Residential mortgages valued at more than $1 billion were approved last week, the first time the Reserve Bank's weekly measure has topped $1 billion since April 2009.

The Reserve Bank data shows 6456 mortgages were approved in the week ended December 2 valued at $1.044 billion.

At $161,710 the average value was a record high. Last week's figures follow on from the previous week when, in what is traditionally the market's strongest period of the year, 6112 mortgages were approved valued at $966 million.

The 6456 volume of approvals in the week to December 2 was the highest number since 6878 approvals almost two years ago, in the week to December 18, 2009.


By volume the approvals rose 8.7 per cent on an annual basis based on a comparison of the most recent 13 weeks of data to the same 13 weeks in the previous year, with the value up 28.9 per cent on the same basis.

The current strong run of mortgage approvals, compared with the last two and a half years at least, comes as the Reserve Bank leaves the Official Cash Rate at its record low of 2.5 per cent and some economists predict it'll stay there until late 2012 or even into 2013.

The Reserve Bank defines an approval as a firm commitment to provide credit for the purchase of housing, which has been accepted by the borrower.

It says a commitment exists once the home loan application is approved, and a loan contract or letter of offer has been issued to the borrower.

Seven banks respond to the Reserve Bank's survey, between them representing 99 per cent of registered bank lending for housing, and about 94 per cent of total housing lending.