Credit crackdown putting heat on apartment buyers and developers
The banking royal commission’s final report is still months away, but its public exposure of bad practices and dodgy lending has already had a chilling effect on the property market.
Anticipating the commission’s findings, the major banks have already begun to tighten lending standards.
And that is making this difficult for borrowers and property developers.
“The royal commission has scared a lot of people,” Aussie Home Loans founder John Symond told 7.30.
“It’s certainly shaken up the big institutions, the big banks, it’s focused and put the light on a lot of areas that need fixing.”
Mark and Samantha Burgess bought an apartment off the plan in a Sydney development in 2016.
They have since taken a double hit, due to stricter lending rules and a falling property market.
Initially they were told they would need a 10 per cent deposit for their $1.65 million purchase.
But when it came time to settle in August this year, things had changed.
“The bank pulled out at the last minute,” Mr Burgess told 7.30.
“We had to find another bank.”
Then they were told they needed a 20 per cent deposit.
“We were on the verge of losing the deposit and losing the property,” Mr Burgess said.
“Just getting that 20 per cent together, if it hadn’t been for friends and family coming to our aid we wouldn’t be here now.”
On top of all that, they were told the property was now worth $300,000 less than what they had paid for it, and their ability to pay came under intense scrutiny.
“My whole salary goes to the mortgage,” Mr Burgess said.
“It was drawn out, it was arduous, it was stressful.
“I don’t envy anybody else who’s out there going through this — and there seem to be quite a few.”
Luke Berry is the developer of the apartment complex the Burgesses bought into.
He said developers were also under the microscope.
“Banks are scrutinising pre-sales,” he told 7.30.
“They want to understand who your builder is, they want to understand your ability as a developer, if you can cover overruns.
“It’s definitely a lot harder than it has been in the past.”
In June this year, there were more than 156,000 apartments — a record number — being built around the country.
But buyers are scarce.
“Usually you would have confidence of selling one or two a month. At the moment it might be one every three months,” Mr Berry said.
“So you’re seeing a significant slowdown.”
Mr Berry hopes he and his developments will survive the downturn.
“I think projects will halt,” he said.
“You’ll have projects with a big hole in the ground that can’t get momentum.
“I can see that’s going to happen for the next 12 months until people work out their pathway on how they’re going to survive this credit crisis.”
John Symond says a large interest rate rise could wipe out borrowers “like a tsunami”. (ABC News)
The royal commission has not been the only thing acting as a brake on the industry.
The financial watchdog, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA), has also moved to take the heat out of the investment-property market.
In 2014, it limited the amount by which banks could increase their proportion of investor loans to 10 per cent a year.
Then in 2017, it sought to slash the number of interest-only loans on the banks’ books.
But according to Mr Symond, the real future threat could come from a different front — the Reserve Bank, if and when it decides to raise interest rates.
The central bank has recently suggested the next interest rate move could possibly be down, but is more likely to be an increase.
And that, Mr Symond says, will be a problem.
“People have now adjusted to low interest rates,” he said.
“If interest rates went to 10 per cent over the next couple of years, people couldn’t handle that. It would wipe people out like a tsunami.”