The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released lending finance data earlier today and when it is paired with the earlier housing finance data release, the figures provide insight into the value of mortgage lending over the month in each state and territory.  Over recent months investor demand for mortgages has been trending higher and this is being largely driven by resurgent investor demand in New South Wales and Victoria.  Of course the capital cities of these two states have consistently recorded the strongest value growth of all capital cities over the past five years and also have the lowest rental returns.

The data analysed is based on the value of mortgage finance commitments.  Given this it is important to consider that more expensive markets (such as NSW) will tend to result in borrowers taking out larger mortgages whereas borrowers in more affordable markets will generally take out smaller mortgages.  More than half of all the mortgage lending to investors in November 2016 was lent in New South Wales and with a further 24.5% in Victoria, three quarters of all mortgage lending to investors occurred in the two most populous states.

Looking only at new lending (that is excluding refinances) investors accounted for 56.7% of the value of lending in New South Wales in November 2016.  Looking over the past four years, the value of new lending to investors in New South Wales has been greater than new owner occupier lending for 42 of the past 48 months.  Victoria was previously seeing slightly more than 50% of new lending to investors but was recorded at 45.0% in November 2016.  Across the remaining states and territories, the proportion of total new lending to investors in November 2016 was recorded at: 39.7% in Queensland, 37.1% in South Australia, 31.0% in Western Australia, 26.1% in Tasmania, 40.3% in the Northern Territory and 38.7% in the Australian Capital Territory.

It’s clear that demand for mortgages from the investor segment is picking up, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, which are proxies for Sydney and Melbourne respectively.  With a low cost of borrowing and many owner occupiers having seen substantial increases in housing equity in Sydney and Melbourne over the past 4.5 years it is easy to understand why investor demand is rising.  On the other side of things, you have a value growth phase that has now run for 4.5 years, largely focussed on two major cities and rental returns at historic low levels in these cities.  Investors should be considering the potential risks, especially as housing supply is responding and that the value growth phase is now quite mature.  While many have seen a substantial increase in the value of properties and may continue to do so, at some point growth will slow.  With record low yields, slow rental growth and additional housing supply entering the market over the coming years, if investors need to start relying on rental returns rather than increase in the asset value, boosting those returns is likely to prove difficult.