Record-low interest rates could help Kiwis who are behind on loan repayments

The number of Kiwis failing to meet their bank payments is on the rise, with 10,905 mortgage repayments missed in the first week of August.

When it comes to other loans like credit cards and overdrafts, 77,544 have failed to meet their repayment deadline.

That means the banks are owed a total of $2.6 billion that should have been paid back by now. 

But record-low interest rates could soon take the edge off some stressed borrowers.

"You'll see small changes, maybe. If we ended up with a negative OCR [Official Cash Rate], we might see something below two," John Bolton from Squirrel Mortgages says.

That's an interest rate of just two percent he's talking about.

All the major bank economists now expect the wholesale interest rate to fall below zero next year for the first time in history.

"The Reserve Bank has been very aggressive in saying they're going there, so who are we to oppose what they're saying," BNZ head of research Stephen Toplis says.

But Kiwis shouldn't expect their actual mortgage rate to drop that low. Advisors say banks are unlikely to take their retail interest rates below zero. 

Most one-year fixed rates already have a 'two' in front of them, and the Reserve Bank wants that to become commonplace.

"It remains in the long-term interests of banks to fully pass on the benefits of these lower funding costs," Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr says.

But some economists don't believe that'll happen.

"Unless we can get really, really negative rates consistently, then we're not going to be able to pass it on," Toplis says.

With rates as low as they are now, first home buyers are flooding the market.

"What we're seeing is a lot of first home buyers out in the market, it's really, really busy," Bolton says. "At these interest rates, it's way cheaper to own than to rent."