15 Jul 2019

House prices are down but still out of reach

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 15 July 2019
no caption

Photo: RNZ / Toby Morris

The Detail today looks at what's happening in the crazy world of fluctuating house prices.

It’s still hard to get a foot on the property ladder – despite the recent dip in house prices.

The numbers are stacked against first-home buyers. High prices and restricted lending mean it’s arguably harder than ever before to get a slice of the quarter-acre dream in New Zealand.

If you do manage to get something, the dream will likely look less quarter-acre and more studio apartment 30 minutes out of the city.

Recent news of falling prices in Auckland offer a glimmer of hope to would-be buyers there – a sign that the tide could be turning, and offering some hope that they may be able to afford something after all.

So, should someone want to take advantage of the stalling rise in prices, what options are there?

Bruce Patten, a mortgage broker from Loan Market in Auckland, says it’s still possible to get on the ladder, but admits single people looking to buy on their own will have a particularly hard time.

You have to have been in KiwiSaver for three years to access it, and you may be eligible for top up grants as well, especially if you’re getting a new-build. If you use KiwiSaver for a deposit you have to live in your purchase for at least six months.

Patten says people are delaying buying, teaming up with friends, or calling up their parents to help them on their way.

But he says only about one in 20 people buying in Auckland today would be single – 10 years ago that number would be more like three in 10. “So it’s considerably changed.”

House prices have doubled in 10 years, and incomes haven’t kept up.

Patten says single people will have a better chance outside of Auckland, in regions where property is cheaper, but concedes their earning potential will likely be less. He says those who move to the regions are often on jobs with nationally fixed salaries such as police, teachers or fire and emergency employees.

Even going for an apartment means coming up against bank rules over minimum sizes and lending restrictions. “Some banks are probably a little bit more likely to take a risk on apartments than others.”

He also says those not fortunate to have friends to go in with, or home-owning parents to help, have little choice other than to keep saving as much as possible.

Patten estimates now that between 30 and 50 percent of cases, the parents have pitched in somehow.

And Newsroom Pro’s Bernard Hickey says the government needs to pitch in here and become a developer if house prices are to ever become more affordable.

Photo: RNZ