13 Feb 2019

House prices have slowest growth in six years

9:02 am on 13 February 2019

House prices grew at their slowest rate in six years in the year to January with affordability and a lack of supply still proving barriers for new buyers to get a foot in the door.

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The Auckland market declined, with the average value now at $1,045,775. Photo: RNZ

The latest QV figures show the annual growth rate dipped to 2.9 percent in the first month of this year, a level not seen since February 2012.

Prices for the January quarter grew by 0.9 percent, a slowdown from the 1.2 percent growth seen in the previous three month period.

The nationwide average house value now sits at $684,468.

QV senior consultant Paul McCorry said the latest numbers reflected what was being seen in the market.

"Affordability constraints and low supply continue to maintain modest value growth across most areas."

Mr McCorry said while LVR restrictions had opened up the market to a few new buyers, that easing was offset by other policy changes.

"It's likely investors are taking a wait and see approach; they're holding off buying or selling until key policy changes, such as the capital gains tax, get debated by the government in the coming weeks."

The Auckland market declined 0.9 percent year on year, with the average value now at $1,045,775.

In Auckland, Ōtara up, North Shore down

Head of research at property research firm Corelogic Nick Goodall told Morning Report the housing market would "continue to see a slowdown this year".

There were questions on whether people could get funding to continue to buy property, especially with banks having to tighten up, he said.

"We've seen a pretty prolonged period of not much growth, hovering between 3 or 4 percent nationwide for the last 15 or so months ... that certainly is due to the availability of credit."

Addressing the dip in prices in Auckland, he said there were more properties for sale at the moment than over the last couple of years.

"Supply has increased meaning there's less price pressure.

"Within Auckland, we are seeing a range of different performance across the city. Ōtara, for instance, still increasing at 5 percent per annum whereas parts of the North Shore are dropping by about 5 percent."

However, there weren't any significant problems for homeowners yet.

"But with the changes coming up for investors, they're going to start to question the profitability of the investments."

CoreLogic senior research analyst Kevin Davidson warned against jumping to conclusions about Auckland's housing market entering a new weaker phase.

"After all, many solid foundations remain, an ongoing shortage of property - albeit with a reasonable amount of choice amongst the stock actually on the market - low mortgage rates which are unlikely to rise significantly in the near term, the loan to value rules have been relaxed for owner-occupiers and most people are in work."

Most other centres saw values rise only slightly, although parts of the Hawke's Bay and Dunedin bucked the general trend, with strong annual price growth.

Mr Davidson said 2019 was likely to be 2018 on repeat, with the property market's fortunes dependent on what the government does with the Tax Working Group's recommendations on a capital gains tax.

A flat market is 'what we need'

The housing market was flat as opposed to going down, mortgage adviser Bruce Patten told Morning Report.

"That's because we have a big demand for property and will continue to. Obviously, immigration numbers have fallen but they're still higher than predicted."

He said a flat market was good even if didn't make people feel good and that reflected in business confidence, "because people aren't feeling as wealthy, they haven't gone up $100,000 in six months".

"Flat is good because we need time for wages to catch up, we need time for first home buyers to get in ... which we're seeing more of them do so now with the relaxation of the loan-to-value ratio rules," he said.

"Flat is what we need."

He said the Reserve Bank had done a good job at measuring where the market's at. Compared with the "big drops" in the markets in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, "we're doing well," he said.

"We're destined to see [interest] rates stay very low for a good period to come, albeit the increased capital restraints that the Reserve Bank's talking about. There isn't anything on the horizon to see any [interest] rate changes anytime soon."

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