HOUSE MARKET HEALING
The positive news coming out of the property sector bodes well for the economy. The FNB Estate Agent Survey, in its first-quarter 2018 report, shows there is a slight decline in financial stress in the housing market.
The household debt-to-disposable income ratio fell to 71.2 in December, compared with 87.8 during the first quarter of 2008. This, says FNB property strategist John Loos, means SA should expect an improvement in residential market financial stress. He lists three positive contributing factors: a decline in the debt-to-disposable income ratio; mildly improving economic growth; and the recent mild reduction in interest rates.
There was also a slight decline in the value of mortgage arrears during the fourth quarter of 2017. Nonperforming loans — accounts that have been in arrears for 90 days or more — also had a slight decline. The result, according to the survey, is that total arrears as a percentage of the value of total mortgage accounts declined from a multiyear high of 9.35% in the second quarter of 2016 to 8.4% at the end of 2017. The impact is clear. A decade ago, up to 34% of sellers reported putting their properties on the market to scale down due to financial pressure. The current moderate stress levels in the housing market lead Loos to conclude that the market is “very much under control”.