3 Mar 2021

House prices continue to surge, but easing market predicted later in year

8:42 am on 3 March 2021

Latest data from property research company CoreLogic shows house prices continue to surge - with one exception that could point the way to an easing market to come.

Houses around Lyttelton area in Christchurch

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The company's house price index shows nationwide property values growing in February by 2.6 percent, taking growth in the last 12 months to 14.5 percent, the highest since 2016.

Month-on-month property values in main centres continued to rise, with Tauranga the sole exception, dipping 1.5 percent over the month of February.

CoreLogic head of research Nick Goodall said in the broader context of 6.7 percent growth over the last three months, and with just one month's data, it was too soon to call it a trend.

But he said the city's price fall could be a sign of things to come when loan-to-value measures come into full effect.

LVRs for first home buyers are now 20 percent and 30 percent for investors. From 1 May, the figure for investors goes to 40 percent.

"Tauranga is one of our most expensive cities in the country, and it could be a reflection that those LVRs have been implemented by the banks early and that is meaning many people can't afford to borrow the sums of money required to pay those values in Tauranga," he told Morning Report.

"So it could be an early sign of that slowdown we're expecting to happen later this year."

Goodall said the last time there was a 40 percent deposit requirement for investors quarterly growth fell from 5 percent to 1 percent.

Tauranga housing is particularly unaffordable, with 43 percent of the average income required to service a mortgage - the worst of the main centres.

CoreLogic data shows each of New Zealand's six main centres have experienced annual growth of more than 10 percent to the end of February.

Wellington had greatest rate of growth at 16.6 percent, taking the average property value for the wider Wellington area - including Porirua City, Hutt City and Upper Hutt City - to over $900,000 for the first time.

The outer areas of the region saw the greatest growth, which the research company said reflected a mix of better affordability, improved commute times and remote and flexible working arrangements become more common.

After a sluggish period through the middle of last year, Dunedin started to surge again, with average values up by 3.2 percent in February alone, and by 15.3 percent over the past year. It now takes about nine years to save the average deposit in Dunedin, worse than in Christchurch, Hamilton, and Wellington.

Goodall said Christchurch average prices were still relatively low - and cheaper than Dunedin - though the city was now seeing sustained growth for the first time in a while. Average values rose by another 1.5 percent in February, pushing them up to almost $565,000, 10.2 percent higher than a year ago.

Meanwhile, data from realestate.co.nz for February showed the average asking price was up nearly 13 percent in February on a year ago to $796,789. The number of houses being offered for sale was down close to 24 percent.

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