The housing market continued to reward investors over the past week, as data suggested the party will go on, if only for a while.

The RP Data-Rismark Daily Home Value Index for the five mainland state capitals, updated for the week ending Sunday, rose just 0.1 per cent on average.

Annual growth remained strong, with an 8.1 per cent average and Sydney again leading the pack with a rise of 11.7 per cent.

But the number of homes going under the hammer is falling, with only a three per cent rise in the number of new listings compared with a year ago, and a 12.5 per cent fall in the total on the market.

That suggests price rises may have as much to do with the reluctance of owners to sell their properties than the eagerness of buyers to snap them up.

At the same time, the RP Data-Rismark figures show auction clearances remain high, with a 69.8 per cent average for state capitals and Canberra, with Sydney at 78.6 per cent.

Both have fallen a bit from a few weeks ago, but only in line with the normal pattern at this time of year.  Investors hoping for more gains got two sets of good news in the past week.

One was in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s quarterly monetary policy statement on Friday.  The RBA kept the cash rate at 2.5 per cent on Tuesday, as expected, but said nothing explicit about the outlook.

There had been speculation that the run of interest rate cuts might be over, with steep housing prices frequently mentioned as a barrier to further cuts.

The RBA has repeatedly said it doesn’t want a housing price bubble.

But the quarterly statement made it clear that further cuts are not out of the question.

The RBA said its board had decided “not to close off the possibility of reducing it further, should that be needed to support economic activity consistent with the inflation target”.

It’s still seen as unlikely.  The futures market gives another cut less than a 50 per cent chance.  But it’s possible.

Then on Monday came evidence of the results of the RBA’s low interest rate policy.

The value of lending approved for housing – investors and home buyers combined – rose by five per cent in September, and by 17 per cent from a year earlier.

But there are some signs, aside from soaring prices, that the market is getting out of kilter.  The value of loans approved for first time home buyers fell to a decade low, prompting the Real Estate Institute of Australia to describe them as an endangered species.

At the same time, lending to investors rose to a 10-year high.

Of course, it was a decade ago that prices peaked and then stagnated for two or three years.

So both figures were sounding a warning.

But who wants to think about hangovers when there’s a party going on?


By Garry Shilson-Josling