BANKS are playing catch-up with a resurgent Mackay economy, and aspiring home owners still face excessively restrictive policies, a local real estate guru says.
There were multiple signs the housing market had improved in the last year, REIC Mackay zone chair Peter McFarlane said.
Rental vacancy rates had halved and median sale prices were up, indicating the "green shoots of a recovery,” he said.
But the agent said head office bankers in Sydney or other state capitals were yet to acknowledge the regional resurgence.
Mr McFarlane said in recent years the Mackay housing market took a severe pounding.
"Property values in 2015 were the equivalent of what they were in 2005,” the Mackay Property and Management Services director said.
For a while, banks lent "willy nilly” and the market ballooned beyond reasonable levels, he said.
And when the local economy hit obstacles, "the bottom of the hole was a long way down”.
So banks became less willing to lend to buyers, he said.
During the downturn, Mackay became known as "a very high mortgage delinquency area” and lenders viewed the entire 4740 postcode zone as somewhat taboo.
Where prices plummeted and home loans exceeded a property's value, banks sold houses at a loss.
That loss for banks was generally recoverable from the mortgage insurer, he said.
Insurers had to go after borrowers, but to the chagrin of insurers, those borrowers frequently declared bankruptcy, he added.
"The banks are being very very strict now in their lending and a lot of that does come from the mortgage insurers,” Mr McFarlane added.
The local economy was diverse and more resilient, he said.
The region was "the Silicon Valley” of coal mining, Mr McFarlane said.
But the health and education sectors were promising, and the port would expand dramatically.
REIQ state chairman Robert Honeycombe agreed some aspiring buyers still faced tough lending policies.
"In some cases it's not just the banks, it's the mortgage insurers applying the pressure,” Mr Honeycombe said.
NAB said it considered multiple factors when assessing a customer's lending application.
"And we take into account local economic and market conditions for the security against which the customer wishes to borrow,” an NAB spokesperson added.
"This is the responsible and right thing to do for our customers, for our business, and for the Australian property market.”
Earlier this month, NAB said Australian housing market sentiment had lifted over the third quarter.
A big increase "in the number of property experts reporting positive rental growth” supported this optimism, as did house price growth in most states.
But a broad, decades-long national housing boom was ending, UBS economists wrote in a note to clients which The Australian newspaper reported this week.
The economists said price rises would only be as high as 3 per cent next year - and as low as zero.