Mortgage lending hits record high as investors, first-home buyers swarm property market

If anyone needed more proof of just how hot the property market is right now, look no further than the latest mortgage figures.

Lending in November hit a new record high - with investors responsible for the bulk of the increase.

Here's a number to chew over at Christmas lunch tomorrow - $9.3 billion. That's the total value of mortgages taken out by Kiwis in November. It's a new record high, up a huge 37 percent on last year.

But who can afford to buy in this market? Well FOMO - the fear of missing out - is driving first-home buyers to rush in. They borrowed $5.3b in November - 24 percent more than last year.

But the real game-changer is investors. They've swarmed the property market, borrowing $4b last month - a huge 57 percent more than last year.

But for some of them the party's about to end.

It was the night before Christmas and some eager home buyers were signing the bottom line on Thursday.

"Our people are flat-out, our finance department is paying out contracts today right up on Christmas Eve," says Harcourts managing director Martin Cooper.

Cooper expected demand to drop - well, we know that didn't happen.

"It's brought everyone back to property, thinking 'my home is where I'm safe, it's secure for me'. So there's massive interest in property, and with these low-interest rates it's going gangbusters," he says.

Forget we were in recession this year - the property market doesn't care.

Real Estate Institute New Zealand (REINZ) figures show the median house price is up 15 percent this year compared to last. Everyone wants a slice of the property pie.

"I think there's a lot of FOMO in the market," says REINZ CEO Bindi Norwell.

"People thought the prices would go down. They haven't, so people want to get into the market before prices go up too much."

Don't expect the boom to stop any time soon. Mortgage broker Adam Day is being bombarded by cashed-up expats returning home who want to buy.

"I've had contact with quite a few who are in isolation and they're wanting to start the process immediately," he says.

He expects some investors will be pushed out of the market when the Reserve Bank reinstates tough lending restrictions next year, requiring bigger deposits.

"The sort of first-time investors are going to be challenged a bit more," Day says.

"They're the fuel, they're the momentum, for the market, so it may open the door for more first-home buyers," Cooper adds.

But the Government is being pushed to do more.

"It's a very frustrating time for some people trying to get onto the property market, and I just think we need more supply," Norwell says.

That's a first-home buyer's wishlist - less buying, more building.