By David Hargreaves
First home buyers enjoyed a record high share of the mortgage money handed out by the banks in December, according to the Reserve Bank's latest monthly borrowing by lender type figures.
The latest figures do emphasise the big drop-off in house buying that occurred in December as highlighted by the recently released Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures for the month.
However, the overall tally of mortgages advanced during the month, at $5.371 billion, is in fact up about $300 million on the same month a year ago.
It is, however, down by around $850 million from the amount of mortgages advanced in November.
The FHBs have been gradually building their overall share of the borrowing the in past year - as well as borrowing increasing amounts in actual dollar terms.
In the latest month the $924 million borrowed by the FHBs accounted for 17.2% of the total advanced by the banks, which is a new high in a series that the RBNZ has now been publishing since August 2014.
One noteworthy point in the latest figures is that the RBNZ has issued a "special note" on the figures.
Since October it has been noticeable that the overall share of mortgage money going to investors has dropped sharply, from somewhere just above 20% to around 17.5%.
However, the note, dated January 29, says that In October 2018, a "major bank" made a reclassification to their ‘commitments use’ reporting.
"This resulted in a reclassification from “investor” to 'other owner occupied'. The series now show a lower amount of “investor” purpose loans from October 2018 onwards. This impacts both the C31 and C32 tables," the note says.
The RBNZ doesn't say which bank has reclassified its loans or what the specific impact is on the figures.
The mortgage figures from January onward will be watched with a great deal of interest, as the RBNZ has relaxed its loan to value ratio (LVR) restrictions from the beginning of this month.
A similar move in January last year did seem to have an impact, particularly in respect of more FHBs coming into the market.