cent growth in the value of investor lending to $4.4 billion and a 5.5 per cent increase in the value of owner-occupied lending to $13 billion.

First home buyer volumes also recovered, up 3.3 per cent to $3.8 billion in June, following a 10.5 per cent fall in May.

On a state-by-state basis, Queensland led the nationwide improvement, recording a 19.5 per cent increase in the value of owner-occupied lending volumes.

Maree Kilroy, economist at BIS Oxford Economics, attributed the improvement to a winding back of social distancing measures in early June, which saw bans on live real estate auctions lifted and travel restrictions eased.

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However, Ms Kilroy said the recovery would be short-lived, with a newly imposed six-week lockdown in Melbourne to supress demand for housing finance. 

“The introduction of stage 4 lockdown restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne this week will stifle property transactions for at least the next six weeks, dragging heavily on new mortgage approvals across all buyer channels,” she said.

“With Melbourne representing Australia’s biggest greenfield housing market, the hit to national new dwelling demand will be material.”

But Ms Kilroy said she expects the drag to be temporary, with record-low interest rates, government incentives like the HomeBuilder package, and an easing of social distancing measures post-lockdown to rekindle demand in the latter part of 2020.

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