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Ipad-to-Cash Giveaways Impede RBNZ Bid to Tame Housing: Economy 13/06/2013

Central Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler’s quest to cool New Zealand’s housing boom is being stymied by 50-year low mortgage rates and giveaways being offered by the nation’s banks as they chase new customers.

ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd., the largest lender, is offering NZ$1,000 ($791) with loans of NZ$100,000 or more, while Bank of New Zealand Ltd. is handing out NZ$1,000 of fuel and grocery vouchers. Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC) is giving iPads and cash, and ASB Bank Ltd. was giving a Sony 42-inch flat-screen TV.

Houses stand in Lyall Bay, a suburb of Wellington, in New Zealand. Home prices rose 8.7 percent in May from a year earlier, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Inc. said in a report today.

Surging home prices could add pressure on Wheeler, who has resisted raising the benchmark interest rate from a record-low 2.5 percent to avoid fueling a currency that jumped 5.4 percent in the year through May. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which meets tomorrow to set rates, is instead seeking to restrain the developed world’s fourth most-overvalued housing market by regulating banks’ capital ratios and imposing restrictions on riskier mortgages, pitting itself against lenders.

“Eventually the housing sector will force the RBNZ’s hand,” said Robin Clements, New Zealand economist at UBS AG in Christchurch. “Macro-prudential tools will help, but at the end of the day only the cash rate will do the job.”

All 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News forecast Wheeler will keep the rate unchanged tomorrow. Clements is one of four analysts tipping a rate rise this year. Fourteen of the 15 expect an increase by March 2014.

Among major central banks, the RBNZ is the most likely to raise interest rates in the next 12 months, according to interest rate swaps data compiled by Credit Suisse Group AG. For the first time in 18 months, the shadow board set up by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has more support for a rate rise than a cut, the institute said today.

Bubble Risk

New Zealand house prices are the fourth most over-priced among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based group said last month. The nation is in a category where prices are too high and still rising -- making the economy most vulnerable to the risk of a correction, it said.

The RBNZ will need to gradually raise interest rates later this year or early in 2014 as growth accelerates amid earthquake rebuilding, the OECD said in its biannual economic survey of the nation this month.

Home prices rose 8.7 percent in May from a year earlier, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Inc. said in a report today. The annual pace slowed from 9.8 percent in April, which was the fastest since September 2007.

Variable home-loan interest rates for a new borrower fell to 5.86 percent in April, the lowest since June 1965, according to central bank figures. Lenders including ANZ, BNZ and ASB currently offer mortgages fixed at a record-low 4.95 percent for one year, based on at least a 20 percent deposit.

Keeping Offers

Lenders are keeping their giveaways in place even as the central bank warns on the housing market. Westpac’s iPad offer, which is for new lending of NZ$100,000 or more, is in place for loans approved before July 6, according to the bank’s website. ANZ and BNZ don’t have a specified end date for their campaigns, according to spokespeople.

Wheeler on May 30 said he is resisting raising interest rates to cool the housing market because of the New Zealand currency’s recent strength, which weighs on exporters.

“Increasing the cash rate would carry significant risks in New Zealand in the current environment,” he said. “It would increase the rate differential between New Zealand and most of the advanced countries and could lead to a further strengthening of the exchange rate.”

The Kiwi had gained as much as 15 percent versus the greenback from last year’s low. Since Wheeler said on May 8 that he was intervening in the currency market to weaken the local dollar, it has declined about 6 percent.

Consumer Confidence

Elsewhere in Asia, machine orders in Japan fell 8.8 percent in April from March, and South Korea’s unemployment rate climbed to 3.2 percent in May. A measure of consumer sentiment in Australia climbed in June, while a report later today may show industrial production in India rose in April.

In Europe, May consumer price index data for Germany, France, Italy and Spain will be released. In the U.S., mortgage applications in the week to June 7 will be published.

Unwilling to use interest rates, Wheeler has pushed for prudential measures. In May, he and Finance Minister Bill English agreed on how to implement the tools, giving the governor authority to impose balance sheet limits and other restrictions on banks as a condition of their license if there is a risk to financial stability.

Risky Loans

Wheeler is taking aim at high loan-to-value lending, when the loan makes up more than 80 percent of the property purchase price. The central bank estimates the portion of lending above the 80 percent threshold has climbed to 30 percent of new loans, from 23 percent in late 2011.

The RBNZ on May 8 said it will increase the amount of capital that banks need to hold against risky loans. There are early signs the effort to cool the volume of the riskiest lending, where deposits are as small as 5 percent, is working.

“The appetite to lend at very low deposits has certainly diminished,” said Scott Miller, owner of Advanced Mortgage Solutions Ltd., a Christchurch-based mortgage broker. “I don’t think you’re going to see the 95 percent product removed from the shelves, but how often it is used will reduce.”

LVR Limits

“The evidence to date suggests that during episodes of quickly rising real estate prices, LVR limits can help reduce the incidence of credit booms and decrease the probability of financial distress and sub-par growth following the boom,” Wheeler said in a May 30 speech.

Boom and bust cycles in credit and asset prices can pose real risks for homeowners and destabilize banking systems, English said when he announced the agreement with the RBNZ on May 16.

Wheeler joins policy makers from Hong Kong to Norway to Canada in tightening lending rules to tame a housing boom rather than using interest rates. Weak global growth prospects have prompted central banks in the euro area, the U.S. and Japan to add stimulus, curbing the scope of policy makers to damp their overheated housing markets without fueling currency gains.

Wheeler also faces a disparity in housing market conditions across the country that adds to his challenge. Prices in Auckland, home to a third of New Zealand’s 4.4 million people, rose 15 percent in May from a year ago, while in earthquake devastated Christchurch they gained 13 percent, the Real Estate Institute said today. Yet in some provincial areas prices gained less than 5 percent.

Fierce Competition

New Zealand’s housing market isn’t over extended by high loan-to-value ratio lending, according to the New Zealand Bankers Association.

“There’s a bit of a myth that all the lending going on is high LVR,” Wellington-based Chief Executive Officer Kirk Hope said in an interview. He estimates that banks generally have no more than 25 percent of their portfolio in the high LVR category. “Low credit growth has meant that competition is very fierce. All of the banks are competing for premium customers.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

From shaky grounds to solid rewards - 12/10/2012

Since enduring a devastating earthquake a little over a year ago, the Christchurch property market has been on shaky ground. As thousands of residents have sought to evacuate the city and properties have been deemed un-liveable, mortgage brokers have been forced to find new and opportune ways in which to market their businesses.

Since the disaster social media has been become a crucial tool in marketing. Whilst businesses were forced to move locations an online site provided an unmovable medium. This allowed brokers a direct link to their customers whilst their physical location was in the midst of chaos and relocation.

Director of Advanced Mortgage Solutions, Scott Vaughn Miller, said moving into the social media industry was hugely beneficial. “I used a bit of everything, Facebook, Twitter, and linked-in as well as my own website. At least fifty percent of the referrals I have now come from clients seeing me online”. As a result of this, Miller’s business has now increased to the point where he is taking on new staff and referring work to other brokers.

Director of Bev Dickey Mortgages, Bev Dickey, agrees with Miller. She said her website has been invaluable over the last year. “I am reaping the rewards of a great website. This is because it’s approachable with no babble and has the right colours and layout. My advice to any broker is to get a great web designer.”

The great saying ‘think globally, act locally’, has re-emerged following the quake. Mortgage brokers are realising the power that a community can generate and brokers such as Miller and Dickey are using this to their advantage.

“Advertising locally and being a visible part of the local community means clients feel one step closer to their broker…it’s therefore easier to quickly gain that level of trust that’s vital” said Dickey. She reinforces that gaining trust as a broker is crucial as people then feel comfortable opening up about their whole financial situation.

According to Miller though, gaining a step up on the local competition comes down to referrals from pre-warmed leads. “I approached lawyers and accountants who already had a large sphere of influence over the local community. They were therefore able to refer large numbers of their trusted clients to me”.

While Christchurch residents are ‘keeping on keeping on’, so are the mortgage brokers. “Keep on persisting is the best piece of advice I would give any broker seeking to expand their business” said Miller.

Dickey encourages every broker to take a good look at what is and what isn’t working for them. “If it’s not working for you then change it” she said.

In the midst of a city in constant turmoil, persistence and a willingness to change is something these two brokers have had to take on board in increasing measure - but their businesses are reaping the rewards.

Emily Mclean The Adviser.

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