Weekly home loan approvals have hit a record for the second time this month, adding weight to speculation about an end-of-year borrowing splurge.
As previously reported by the Business Herald, lending worth $1.56 billion was approved in the seven days to December 11 - the most in one week since the Reserve Bank's records began in 2003.
The value of approved loans then climbed to a fresh record of $1.59 billion in the week to December 18, according to the bank's latest figures.
Almost 7800 loans were approved, up from 7181 in previous week.
Last week, Massey University banking expert David Tripe advised caution around the statistics, pointing out that just because loans had been approved didn't necessarily mean all of the lending had taken place.
Bank-to-bank refinancing, as borrowers switched lenders to take advantage of lower interest rates, could also be contributing to the high number of approvals seen this month.
"But it does suggest there is likely to be a bit of an upsurge in lending coming through," Tripe said. "It does look like there might be something interesting when we see the [actual lending] figures for January and February ... that'll be the real test of the numbers."
The record December loan approval figures come after signs of a slowdown in the Auckland property market emerged last month.
It remains to be seen if prices continue to ignore the tighter regulations, or whether November's prices are the last remnants of momentum that built in the lead up to the introduction of the tighter measures.
Real Estate firm Barfoot & Thompson reported an almost 8 per cent fall in sales in the city, with new listings taking a similar dip.
However, prices were up from October, with the average price rising 4.2 per cent and the median price up 1.9 per cent to $795,000.
"While prices have ignored government and Reserve Bank measures designed to cool prices, there has been a measurable decrease in market activity," said Barfoot & Thompson director Kiri Barfoot earlier this month.
"It remains to be seen if prices continue to ignore the tighter regulations, or whether November's prices are the last remnants of momentum that built in the lead up to the introduction of the tighter measures."
Although low mortgage rates are currently relieving pressure on these indebted households, some borrowers could quickly come under pressure if their labour incomes decline or mortgage rates increase.
In its November Financial Stability Report, the Reserve Bank said household debt levels remained "elevated" and the combination of low mortgage rates, high household debt and a rising housing market posed a major risk to the financial system.
It said housing debt increased at an annualised rate of 8 per cent in the three months to September.
New mortgage commitments were increasing sharply, running at about 36 per cent of outstanding mortgage debt.
"Notably, a significant proportion of mortgage lending is being undertaken at elevated debt-to-income ratios," the report said. "Although low mortgage rates are currently relieving pressure on these indebted households, some borrowers could quickly come under pressure if their labour incomes decline or mortgage rates increase."
New Zealand's total mortgage debt topped $200 billion for the first time at the start of this year, up from just over $100 billion in 2005.