The value of new home loans fell by a worse-than-expected 1.7 per cent in February even before the most serious coronavirus lockdown measures were in place.

Economists had tipped the total value of housing loans to slow from 4.6 per cent growth in January as the COVID-19 outbreak emerged into the national consciousness.

But a $1.26 billion decline in the total value of housing loans to $19.46 billion was well at odds with the predicted 1.5 per cent increase.

The value of owner-occupier, investor and fixed-term personal lending went backwards during the month.

Owner-occupiers took out $14.15 billion in mortgages during February, down 1.7 per cent on the previous month.

Investors took out $5.31 billion in loans, down 1.9 per cent.

The number of loans for the purchase of new and existing homes went backwards.

First home buyers borrowed $4.11 billion – an increase of 0.3 per cent on January – but well below the 4.6 per cent growth rate experienced during the first month of the year.

The number of new loans for owner-occupiers rose by 0.4 per cent to 9,734, slowing from a 4.8 per cent rise in January.

The number loans for home building slowed from 4.2 per cent in January but still rose by 1.9 per cent for the month.

Lending for businesses rose by 8.9 per cent for construction and 13.4 per cent for property purchases.

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