Home loan growth has slowed but some households still vulnerable: MAS

The property curbs introduced in Singapore over the past few years have slowed growth in home loans and curbed investment demand. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 
The property curbs introduced in Singapore over the past few years have slowed growth in home loans and curbed investment demand. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 

The property curbs introduced in Singapore over the past few years have slowed growth in home loans and curbed investment demand.

But some households may remain financially vulnerable, the central bank said on Tuesday.

Home loans grew 12 per cent in September this year from the same month last year, down from a peak of 22 per cent growth in September 2010, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its annual financial stability report.

A total of $8.8 billion in new home loans was given out in the third quarter of this year, less than the $13.5 billion the preceding year.

The average loan tenure of new housing loans has also shortened, from a record 30 years in the third quarter of last year to about 24 years now.

In addition, home buying demand from investors and speculators has dropped, going by the proportion of borrowers who take up a second or subsequent housing loan.

That proportion fell to 14 per cent in the third quarter this year from about 30 per cent in 2011.

However, the MAS warned: "More sluggish economic growth, less favourable labour market conditions and less bullish sentiment could lead to a turn in the property cycle, possibly at the same time that interest rates rise.

"Such a scenario could lead to a concurrent erosion of household net wealth and higher debt-servicing burdens. Overleveraged households would be more vulnerable to such shocks."

It noted that mortgage loans account for about three-quarters of household debt and that the value of property assets, estimated at $838 billion in the third quarter this year, account for about half of household assets.