What do the new DTI limits mean for me?

Housing Market Written by John Bolton, Jun 11 2024
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Post by John Bolton - Squirrel Founder

Post by John Bolton - Squirrel Founder

Almost nine years after the Reserve Bank first tossed around the idea of implementing DTI (or debt-to income) lending restrictions in New Zealand, it’s finally happening.

From 1st July 2024, new DTI rules will limit how much you can borrow to buy residential property in New Zealand, based on a multiple of your household income. That multiple depends on why you’re buying the property, set at 6 for owner-occupiers and 7 for property investors.

As you’d expect with any new banking regulation, the move will have significant implications for different parts of the housing market. And some borrowers are going to be harder hit than others.

So, what do the new DTI limits mean for you?

Before we get into that, let’s do a quick recap of why exactly the DTI limits are being put in place

DTIs are another weapon in the RBNZ’s arsenal, designed to keep our housing market on a more even keel and ensure our financial system stays stable. They join a host of other bank lending rules (like LVRs) that all exist for this same purpose.

The way DTIs are designed to achieve this is by:

  • Preventing borrowers from getting up to their eyeballs in debt on loans they can’t afford, to reduce the likelihood of borrowers going into financial distress when interest rates start to climb.
  • And stopping house prices from running away on us during housing booms (like they did during the pandemic) by limiting people’s ability to rapidly increase their borrowing power by coming up with a bigger deposit. The idea is that they’ll come into play at times when the market is running hot and be less restrictive at times when the market is operating as expected.

So, how will DTIs impact owner-occupiers?

The good news is that the introduction of DTIs doesn’t change much for owner-occupiers.

In the current environment, bank servicing requirements are so strict (with test rates sitting at or near 9%) that that will continue to be the most significant barrier to getting a mortgage application across the line.

Even looking ahead to when interest rates start to fall, a DTI setting of 6 shouldn’t cause too many problems. Outside of recent housing booms, most mortgage lending to owner-occupiers in the last few years has fallen comfortably under the 6 x income limit, especially when you factor in the 20% buffer for banks to lend over and above this level.

We’ll probably see lenders get a bit stricter about requiring supporting paperwork to confirm sources of income, but otherwise, the transition should be smooth, clean, and simple.

How will DTIs impact property investors?

It’s a different story for property investors, unfortunately.

Although the impact of DTIs will be minimal in the short term (while high interest rates are making it challenging to borrow anyway), beyond that, a cap of 7 x income doesn’t give you a lot of room to work with.

Over the last few years, a significant proportion of lending to property investors has been at a DTI of over 7. Enough that even with a 20% buffer, the new rules will restrict your borrowing ability through most parts of the housing market cycle—even when things aren’t running hot.

The borrowers who will feel the impact will be traditional, larger-scale property investors—those with decent–sized portfolios—who are reliant on rent as their primary source of income. It’s going to be tough for them to meet the DTI framework.

How will DTIs impact business owners?

The new DTI rules will also present a few challenges for business owners.

The big thing to be aware of is that it’s about to get much more challenging to borrow against a property to access additional working capital for your business. Especially when earnings are low (and you need the cash injection most), because that’s when you’re most likely to be outside the DTI limit.

In the past, using your house(s) has been a popular (and relatively easy) option for tapping into business funding—so it’s definitely something to keep in mind. The sands are shifting.

Moving forward, this will mean that business owners will increasingly be pushed towards loan products specifically designed for business purposes.

It’ll also make it more important than ever to plan ahead and make sure you have adequate facilities in place to cover you in the event things go wrong (so you won’t have to go begging to your lender on the back foot).

The rule of thumb in this new environment to always make sure you have money available to you before you need it.

Who else needs to be wary of the new DTI rules?

Anyone traditionally on the edge of bank lending criteria could find that the new DTI rules create some challenges.

That includes borrowers heavily reliant on overseas sources of income or those who are self-employed – especially those in the trades, developers, start-up entrepreneurs, and those in other industries where verifiable income is a little more fluid.

With the DTI limits imposing a hard line in the sand regarding income requirements for bank lending, these borrowers are likely to find themselves increasingly pushed into the non-bank space when it comes to finding lending solutions that work for them.

If you’d like to speak to an expert about how the new DTI rules could impact you, contact us today to book a call with one of our friendly mortgage advisers.  

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The opinions expressed in this article should not be taken as financial advice, or a recommendation of any financial product. Squirrel shall not be liable or responsible for any information, omissions, or errors present. Any commentary provided are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily representative of the views and opinions of Squirrel. We recommend seeking professional investment and/or mortgage advice before taking any action.

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