28 Apr 2021

Housing market expected to cool as national median price hits $805k

11:37 am on 28 April 2021

The latest Trade Me Property Price Index shows the national average asking price for a home has hit a record $805,000.

Houses around Lyttelton area in Christchurch

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Trade Me property sales director Gavin Lloyd said the national average asking price showed an annual increase of 16 percent in the year to March, with almost every region experiencing price jumps.

Wellington experienced the highest year-on-year growth in price, with the average asking price increasing by 20 percent compared with the same month last year.

Auckland prices went up 10 percent on the same time last year.

Lloyd told Morning Report there was a big demand in March up by 26 percent and but supply was down 9 percent.

"We saw growth through every region except for Nelson, the West Coast, Otago and Northland. New records were set in every region. Auckland broke through the million mark."

He said winter would cool down the housing market.

"We are seeing some signs that April could be a little different ... and the market cooling off. The LVRs coming in from 1 May will have an impact on sales in the month of April. And then as we move into those cooler months, we expect to see the heat of the market come out."

A brief look at the housing market in the past year

New Zealand was in a level 4 lockdown from 26 March to 28 April 2020.

It led to house sales falling by 78 percent (compared with April 2019) across all regions with the exception of the West Coast.

On 1 May 2020, on short notice, the Reserve Bank scrapped the loan-to-value ratio (LVR) for one year.

In a statement released last year, RBNZ deputy governor and financial stability general manager Geoff Bascand said: "The decision was made to ensure LVR restrictions didn't have an undue impact on borrowers or lenders as part of the mortgage deferral scheme implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The Reserve Bank's decision was made in line with its financial stability mandate."

LVR restrictions were imposed in October 2013, which meant no more than 10 percent of banks' new mortgages by value could be to people with deposits of less than 20 percent.

LVRs were suspended at the start of the pandemic to ease the pressure on banks.

Later in May 2020, the ASB Housing Confidence Survey found confidence had fallen to an eight-year low.

In June, first-home buyers took out a bigger share of new mortgages than property investors, Reserve Bank figures show, the first time this had happened.

And house sales in July were the highest in five years.

By August, confidence in the housing market reached an eight-year high, according to the ASB Housing Confidence Survey.

House prices across the entire country rose in August, with half of the regions reaching record highs.

Data from the Real Estate Institute showed the average price increased to $675,000 from $580,000 in August 2019 - a lift of 16.4 percent.

The national median house price hit a record $685,000 in September as nine regions reached new highs.

Then before the general election were the leaders' debates in October.

Neither Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern nor National leader Judith Collins would say they wanted house prices to go down.

By later October economists were calling on the Reserve Bank to reinstate lending restrictions, warning the housing market was spiralling out of control.

RNZ spoke to a family looking for their first home - they had a healthy deposit, bank approval and stable incomes, but every house they looked at remained out of reach, despite their $950,000 budget. The mood was sombre.

House prices increased 19.8 percent year-on-year with the national median in November reaching $749,000.

For 2020 till November, first home buyers made up 24 percent of the market share, up from an average share of 21 percent, according to CoreLogic report.

Soon after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stepped in and said: "It just cannot keep increasing at the rate that is."

Then Finance Minister Grant Robertson asked the Reserve Bank to become more involved in checking the skyrocketing price of housing.

By December, the rate of people who owned their own home hit its lowest point in 70 years, as a grim portrait of the housing crisis was revealed in a report by Stats NZ.

Average house price hit $788,000 in December, a record rate for the second month in a row.

Banks started tightening lending before the RBNZ could make a decision.

Two months later, in February 2021 RBNZ confirmed it would reimpose LVRs from 1 March at 20 percent for first home buyers and 30 percent for property investors.

Lending to property investors would be limited to no more than 5 percent with less than a 30 percent deposit, which would rise to 40 percent from May.

Real Estate Institute figures for February show the median price was $780,000.

In March, the government announced plans to help first-home buyers into the market, by increasing the caps for financial support and extending the bright-line test to 10 years.

While Trade Me is reporting the March 2021 median house price at $805,000, REINZ is finding the median price is $826,300, up by 24.3 percent from $665,000 in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was announced.

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