Even property spruikers are wary of Melbourne apartments

http://www.afr.com/p/business/property/even_property_spruikers_are_wary_XcZabbbTHp3hJOoTwJIaAP

 

Property spruiker Jamie McIntyre and Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens agree on one thing: Melbourne is building too many apartments.  An acceleration in bank lending to investors in the housing market has prompted the RBA to threaten the use of macroprudential rules to curb house price growth. Part of the problem lies with property spruikers who have returned to the market in droves, promoting spur­ious investments.

Mr McIntyre heads up the 21st Century group of businesses, which promises to make investors $150,000 for investing in blocks of farming land that may be rezoned as residential. He said he was advising clients not to invest in apartments in Melbourne and Sydney as they “have the makings of a property bubble”.  He said that part of the market was being affected by foreign buyers seeking safe havens outside their home country rather than capital growth. Any enforced tightening of lending standards would have no impact on foreign investors because they “often pay cash”, he said.

The RBA’s warning of lending controls may have put banks on notice but it is unlikely to rattle spruikers, many of whom use non-bank lenders outside the control of regulators to source financing.  Mr McIntyre’s company arranges the financing for his own clients. “Making it harder for investors to get loans could make it worse by forcing them to use ­second-tier lenders at higher interest rates,” he said.

Local buyers at risk

But some spruikers agree that their activities are having an effect on the broader market. Property investment promoter Michael Yardney said banks had lowered their standards to compete for business.“There’s no doubt we are having a mini-boom in Melbourne and Sydney,” Mr Yardney said.  Despite the RBA’s warnings, Melbourne spruiker Jon Giaan continues to talk up the market. Mr Giaan said any housing boom was localised to large segments of Sydney and Melbourne. “Just because prices are rising, or out of reach of some segments, doesn’t mean that the market isn’t working,” Mr Giaan said.

Joseph Zaja, founder of Ausin Group, which sells apartments off the plan on behalf of developers such as Mirvac Group, Lend Lease Group and Stockland, said tighter lending standards would hurt local buyers, not the wealthy foreign buyers who make up 95 per cent of Ausin’s client base.

 

“Most of my clients can only borrow up to 80 per cent – some as low as 60 per cent. Most throw in 30 per cent equity,” he said.  Mr Zaja forecast problems in investor-dominated markets, such as central Melbourne apartments, for local mum and dad local investors who borrow at much higher loan-to-value ratios.  “It could hit prices quite a bit in Melbourne. A lot of people could face [financing] issues,” he said.