Pexels/Juhasz Imre.

Australian home lending continued to weaken in April, driven lower by another drop in the value of investor loans.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the value of housing finance fell 0.2% to $31.742 billion in seasonally adjusted terms, leaving the decline on a year earlier at 3.2%, slightly smaller than the 4.4% drop reported in the 12 months to March.

According to the ABS, the value of investor lending fell by 0.9% to $10.749 billion in seasonally adjusted terms, adding to the 8.9% decline reported in March.

From a year earlier, the value of investor lending slumped by 15%, reflecting the impact of tighter lending standards from Australia’s banking regulator, APRA.

In contrast to lending to investors, the value of owner-occupier lending increased, lifting 0.2% after seasonal adjustments to $20.993 billion in April.

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From a year earlier, that represented an increase of 4.2%, a small acceleration on the 3.1% pace seen in March.

Excluding refinancing of existing home loan facilities, lending to owner-occupiers was flat during the month at 14.687 billion. That was an increase of 2.4% on 12 months earlier.

Owner-occupier refinancing grew by 0.5% to $6.31 billion in April, leaving it up 8.6% over the year.

Despite the lift in the value of owner-occupier lending seen in April, the number of loans issued to this group fell, dropping by 1.4% to 52,116 in seasonally adjusted terms, leaving the decline on a year ago at 2.9%.

Markets had been looking for a slightly larger decline of 1.8% in April.

Excluding refinancing of existing owner-occupier loans, new loans to this cohort fell 1.9% in April, and by 4.4% over the year.

The ABS said loans issued to buy existing, newly completed and for housing construction all declined over the month, dropping by 1.3%, 3.7% and 0.2% respectively to 43,643, 2,870 and 5,603.

Without seasonal adjustments, the ABS said the proportion of owner-occupier loans going to first home buyers increased to 17.6%, up from 17.4% in March.

Recent declines in Sydney and Melbourne property prices, along with the introduction of stamp duty concessions by the New South Wales and Victorian state governments last year, has helped to bring forward demand from first-time buyers in these markets over recent months.

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