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Lower rates improving home loan affordabity

for immediate release

Media release by Wizard Home Loans and www.interest.co.nz:

Wizard Home Loans Affordability report

For July 2008

Lower interest rates improving home loan affordability

Falling interest rates improved housing affordability in July to its best level since February 2007, the Wizard Home Loans Affordability report shows.

The national median house price was steady in July, but prices are falling in most of the big cities. Tax cuts on October 1 and further falls in interest rates are expected to improve affordability significantly over the rest of 2008 and through the spring when many home sellers put their houses on the market.

This monthly report measures the proportion of a median after tax income needed in each part of New Zealand to service an 80% mortgage on the median house price in that region.

The Wizard Home Loans Affordability report shows it took 77.4% of the median take-home pay to service the mortgage on the median house in July, down from 78.3% in June and down from a peak of 83.8% in November last year. The previous best level of affordability was in February last year when the affordability ratio stood at 74.7%.

The report also shows the proportion required for a first home buyer (someone aged 25-29 that has saved 20% of their after tax income in the previous five years) buying a cheaper house (first quartile price). The first home buyer’s affordability ratio improved to 66.8% in July from 68.1% in June and is also back at its best levels since February 2007.

Affordability looks set to improve through the rest of 2008 as interest rates fall at the same time as house prices keep falling. Tax cuts due from October 1 are also expected to improve affordability ratios as take-home pay rises slightly for most home-buyers. Nominal wages are also rising relatively fast.

“This coming spring will be the best for home loan affordability in two years,” said John Grant, Wizard Home Loans, Director, New Zealand Business.

“Home buyers are in a much stronger position than they have been for a long time. It is a buyer’s market and falling interest rates, rising wages and lower tax rates are all working in favour of home buyers as we head back into summer,” Grant said.

However, housing affordability remains much worse than before the housing boom took off in late 2003 and before interest rates rose from under 7% in 2003 to over 9% in 2008. House prices rose 64% between November 2003 and November 2007.

Most home-buyers are still forced to pool around two median incomes to afford the mortgage on the median house.

The biggest driver in the improvement in July was a fall in the average two year fixed mortgage rate to 9.09% from 9.21% in June. Interest rates have fallen over the last four months as news of an economic slowdown has intensified. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut the official cash rate from 8.25% to 8% on July 24 and is widely expected to cut it by a further 75 basis points to 7.25% by the end of 2008.

The median house price was flat at NZ$340,000 in July from June and remains down 3.4% from the peak in house prices in November last year.

The biggest improvements in home loan affordability were in Auckland and Southland where house prices fell sharply.

Four out of the 12 regions posted improvements in affordability, including Auckland, Southland, Canterbury and Nelson. Affordability worsened in Northland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Taranaki and Central Otago as house price rises were more than enough to offset the benefits of lower interest rates.

Affordability in Wellington was unchanged.

Note to editors: The Housing affordability series from interest.co.nz was first published in February last year and was sponsored by Fairfax Media up until May this year. It is now sponsored by Wizard Home Loans.


Home loan affordability for typical buyers

General/New Zealand Report:

http://www.interest.co.nz/HLA/HLA-NZ-August2008.asp


Links to individual reports for regions can be found here
Home loan affordability for first-home buyers

General/New Zealand Report:

http://www.interest.co.nz/HLA/FHB-NZ-August2008.asp


Links to individual reports for regions can be found here


Question and Answers about the report

How does interest.co.nz work out these numbers?

Interest.co.nz gathers data from Statistics New Zealand and IRD on wages in each region, data from the Real Estate Institute from each region each month, and data from banks and non-banks on interest rates. It has calculated home loan affordability going back to the beginning of 2002.

How is this survey different from the Massey University survey of affordability?

The Massey study is only done quarterly rather than monthly and uses an index of Home affordability rather than actually measuring home loan affordability. It uses an index rather than the actual measure of the proportion of after tax pay needed to service an 80% mortgage on a median home. The exact composition and meaning of the index is not detailed.

Why use a single median income rather than household income?

It’s true that most homebuyers are using a combination of one or more full or part time incomes to service their mortgage. Each household is different and may be using incomes from different sources. The best measure of average national household income is calculated officially once in every three years by Statistics New Zealand. Interest.co.nz chose to use the median income data series from IRD and Statistics NZ because it can be measured monthly and can be drilled down by region and by age. We do include a chart showing how many median incomes are required to keep mortgage payments at 40% of take home pay. It is currently around 2 median incomes.

Why is home loan affordability important?

It is a useful way to work out if a housing market is overvalued. It’s clear house prices stopped rising when the national affordability ratio rose above 80% or 2 median incomes to service the average home loan. It’s a way of comparing affordability of housing markets with a national average and comparing housing values from one year to the next. For example, the affordability ratio in 2002 before the housing boom really took off was around 41%.


ENDS

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