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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Banks to try and prevent speculation on property prices

PETALING JAYA: Bank Negara is engaging with banks on possible measures to curb excessive speculation on property prices while developers caution that it should not be imposed across the board to avoid dampening the property market.

Responding to queries on whether the central bank will be imposing a 80% loan-to-value ratio (LVR) for mortgages to avert the risk of a potential property bubble, the central bank said: “Bank Negara regularly engages with industry players as part of its surveillance and supervisory activity. The engagements cover a broad range of issues and areas that relate to developments on the ground, safety and soundness of the institutions and the overall system.”

Datuk Michael Yam ... ‘Bank Negara should not impose a mandatory LVR cap on loans.’

It added that to ensure prudent management of credit risk in the banks’ balance sheets, the central bank regularly engages with the industry on developments in the underwriting and selling practices of financial institutions.

The share of housing loans to total loans is about 26%, according to the central bank.

When contacted, banking industry players said it was likely that any measures to be introduced would be pre-emptive measures to target certain quarters of purchasers and would not be across the board.

The measures are believed to be targeted at the high-end and non-owner occupied house purchasers.

Currently Bank Negara does not impose any standard policy on mortgage loans but leave it to the banks to manage.

But following a rise of between 10% and 30% in the prices of landed houses in some parts of the Klang Valley (including Kuala Lumpur) and Penang in the past one year, banking sources said Bank Negara might be looking at discontinuing the 5:95 and 10:90 housing loan packages, and preferred banks to impose higher downpayment for property purchasers.

Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum ... ‘We hope that any implementation of the 80% loan to value ratio will take into proper consideration the industry’s feedback and current market conditions.'

The bank sources concurred that over the longer term, there must be the flexibility to allow more relaxed loan quantum if the market needs it, especially if there is a recession.

OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd head of secured lending Thoo Mee Ling said part of the rationale for the 80% LVR for mortgages could be to curb speculative property prices in the market currently.

“If it is implemented, home buyers will have to self-finance a higher amount than they do now. In the short term, coupled with entry costs such as legal, stamp and valuation fees, the property market will take a dive and it will subsequently dampen the mortgage business.

“In the long term, the measure would curb speculative property buying and promote a healthier property market. Therefore, both the banks and property market will become more resilient to any potential crisis,” she said.

Datuk Michael Yam, the president of Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda), said Bank Negara should not impose a mandatory LVR cap on mortgage loans at this juncture as it would dampen buying sentiment with spillover effects on other related industries such as construction and building materials suppliers.

“The local banking industry is well regulated and banks are very prudent and stringent in their credit assessment of borrowers. Banks have, on their own initiative, cut down loan margins to borrowers and only those who are credible and can afford to repay their loans will be offered a higher loan margin.

“Banks also are very selective of what projects they extend loans to.”

Caution and prudence should be exercised when considering any measure for mortgage loans, said Yam, adding that it should not be across the board.

“It is better to leave it to market forces to decide as the banks’ stringent lending criteria is enough to ensure the quality of loans in the market,” he added.

Yam said that up to 90% of the country’s population are living in affordable houses priced below RM250,000, and the current low downpayment for property purchases has promoted home ownership among the lower to middle income group.

Mah Sing Group Bhd group managing director cum chief executive Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said a conducive financing environment was important to support the property industry, which was a significant engine of growth for the economy.

“We hope that any implementation of the 80% loan to value ratio will take into proper consideration the industry’s feedback and current market conditions.”

Leong said there was no property bubble at this juncture “as property price increases have not been across the board.”

“The properties which have been enjoying price appreciation are those with good concepts by branded developers, and sited in good locations.

“One must also take into account the construction cost, and also increasing price of good land in considering the prices of properties, which have gone up by 10% to 25% in the past 1½ years,” Leong added.

By The Star

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