The rising cost of buying first home

By Cassandra Mason

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IN DEMAND: Low levels of construction since the global financial crisis, combined with population growth, had caused housing shortages PHOTO/THINKSTOCK
IN DEMAND: Low levels of construction since the global financial crisis, combined with population growth, had caused housing shortages PHOTO/THINKSTOCK

The average Western Bay of Plenty first home buyer is forking out $321,000 for their first property - a 37 per cent jump from 2004.

Figures provided by CoreLogic show the median price for a first home in the Western Bay of Plenty, including Tauranga, was $321,000 last year, compared with $235,000 nine years earlier.

However, local prices for first homes increased at a slower rate than the national median, which jumped 59 per cent from $220,000 in 2004 to $350,000 in 2013.

According to the most recent Roost Home Loan Affordability report, affordability in Tauranga worsened from 58.2 per cent in February this year to 60.9 per cent in March, compared with 54.7 per cent a year ago.

The report measured the percentage of after-tax pay needed to service an 80 per cent mortgage on a median-priced house.

While first house prices in the Western Bay rose at a slower rate than nationally, the rate of wage growth in the region was higher.

Statistics NZ figures show the median weekly income for Bay of Plenty residents in paid employment rose from $492 in June 2004, to $774 in June last year - a 57.3 per cent increase.

Tauranga Realty Services chief executive Ross Stanway said while house prices hadn't changed dramatically over the years, expectations had.

"The expectation of first home buyers in some instances has increased from what it used to be. If you go back a few years first home buyers were just keen to secure a start in the housing market and possibly had to sacrifice some aspects of size or locality in order to get a foothold."

While some first home buyers were realistic, others expected to get a three-bedroom home with a double garage and access to the best schools.

The Reserve Bank's low deposit mortgage lending restrictions had made it difficult for first home buyers to enter the market, but there were still ways to pull together a deposit, and properties in the right price bracket.

Recent Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show Tauranga's median house price was $360,064 last month, compared with $327,500 in April 2013.

ASB economist Christina Leung said housing affordability for first home buyers had deteriorated over the last decade.

"House price growth has outstripped wage growth by so much," she said.

Low levels of construction since the global financial crisis, combined with population growth had caused housing shortages - further compounded by the Christchurch earthquakes.

While most acute in Auckland and Christchurch, housing demand had spread to other regions, pushing property prices upwards, she said.

Wages had not kept up with skyrocketing property values. "Subdued" wage growth was partly caused by increased migration of available workers, Ms Leung said.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report published this month rated New Zealand house prices the most overpriced in the developed world on a price to rent ratio, and second worst on a price to income ratio.

In a bid to cool the nation's heated property market, the Reserve Bank introduced mortgage lending restrictions last October which effectively shut out anyone with less than a 20 per cent deposit.

The measures were designed to control rapid price rises and reduce risk in the financial sector. But the 'speed limits' have shut more first home buyers out of the market than anticipated - making it even tougher for young families to get a foot on the property ladder.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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