Housing bubble getting bigger, economist Chris Joye says RBA is muddle-headed

Housing bubble getting bigger, economist Chris Joye says RBA is muddle-headed
Housing bubble getting bigger, economist Chris Joye says RBA is muddle-headed

Australia's big housing worry is that its house price-to-income ratio is rising, according to Australian Financial Review columnist, Chris Joye.

The RBA data has it at 5.1 times in March 2014, a touch below the 5.2 records in 2007 and 2010, he noted.

After these prior records, prices fell 6% to 8% he added.

"My analysis suggests the ratio has crept further since March as national prices continue to outstrip incomes," with Joye warning of a possible vulnerability from an interest rate, income or unemployment rate shock.

"With Australian home values in absolute terms and compared to incomes now at, or near, multi-decade peaks, there is a case that we have an emerging bubble.

"While Glenn Stevens has been reluctant to mention the “b-word”, the RBA’s latest research lends weight to the notion valuations are getting stretched.

"Speculative mania and/or rapid credit growth are only portents, not conditions, precedent to a bubble existing.

"RBA officials claim they are not worried about a bubble because credit growth is low.

"This is muddle-headed for two reasons: first, housing credit growth is outpacing incomes, which is the key criterion; second, credit growth is only meaningful in respect of the light it sheds on changes in the level of household leverage and the probability of borrowers defaulting.

"Low leverage combined with strong credit growth is a sign of dangerous conditions ahead.

"But RBA data shows that historically and internationally lofty leverage has already arrived: Australia’s 150 per cent household debt-to-income ratio is approaching its pre-financial crisis apogee.

"All we need now is an interest rate, income or unemployment rate shock to crush house prices and send leverage into uncharted territory.

"And contrary to RBA rhetoric, house prices are hardly “cooling”.

Joye noted in the first seven months of 2014, prices have inflated at a 9.5% annualised national pace (triple wages growth) with Melbourne values appreciating more rapidly than Sydney, with both realising strong double-digit gains this year.

"Many pundits were fooled by the winter seasonal slowdown, which has been reversed.

"With banks promoting the cheapest mortgage rates ever, I suspect Australia’s nascent housing bubble will get bigger."

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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