Disappointing home loan and house price data indicate Australia’s housing boom is starting to pull back.
The number of home loans approved in March fell 0.9 per cent. Economists had expected a 0.5 per cent rise.
Australian capital city house prices continued to rise in the March quarter, by 1.7 per cent, softer than the 2.9 per cent rise economists were expecting.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, released on Tuesday, show that the housing market was still looking good but had pulled back from the boom seen late last year, JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said.
“We saw very, very solid growth in Sydney and Melbourne, and most other major property markets, and what we’re seeing now is a pullback,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Over the past few months, there’s been quite a slowdown and deceleration from the euphoria that we saw in the second half of last year.
“There, clearly, has been a pullback in activity in home loans and I think we’re starting to see that slower pace of demand filter through to house prices.”
He said the earlier higher levels had been unsustainable and “prices are now growing at levels that are perhaps more sustainable over the long term”.
Mr Kennedy said other data such as auction clearance rates and building approvals also showed a wind-down in the housing market.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a further deceleration when we get the next quarterly print on house prices,” he said.
Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said the housing market was moderating after a very strong finish to 2013.
“Momentum has softened a little bit in early 2014 and we expect the market to slow over the course of this year,” Mr Hassan said.
“What we’re seeing from our consumer sentiment survey is a pretty clear turning point in assessments around time to buy a dwelling that indicate price gains are starting to impact buyer perceptions and point to a slowing in price growth by the middle of the year.
“It’s just becoming more difficult for owner occupiers to get into the market.”
What happened to house prices in your city in the year to March?
• Sydney – rose 15.7%
• Melbourne – rose 10.9%
• Perth – rose 7.3%
• Brisbane – rose 6.1%
• Adelaide – rose 4.9%
• Hobart – rose 4.8%
• Darwin – rose 4.1%
Canberra – rose 1.1%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics