I once read a SF short story where the protagonist was wrestling with a moral dilemma. There was some expensive new toy he wanted, but he was already mortgaged for the rest of his live, and he had mortgaged his son’s life earnings too. The only way to get his toy was to mortgage any potential grandchildren for life. Which, after quelling some vestigial twitching of conscience, he duly did. Interesting story, I thought at the time, and wondered if such things would ever happen for real.
Fast forward a few decades and we seem to be well on the way. On Stuff this morning:
Interest-only mortgage ‘irresponsible’
Westpac’s new 30-year, interest-only mortgage has been decried as irresponsible and likely to fuel property investor speculation. Details of the new loan product were discreetly fed to mortgage broker channels in recent weeks. The offering is a major shake-up to the market, with the term three to six times as long as the maximum allowed by rival banks.
Once the term is up, borrowers can either repay the loan in full or switch to a standard mortgage, implying a total length of 50 years. “You can get 50-year mortgages in America which mean you pretty much have a mortgage for life, which is not responsible at all,” said Rule.
With property prices as insane as they are, I predict that this form of mortgage will grow increasingly popular in NZ. Mortgaged for life. And of course, it’s worse than that, because as usual the game is rigged:
Westpac’s chief product officer Shane Howell said owner-occupiers were eligible, but not the target market. “It’s really specifically geared towards investors . . . to give them the best opportunity to take advantage of the tax benefits,” he said.
Property investors typically use interest-only loans to maximise cashflow, as interest is fully tax-deductible while principal repayments are not.
Australian regulators are keeping a wary eye on interest-only loans, which are fuelling a property investment boom and have triggered cautions from ratings agencies. However, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has only just started collecting information from the industry, which it will begin publishing next year.
So here we have a product designed for investors, taking advantage of a tax dodge, which will further fuel a property boom, and the only way for ordinary buyers to compete is to mortgage themselves for life. What a world.