2 Nov 2022

Housing market downturn continues to deepen - CoreLogic report

6:27 am on 2 November 2022
Christchurch based housing

The CoreLogic House Price Index shows national house values fell 1.3 percent in October over the month earlier. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The downturn in the house market is deepening, with values expected to track down as interest rates continue to rise.

The CoreLogic House Price Index shows national house values fell 1.3 percent in October over the month earlier, following a 1.5 percent drop in September.

CoreLogic NZ head of research Nick Goodall said the biggest constraint on the housing market was affordability, with potential buyers stretched by rising mortgage interest rates and more stringent serviceability test rates.

"All banks have revised their house price forecasts down in the wake of the latest data and if we assume an 18 percent fall from peak-to-trough, that would take the average price to $855,000," he said.

While that was still higher than March 2020, the average pre-pandemic level was $723,000.

"To get back to that value would necessitate a 31 percent fall - not something anyone is forecasting, yet," he said, adding a drop of that level would be unlikely given current economic conditions.

The Reserve Bank was expected to raise the official cash rate (OCR) later this month by perhaps 75 basis points, when it issued the next Monetary Policy Statement on 23 November.

Goodall said annual inflation of 7.2 percent in the third quarter had led to an across-the-board upward adjustment of OCR forecasts.

"Assuming the RBNZ follows suit on 23 November the OCR will move to 4.25 percent, which could see the floating rate approach 8 percent and the one-year fixed-rate top 6 percent."

Goodall said the average floating rate at the end of October was roughly 7.1 percent, while the average one-year rate was 5.6 percent, although some banks had already pushed one-year rates to 5.99 percent.

"This will likely lead to a lot of belt tightening by mortgage holders - the exact desired effect the RBNZ wants."

Goodall said the serviceability test rate was already above 8 percent for at least one main bank and could lift to as much as 8.5 percent as the OCR further increases to the OCR

"Furthermore, this market downturn continues to compare unfavourably to the last major downturn, following the Global Financial Crisis in 2008."

He said October's drop of 4.5 percent was worse than the largest quarterly drop of 4.4 percent seen at the end of August 2008, although current economic conditions were better now, with record low unemployment.

In addition, he said the annual rate of change had dropped 0.6 percent into negative territory, which compared with the year earlier's annual record growth of 28.8 percent, which would cushion the blow for most home owners, unless they bought in the past year.

"Stretched affordability is constraining the ability and willingness of all buyers to get or extend a mortgage, while property investors looking to grow their portfolio are also faced with tighter tenancy regulations alongside increasing costs and reducing rental growth."

He said the current conditions could mean the RBNZ shifts away from its current focus on containing inflation, given the deep impact its tightening monetary policy was having on the economy, employment and property values, however, it was unlikely in the near-term given the record high inflation.

"For now, the impact has been manageable and limited, but with each OCR hike comes a heightened risk of a deeper and longer recession and with it growing unemployment and financial stress.

"Time will tell whether the latest data releases and upcoming decisions and commentary will be enough to rein in spending and encourage more saving to produce a meaningful reduction of inflation - if not, the RBNZs job is going to get much more complicated."

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