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Prudential supervisory measures for mortgage lending

The following is issued on behalf of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority:

     The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued today (September 14) guidelines to banks on tightened underwriting criteria for loans to borrowers with multiple property mortgages and a newly introduced ceiling for loan tenors to strengthen risk management in property mortgage lending business.

     For applicants for mortgage loans for residential, industrial or commercial properties who have already borrowed or guaranteed outstanding property mortgage loans for one or more properties at the time of loan application, banks are required to adopt the following measures:

     First: for mortgage loans assessed based on the debt servicing ability of a mortgage applicant, the maximum debt servicing ratio (DSR) shall be lowered from the current 50 per cent by 10 percentage points to 40 per cent. Accordingly, the maximum stressed DSR shall also be lowered from the current 60 per cent by 10 percentage points to 50 per cent.  However, an applicant with just one property with outstanding mortgage loans will not be affected by this new measure if the new mortgage loan is for self-occupied purpose, or for the replacement of an existing mortgaged property.

     Second: for mortgage loans assessed based on the net worth of a mortgage applicant, the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratio shall be lowered from the current 40 per cent by 10 percentage points to 30 per cent.

     Third: for mortgage applicants whose principal income is derived from outside Hong Kong, the applicable maximum LTV ratio shall be lowered by 20 percentage points, instead of the current 10 percentage points.

     In addition, the maximum loan tenor of all new property mortgage loans is limited to 30 years regardless of whether the applicants have outstanding property mortgage loans for one or more properties at the time of loan application.

     The above measures take effect immediately. However, loan applications in respect of property transactions with provisional sale and purchase agreements signed on or before September 14, 2012 will not be affected.

     The Chief Executive of the HKMA, Mr Norman Chan, said, "Since the introduction of the fourth round of tightening measures for property mortgage loans by the HKMA in June 2011, the local property market quieted down somewhat - but for just about seven months.  The property market began to heat up again in February 2012, with significant increase both in transaction volume and prices.  With the third round of quantitative easing announced by the US Federal Reserve last night, we expect more capital inflows through the US banking system into the emerging markets.  Moreover, Europe has earned some respite from its debt crisis following the announcement by the European Central Bank of its bond-buying programme.  Against this background, the risk brought by the continued heating up of the Hong Kong property market on the banking sector will rise again.

     "Based on the experience in Hong Kong, borrowers with multiple outstanding mortgage loans have higher level of indebtedness and leverage.  During property market and economic downturns, the bad debt ratio for this group of borrowers can be significantly higher than those with only one property under mortgage.  In view of this, the HKMA considers it necessary to require banks to further tighten the underwriting criteria for mortgage loans to borrowers with multiple property mortgages to reduce their credit risk.

     "Besides, the HKMA notices a recent trend of lengthening in the average tenor of new mortgage loans.  This will not only increase credit risk of banks, but may also weaken the ability of borrowers to withstand interest rate risk.  In particular, when mortgage rates return to more normal levels, borrowers with a loan that already stretches to 30 or even 40 years simply cannot seek to reduce their monthly instalment payment burden by extending their loan tenor.  Therefore, the HKMA has now required banks to set maximum loan tenor for all new mortgage loans.

     "Changes in the property market cycle are affected by a host of internal and external factors, including land supply, interest rate movements, changes in household income as well as economic and financial market developments in Europe and the US.  In view of the highly uncertain internal and external environments, the HKMA will continue to monitor the market situation closely and introduce appropriate measures in response to changes in the property market cycle to safeguard banking stability."

Ends/Friday, September 14, 2012
Issued at HKT 18:57


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