It is widely known that houses prices in Australia, particularly Sydney are becoming increasingly unaffordable to an increasing number of the population. Higher interest rates have begun to limit the extent to which demand for housing can be financed. Rates have risen six times in just a short space of time.

Given that household debt now exceeds approximately 150% of disposable income (a historical high), and that the mortgage interest burden stands at 20% of gross income (up from 11% in 2003), even if demand were strong enough to continue to push up house prices, the recent credit crunch has reduced the funds available to potential house buyers as lenders have reined in borrowing.

Increased mortgage repayments are set to deal current homeowners a further blow.
Given the current credit squeeze and sup-prime mortgage crisis in the US, Australian banks will feel the pinch.

From a consumer’s point of view, this will mean that there will be few attractive offers from banks to refinance for a better deal. Indeed, many lenders have tightened their lending criteria as a result of the problems in the US subprime mortgage sector.

These trends will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of defaults in Australia —although it is unlikely that there will be a surge in defaults to the extent witnessed in the US, where many subprime mortgage holders are being hit by higher “reset” repayment rates.

Faced with higher mortgage repayments, Australian homeowners will be in less of a position to release their equity to purchase additional homes. Simon Turner