House price growth to slow sharply in hottest APAC markets, says Fitch

House price growth is likely to decelerate sharply in several Asia-Pacific (APAC) markets in 2017, as affordability constraints, increasing supply and tighter lending and regulatory standards dampen price dynamics, Fitch Ratings says in its latest Global Housing and Mortgage Outlook.

Australia, New Zealand and China, the markets with the region’s biggest recent price rises, will experience a pronounced and overdue slowdown. We expect them to record single-digit house price growth, rather than the double-digit growth experienced last year. However, stable or improving economic growth and employment, coupled with low interest rates, limited supply and continued population growth, will support price increases in all but one of the six APAC economies covered in Fitch’s report, even though prices are now out of line with incomes in several markets. Only Singapore is expected to see house prices fall, with Fitch forecasting prices to drop by a further 4% after three consecutive years of decline.

Fitch forecasts Australian nominal house-price gains to slow across the country’s eight capital cities to 3% in 2017, from 10.9% in 2016, although population growth will support prices in Sydney and Melbourne despite stretched affordability. Falling rental yields, increasing supply and fewer prospects for capital growth will weigh on the market, particularly in regional areas. Tighter lending standards, including growth limits on banks’ investment loan portfolios, should dampen demand.

Demand for housing in New Zealand remains strong, particularly in Auckland and surrounding areas, but we expect nominal house-price growth to slow to 5% nationally on affordability pressure and tighter regulation. Measures of relative home price expensiveness have deteriorated more in New Zealand since 2010 than in any other country covered by our report. New Zealand also had the largest regional price-growth disparity over the last four years, with a difference of over 80 percentage points between Auckland, where prices increased by some 76.3%, and those on the West Coast, which saw prices fall by 5.1% over the same period.

We expect a sharp drop in China’s tier 1 city house-price growth to 2.5%, from a 25% rise in 2016 and several years of rapid price increases, partly in response to tougher rules on home purchases and minimum loan deposits. The market should also cool in other tiers, although at varying rates. However, we do not anticipate a major correction, as the Chinese authorities directly control many aspects of the housing and mortgage markets. Ongoing urbanisation, low interest rates and strong income growth will also support prices.

House price gains in Japan and South Korea are forecast to slow marginally. Ageing demographics are a long-term constraint in both markets, although the 2020 Olympic games will drive Tokyo prices higher in the near-term. Oversupply and high household indebtedness in South Korea will gradually soften the market.

Singapore is the only APAC market for which we have a stable/negative outlook. An influx of new supply, slowing immigration, a soft economy and ongoing measures to cool the property market are likely to continue to dampen sentiment. However, mortgage delinquencies for the major banks should remain low – in line with the healthy labour market and strong household balance sheets, even as short-term rates rise over the next two years.

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