A homeowner who finally pays off his house this year could have listened to Ricky Martin's fresh hit "Livin' la Vida Loca" on the way to the bank when applying for the loan. Buying a house is a long-term commitment-often a 20-year relationship for both the client and the bank. But home loans are not all the rage any more. SA's banks are singing a different tune from a decade ago. They have become much less reliant on home loans as the economy stagnated and home buying tapered off. "First-time buyers have been driving the market," said Old Mutual Equities analyst Neelash Hansjee. But with weak growth and high unemployment, not as many prospective new homeowners are entering the market. Those who do often struggle to qualify for home loans as they do not satisfy the affordability requirements. Banks themselves, after suffering heavy losses during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, have also been very cautious in granting home loans since. Absa, which used to be the market leader, ...

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