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Ahead of the game: SA's savvy home buyers

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Very few of Australia’s home mortgage holders are in arrears – and in South Australia we’ve become a State that’s keen to build equity.

More than 50 per cent of BankSA’s mortgage holders are “ahead in payments”, the Bank’s chief executive revealed yesterday.

“In the aftermath of the GFC, our borrowers have used the lower interest rates to build the equity in their homes,” Jane Kittel said.

“So much so, that more than half of our customers are ahead in their payments.

“When rates went down, they maintained the level of payments to increase the amount of principal they could reduce.”

BankSA has an estimated 140,000 mortgage customers, by far the largest loan book in the State.

The revelation is backed up by international ratings agency Fitch’s latest data on Australian residential mortgages.

Fitch’s Dinkum Index, which measures arrears of mortgages, shows Australia’s strong housing market and low interest rate environment drove the arrears rate lower in the second quarter of 2013.

The index showed 30+ days arrears at 1.39 per cent in Q213, down from 1.48 per cent in Q113.

The 30-59 days arrears remained unchanged while 60-89 days arrears and 90+ days arrears decreased by 2bp and 7bp respectively.

“Low mortgage interest rates have continued to assist borrower serviceability and this is reflected in the unchanged 30-59 days arrears,” Fitch’s analysts said.

South Australia’s housing stability is further underlined by another figure released by Jane Kittel – the number of foreclosures in recent years.

In the period from the start of the GFC in 2009, the most number of houses the bank has “held in possession” at any one time is eight.

“At the moment, it’s just one,” Kittel said.

“It’s a reflection of our prudent approach to lending and the general commitment in the community to not get in over their heads.”

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