Early this year I was quoted in an article that explored how the country’s housing market might change if the current ‘artificial’ restrictions were taken off. It was a purely hypothetical scenario musing over the removal of the many handbrakes introduced in recent years including the Foreign Buyer Ban and loan-to-value ratio (LVR) rules.
It was certainly an interesting suggestion but one that all of the commentators interviewed, myself included, concluded would result in little to no significant impact in the near term.
What it did do, however, was get me thinking more generally about the LVR restrictions, and what their future might be.
As a quick refresher, LVR restrictions cap how much a bank can lend relative to the purchase price.
The restrictions were taken off in 2020 but put back in place in March 2021 and then tightened further to help dampen the post-COVD buying frenzy and curb any looming financial stability risks. Current LVR levels mean investors mostly require a 40% deposit while owner-occupiers generally need a 20% deposit, although new-builds are exempt.
Nobody I’ve spoken to is realistically entertaining the idea that the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) would remove LVRs altogether anytime soon, but it is possible that they’ll be loosened eventually – perhaps by reducing the deposit rule for investors (e.g. 5% of loans < 30% deposit, rather than the current 40% requirement) and raising the speed limit for owner-occupiers (e.g. 20% of loans < 20% deposit, rather than the current 10% speed limit).
However, to me, some form of LVR loosening doesn’t seem imminent. Here’s why.
Although I think the probability that LVRs will be loosened this year is low, there’s a reasonable chance we’ll see a shift if/when formal caps on debt-to-income (DTI) ratios are imposed from around March 2024. In other words, giving with one hand and taking with another in early 2024. More detail on DTIs can be seen here, in particular the consultation document.
Again, the RBNZ should be independent from the politics. But to the extent that this shift in the policy mix might help FHBs a bit more (because they find it harder to raise deposits) and hampers investors a little (because they borrow at higher DTIs more often), this would no doubt please the current Government, if they were still in power at the time.
Ultimately though it’s worth reiterating that the cost of finance is the most important factor. Continued high mortgage rates into 2024 would probably restrain housing activity and prices regardless of what was happening to credit policy.
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Source: CoreLogic NZ