Tens of thousands of Kiwis apply for mortgage holidays

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Apr 2020, 9:32AM
Many struggling New Zealanders have applied for mortgage holidays. Photo / Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Kiwis apply for mortgage holidays

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Apr 2020, 9:32AM

Tens of thousands of New Zealand homeowners are lining up for mortgage holidays as Covid-19 strains the local economy.

New Zealand's biggest bank revealed this morning it had already received 12,000 applications for a mortgage holiday under the join Government-banks scheme announced before the lockdown started.

"We have never seen anything like it at this sort of scale," ANZ CEO Antonia Watson told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.

The bank was working through options with applicants - some needed urgent cashflow relief, others were of the view they needed to ease a little pressure for a couple of months. The bank was careful to point out the mortgage would still need to be repaid in the future.

ANZ isn't the only bank seeing massive demand.

Kiwibank told the Herald it had received over 10,000 enquiries from homeowners since the measures were announced.

"For personal banking, we've received over 5,000 requests from customers requiring home loan assistance and are getting more enquiries every day," a Kiwibank spokesperson said.

"There are a range of options and I don't have the breakdown for how many customers have taken the repayment deferral just yet but should have those numbers later this week."

BNZ has also seen a similar level of interest, with the BNZ fielding 9200 applications.

A spokesperson said that half of these had already been actioned and that the rest are being processed urgently.

The Herald has also put in requests for numbers to New Zealand's other major banks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern first announced the mortgage holiday scheme on 24 March.

The initiative allows for mortgage holders to take up to a six-month break on paying loan instalments.

Under the scheme, the payments are deferred and added to the end of the mortgage.

This, in turn, means that those who take the mortgage holiday will likely only be able to pay off their homes at a later stage in their lives.

Claire Matthews, a banking expert at Massey University, previously told Newstalk ZB people should only take loan holidays if they really needed to.

"If you expect to be paid as normal, then you should continue to pay your loan as normal, because nothing has really changed for you," she said.

Money troubles

There has been a sharp increase in the number of people visiting the Government's money guidance service Sorted.

Sorted editor Tom Hartmann said the service received about 80 emails a week over the past month, four times more than the same time last year, and new users of the Sorted website were up 18 per cent.

The organisation's social media pages also saw a sharp lift in engagement.

Hartmann said that people were tapping into the service for help on topics, ranging from rent to mortgages to what Kiwis should be doing with their money at this tough time.

"For some, there's an immediate impact on their finances – we can point them in the right direction for Government support and get them started on making things better for themselves and their family," said Hartmann. "For others, it's a time to take a breath to assess what they could do right now to protect their money from future financial shocks."