Housing finance soars, FHBs inch higher

The number of first home buyer home loan commitments rose 0.1% from March-April

The total value of housing finance reached a fresh record of $32.7 billion in April, while outstanding home loans soared to a new record of $1.39 trillion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The record figure was made up of $908.8 billion in home loans to owner occupiers and another $483.3 billion to investors.

A key highlight from ABS housing finance data released earlier this month was first home buyer levels inched higher in April 2015, with the number of first home buyer home loan commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments rose slightly to 15.2% in April 2015 from 15.1% in March 2015.

The data also revealed the average home loan size for first home buyers rose $8,500 to $334,800 while the average loan size for all owner occupied housing commitments soared $9,700 to $357,500.

Fixed-rate loans, as a proportion of all new home loans, fell to 10.3%, their lowest level in almost five years, as investors took advantage of record low variable interest rates.

The value of new home loans taken for investment housing leaped 2.6% in April to $13.5 billion, while investors through SMSFs allocated record levels to Australian property, with $72.1 billion invested in non-residential property as at March 31, 2015 and another $21.8 billion in residential real estate, both up 1.4% over the March quarter.

There was also a strong 3.1% gain in the value for owner occupier housing loans to $19.2 billion, taking the total value of home loans written in the month to a record $32.7 billion.

While the proportion of fixed-rate loans plunged to its lowest level in almost five years, borrowers should be wary of eventual interest rate rises, according to Amanda Watt, the head of banking business, act.

“Given interest rates are low and moderating house prices in some cities, paying your mortgage is now cheaper in some cases than paying rent. This will attract first home buyers back into the property market," said Ms Watt.

"Returns from term deposits are also very low, and this may push some younger people into property out of low-yielding cash products.

Watt said price growth may ease further this year in the smaller cities, but Sydney prices will remain "out of bounds" for many buyers.

"The situation elsewhere is much more positive and encouraging for home buyers. House prices may even drop if interest rates were to rise in 2016,” she said.