New home buyers still borrowing to their limit

There was much joy among residential lenders in January as they celebrated droves of first home buyers returning to the residential property market.

First home buyers also appear unafraid of loading up with cheap debt – combining the carrot of the Government grant and lower interest rates to push the average first loan up 7 per cent for the quarter.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, for the quarter ending November 2008, show the average first time home loan jumping $18,100 to $269,200.

This suggests that first home buyers are ‘stretching’ themselves and not necessarily reducing the amount required to borrow as rates fall.

In fact, first home buyers are taking a punt Australian official interest rates continuing to fall from 4.25 per cent, which seems likely in the short term with March and June 90 day bank bill futures contracts below three per cent.

This is reflected by the fact new mortgage borrowers remain heavily skewed towards variable lending, with only 2.5 per cent of the 49,383 mortgages financed in November having fixed rate terms.

This is a dramatic turnaround from the 19.3 per cent fixed average for all loans financed during the 2008 financial year. The current fixed average for FY09 is 4.4 per cent.

Overall, new home purchases financed in November 2008 (the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics housing finance data) jumped 18 per cent to 11,665, month on month, as the falling interest rate environment and the government grant encouraged new entrants.

Existing property purchasers are placing less confidence in the market, with financed loans crashing 13 per cent in November to 37,718, leaving total loans financed for the month down three per cent to 49,383.