First home buyers facing squeeze
Investors are taking on record levels of housing finance as first home buyers continue to struggle to enter the growing property market.
First home buyer loan approvals hit a record low in Victoria in October but lifted slightly from an all-time low in NSW, Bureau of Statistics data released on Tuesday showed.
The latest housing figures came as a new National Australia Bank survey found business conditions remained weak in November, while companies' confidence levels edged lower as improving trading conditions were offset by a weakening labour market.
Home loan approvals for owner-occupiers rose a seasonally adjusted 1 per cent in October to 52,305 across Australia.
First home buyer activity as a proportion of total borrowers lifted off the all-time low of 12.5 per cent in September, but remain subdued at 12.6 per cent in October.
In Victoria, first home buyers made up 11.7 per cent of new housing loan commitments, the lowest proportion since records began in 1991. The previous record low was 12.2 per cent in September.
First home buyer activity improved slightly in NSW in October, lifting to 7.4 per cent from a record low of 6.8 per cent in September.
The overall value of home loans rose 4.1 per cent in October to $26.5 billion, driven by investors. The value of loans for investors jumped 8.2 per cent for the month to reach $10.3 billion - the highest level on record. The value of owner-occupied loans grew 1.7 per cent.
The lift in investor activity was a "significant step up ... worthy of further monitoring", Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said.
Housing construction finance expanded 1 per cent in October.
The Reserve Bank has been looking for a rise in activity in non-mining sectors such as housing construction to fill the gap left by an expected fall in resources investment.
ANZ property analysts David Cannington and Paul Braddick said the strong growth in building approvals, together with record-low interest rates and recent home price rises would support further activity in housing construction.
Even so, the sharp lift in investor activity, coupled with the sluggish growth in first home buyers borrowing and continued softness in business conditions would be of concern to the central bank, Citi economists Paul Brennan and Josh Williamson said.