By Guest Carol from Vista Financial
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) today announced that as of 1 January 2019 it will lift the supervisory cap it placed on interest only lending.
So what does this even mean?
First things first, who is APRA?
APRA is one of the regulators in charge of monitoring financial institutions and basically keeping them in check. You may have noticed them in the spotlight in the Banking Royal Commission and copping a fair amount of criticism for basically coming across as being asleep at the wheel. Given the things that have come to light this is not really surprising.
The general impression is they haven't been doing a very good job (i.e. a lot of wet lettuce leaf slapping - a.k.a. "enforceable undertakings"). But they have tried to put some things in place to try help.
One of which was recognising we have way too much household debt (one of the highest in the world) and in particular zeroing in on the high proportion of interest only loans and associated questionable lending practices. If you're paying interest only, you're not reducing that debt, and it stays high. You might be reducing debts else where and taking advantage of tax breaks yes, but if things go south and you have to repay the debt, then you might be in a pickle. If lenders give you money you can't actually afford to repay then you might in a pickle. We want to avoid widespread financial pickles.
To try reel this in, APRA announced a cap for interest only lending in March 2017 that all authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADI's) had to meet (read: people that lend us money who are regulated - full list here). The cap was 30% of all new lending, along with some extra 'don't be too risky' clauses.
Did it work and what does it mean now it's being lifted?
Low and behold how do you reduce the number of people applying for interest only loans/staying on them? You make it expensive.
Fast forward to today, interest only rates are much higher than principal and interest rates. As result, people either haven't applied, don't meet the servicing criteria, have switched to principal and interest repayments, or have sold. For those that didn't, they've now paid ADI's a pretty penny.
But this hasn't been the only thing changing in the industry - lending criteria is tighter than ever, lenders are scrambling in the wake of the Royal Commission, house prices are changing, interest rates are historically low etc. ADI's are now "... significantly below the 30 per cent threshold" so they've decided to lift this cap in the New Year and will review how things are tracking later in 2019.
One may hope we would see some reprieve in the interest only rates and appetite for this type of lending to increase again, but don't hold your breath - everyone is waiting for the final release of the Royal Commission report in February. Why make changes now when you have a reason to wait?
It's going to be an interesting start to the New Year.
By Guest Carol from Vista Financial
Merry Christmas says the RBA. No changes to the cash rate.
Here's some interesting bits of today's announcement, which will be the last until 2019:
"The global economic expansion is continuing and unemployment rates in most advanced economies are low. There are, however, some signs of a slowdown in global trade, partly stemming from ongoing trade tensions...
Financial conditions in the advanced economies remain expansionary but have tightened somewhat. Equity prices have declined and credit spreads have moved a little higher. There has also been a broad-based appreciation of the US dollar this year. In Australia, money-market interest rates have declined, after increasing earlier in the year. Standard variable mortgage rates are a little higher than a few months ago and the rates charged to new borrowers for housing are generally lower than for outstanding loans...
One continuing source of uncertainty is the outlook for household consumption. Growth in household income remains low, debt levels are high and some asset prices have declined. The drought has led to difficult conditions in parts of the farm sector...
Conditions in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets have continued to ease and nationwide measures of rent inflation remain low. Credit conditions for some borrowers are tighter than they have been for some time, with some lenders having a reduced appetite to lend. The demand for credit by investors in the housing market has slowed noticeably as the dynamics of the housing market have changed. Growth in credit extended to owner-occupiers has eased to an annualised pace of 5–6 per cent. Mortgage rates remain low, with competition strongest for borrowers of high credit quality."
You may read the full release here.