Difficulties with debt on the rise – Centrix

Stressful economic conditions are starting to show up in people's exposure to unpaid debt, according to the credit reporting agency, Centrix.

It says high living costs, increased interest rates and the squeeze of a tough economic climate have made it hard for people to meet repayment obligations, right across the country.

Centrix reveals debt information every month, and its latest report lists some significant developments. It shows arrears in consumer debt rose 13% in the year to July, while arrears on unsecured personal loans rose 7.9%.

There were also rises in arrears for Buy Now Pay Later deals along with an increased number of credit card payments that have slipped past their due date.

Vehicle arrears also rose for the fourth consecutive month, which Centrix says is significant, since vehicles are generally among the last debt-financed purchases that people default on.

Centrix says mortgage arrears seem to have escaped this trend, since people are generally even more careful about keeping a roof over their heads than in retaining their vehicle.

However, they are not taking out so many home loans in the first place: mortgage applications for first homes are down 25% year on year.

Those who do take out mortgages for a first home are borrowing less: average mortgages have fallen by $65,000 in the past six months. That is down from a peak average mortgage of $600,000 in January this year.

The commercial sector is also having it tough, says Centrix.

“The Kiwi business sector continues to walk the economic tightrope of remaining open and viable while contending with supply chain issues, labour shortages and reduced consumer spending,” Centrix writes.

“The retail and construction sectors in particular are challenged by defaults and lower activity, while tourism and hospitality show increased activity and lower defaults as international tourists return in greater numbers.”

Centrix says managing repayments on debt is paramount, and it urges debtors to speak with lenders proactively to reorganise repayment terms if they are facing difficulties.

“An adjustment of lending terms is far preferable to letting debt build and potentially endanger long-term financial wellbeing.”

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