The Australian mortgage market has “ballooned” due to banks issuing new loans against unrealised capital gains of existing investment properties, creating a $1.7 trillion “house of cards”, a new report warns.
The report, “The Big Rort”, by LF Economics founder Lindsay David, argues Australian banks’ use of “combined loan to value ratio” — less common in other countries — makes it easy for investors to accumulate “multiple properties in a relatively short period of time despite high house prices relative to income”.
“The use of unrealised capital gain (equity) of one property to secure financing to purchase another property in Australia is extreme,” the report says.
“This approach allows lenders to report the cross-collateral security of one property which is then used as collateral against the total loan size to purchase another property. This approach substitutes as a cash deposit.
“This has exacerbated risks in the housing market as little to no cash deposits are used.”
The report describes the system as a “classic mortgage Ponzi finance model”, with newly purchased properties often generating net rental income losses, adversely impacting upon cash flows.
“Profitability is therefore predicated upon ever-rising housing prices,” the report says. “When house prices have fallen in a local market, many borrowers were unable to service the principal on their mortgages when the interest only period expires or are unable to roll over the interest-only period.”
What could go wrong?