New home sales buoyed by rate cut

Chris Zappone | Sydney Morning Herald | January 9, 2012
http://www.smh.com.au/business/property/new-home-sales-buoyed-by-rate-cut-20120109-1pqv2.html
New home sales jumped in November in response to the Reserve Bank’s interest rate cut.
The sales of new homes rose 6.8 per cent in November, following a downwardly revised increase of 2.8 per cent in October, according to the Housing Industry Association – Jeld Wen new home sales report.
While detached house sales surged 9.8 per cent, apartment sales slumped 17 per cent, HIA said today.
“Interest rate cuts, both those we’ve had and those that are still warranted, provide a … catalyst for a sustained and strong recovery in new home building conditions,” said HIA chief economist Harley Dale.
The Reserve Bank in November lowered the interest rate to 4.5 per cent from 4.75 per cent, in response to increased concerns about the European sovereign debt crisis slowing the global economy and hurting Australia’s growth. It was the first reduction since April 2009. In December the RBA cut the key rate by another 25 basis points.
Capital city home values also posted their first monthly rise in 2011 in November, edging up 0.1 per cent seasonally adjusted, according to RPData.com. For the year to November, however, capital city home prices fell 3.5 per cent.
“This is a healthier but not unexpected result,” Dr Dale said. “With falling interest rates, a competitive building market, and a greater availability of skilled trades amidst still very soft overall demand conditions, now is clearly a good time to build a new home for those who are financially set to take that decision.
“There is, however, a long way to go to restore new home sales volumes to acceptable levels,” he said. “At present sales volumes are running at least 20 per cent below what you could conservatively call
healthy.”
Sales soar in NSW
The volume of detached house sales soared 22.8 per cent in New South Wales and 11.6 per cent in Victoria. They also rose 5.7 per cent in Western Australia and 4.7 per cent in Queensland. In South Australia they fell 11.3 per cent.
Mr Dale said a full recovery in housing activity wouldn’t emerge unless the government offered well-targeted stimulus and began to reform housing planning policy to cut the barriers to new housing supply.
Measures of growth in the construction sector show that it remains under pressure, as households borrow less and real estate prices keep housing out of reach for would-be buyers.
The Australian performance of construction index for December, released today, remained under the 50 point level separating expansion from contraction for the 19th straight month even as the index rose by 1.4 points to 41 in December, helped by the resources-related construction.
Australian Industry Group director of public policy Peter Burn said the two-speed economy was visible in construction data, with “a clear divide between the expanding engineering construction sub-sector and the still-contracting commercial and residential construction sub-sectors”.
House building fell 5.7 points in December to minus-32.9.
“The increased pace of contraction in the house building sub-sector in December remains deeply concerning,”  Mr Burn said.
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