Reading the papers this week, you may be concerned that a nail has been hammered into a coffin containing the Great Australian Dream of home ownership.
Property market commentators, in their analysis of the (as yet unknown) impact of recent interest rate rises, are painting a disturbing picture. Combined with sluggish house prices and debt levels, the latest fear is that increasing numbers of homeowners are now facing the prospect of negative equity - your mortgage being higher than any equity you have built up in your property since you purchased it.
In response to this fear campaign, industry bodies such as the Mortgage Industry Association of Australia (MIAA) have hit back with the message that consumers should not panic about negative equity or that it will result in their home being repossessed.
Phil Naylor, CEO of the MIAA, said that further analysis is required to properly make sense of recently released repossession statistics. "These reports focus on absolute numbers and is not reflective of the proportion of people with mortgages," he said.
Naylor added that Australia actually has an extremely low rate of repossession. "The proportion of non-performing loans in Australia [versus the whole mortgage market] was just 0.3% in 2005 - that's the lowest in the world."
Furthermore, Naylor said that 'repossession' was often confused with an 'action for repossession,' and that the two were often combined together. In reality, when most people receive an action for repossession, it's more common that they would seek help to rectify their situation, even sell their home themselves, than having their property subjected to a mortgagee sale.
Basically, any increase in the repossession statistics may espouse an increase in actions for repossession but may in turn reflect a tendency for Australians to over extend themselves in debt. "You can't deny that the absolute numbers have increased, but you'd be drawing a long bow to say that they have solely increased because of interest rates," said Naylor.