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02-05-2011

Property market soothsayers and silver linings

Landlords.co.nz

Confusing comments from market ‘soothsayers' may be spooking possible buyers, but a more relaxed attitude from banks to mortgage lending offers some silver lining, claimed First National Group.

The company's monthly survey of the network's 65 offices and 450 real estate agents looked at sales volumes, enquiry levels, listings, market trends and also surveyed agents on bank lending attitudes.

Of the total responses 58% of agents felt banks were more relaxed in their lending than in April last year and access to mortgages was easier for borrowers.

However, 33% felt mortgages were still difficult to access, and 9% felt it had gotten even harder than last year.

Agents were also asked their opinion on the most mortgage-friendly bank in their region, with 33% saying no one bank stood out.

Among the remaining 70%, Westpac topped the poll at 14%, followed by National and ANZ (12% each), BNZ (10%), SBS (8%), ASB (6%), Kiwibank (4%) and CBS and Nelson Building Society with 2% each.

First National Group general manager John Stewart said the perceived relaxing in lending would help buyer and seller confidence.

"While lending policies or criteria may not have officially changed, the attitude of lending officers has a lot to do with whether the mortgage is even likely to be approved and that was what we wanted to get a feel for," he said.

"We are seeing banks lend up to 95% of valuation again despite property prices having dropped since April 2010. Perhaps this is a reflection of banking views that the bottom has been reached in terms of values."

The First National Group findings echo the findings of the inaugural BNZ-REINZ survey of real estate agents, which cited a more relaxed bank approach for the 50% of agents that reported seeing an increased number of first time buyers.

However, First National said sales remained on a par with April 2010, and listings were 10% lower than a year earlier.

Stewart also raised concerns about some of the commentary on the state of the housing market.

"Of greatest concern to us is the totally confusing and at times self-serving comment coming from the banking, non-banking finance and academic economists sectors," he said.

"In the past week some soothsayers (predominately bankers) have told the market prices will fall more so hold off listing till it lifts. Yet within three days others are predicting price increases of up to 4% in the calendar year."

"One has to wonder whether some of the commentary is designed to keep prospective purchasers from applying for money and also keep term deposit investors happy in the knowledge that higher returns aren't far away.

"Confusing statements from commentators about rates increasing early and employment uncertainties mean many people remain spooked from even talking with their bank about a mortgage. Those who do are pleasantly surprised, in the main, with the deals on offer," Stewart said.

However, he also said he believed the market was some way from a full recovery.

"In our view, the market overall is still fairly subdued and has a long way to go."

Source: Landlords.co.nz

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