2 Sep 2013

Housing market robust - economists

7:54 am on 2 September 2013

A number of housing market statistics are showing signs of moderating growth but economists still view the market as reasonably robust.

Net new mortgages grew at their slowest monthly pace this year in July, although new lending was twice the level seen in July last year.

Reserve Bank figures show mortgage lending grew by $654 million in July, down from $738 million in June and $1.29 billion in May.

However, new mortgage lending in July last year was $320 million.

ASB Bank economist Jane Turner says the slowdown in housing credit has been very slight. She says it is still running at a fairly steady rate of .4% per month, down from .5% earlier in the year.

She says there is still strong growth in house prices so "steam" remains within the housing market.

Ms Turner says the central bank's figures are showing a slight shift towards fixed rate mortgages away from floating rates although those fixing their mortgage are doing so for a relatively short term.

The figures show 46% of mortgage lending is now at floating rates, down from 48% in June. Floating rate lending peaked at 63% of total mortgage lending in April last year.

However, those who have less than a year before their fixed rates expire accounted for another 28% of total mortgage lending, up from 21% in April last year.

Other figures out on Friday indicated the trend in consents to build new houses is showing signs of easing after increasing for more than two years.

The trend is still 71% higher than its historic low point of March 2011 and at its highest level in more than five years, although 38% below its January 2004 peak.

Bank of New Zealand economist Doug Steel says overall the building sector is likely to be a strong contributor to future economic growth.

ASB's Jane Turner says if consents continue to slow while demand remains greater than the supply of available houses, that could fuel house price inflation.