Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Fewer first-time buyers chasing homes

Building, banking and real estate industries claim new loans criteria starting to have dramatic effects

78 per cent of agents saw fewer first-time buyers in October. Photo / File
78 per cent of agents saw fewer first-time buyers in October. Photo / File

Criticism of mortgage lending caps continues to mount as evidence grows that first-time buyers are being locked out of the housing market.

Twice as many real estate agents say they have noticed fewer first-time buyers since last month.

The Reserve Bank declined to comment on the latest survey blaming its Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) restrictions for a "collapse" in the presence of first home buyers in the market, but the Government says enough is being done to help.

The BNZ-Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) Residential Market Survey published on Thursday questioned 250 licensed real estate agents from around New Zealand about the state of the housing market.

It reported that 78 per cent of agents saw fewer first-time buyers in October - a trend that opened the door for cashed-up investors and offshore buyers, said the survey's author BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander.

"It's one group being disproportionately impacted and one would suggest that it's the group our society would like least to be impacted," he said.

"For other buyers it's wonderful, they have had all these competitors taken out of the market.

"I think there are probably a lot of investors sitting out there rubbing their hands in glee at the fact they can now pick up properties that previously they would have had to be competing against the first-home buyers to pick up."

The impact of the restrictions on new home builds was also causing concern in the construction industry, and the Master Builders Federation was a week away from publishing data it believed would show between 2000 and 3000 fewer homes were being built annually.

Chief executive Warwick Quinn said the survey of all its members, in association with the Building Research Association on New Zealand (BRANZ), would be presented to the Reserve Bank in the hopes an exemption to LVR criteria for new builds could be negotiated.

"The ramifications seem to have grown," he said. "When it first started we had calls from builders who were losing builds because of people who couldn't get finance etc.

"As time went on we started to get a sense that even if they had 20 per cent ... homeowners are thinking 'it's too risky, it's too complicated' because of unexpected costs that might come up during the build and banks won't give them the extra finance."

For example, new house inquiries have halved at G.J. Gardner in Rodney. Managing director Grant Porteous said the business had 101 leads in June - where people had an initial meeting and agreed to take matters further - but that was expected to fall to 50 by the end of this month.

Housing Minister Nick Smith slammed the report and said the Government was helping first-time buyers with a numbers of new measures.

"We do need to be cautious of data from ... the building, banking and real estate industries [they] all have an interest in ongoing house price escalation and do not have the responsibility of the Reserve Bank for overall financial stability."

He said the Government had recently introduced Welcome Home Loans and KiwiSaver first home deposit subsidy schemes; committed to the Auckland Housing Accord, a project to built 39,000 extra houses in the Auckland region over the next three years; changed the Resource Management Act to free up land; and was addressing issues around materials costs.

"The Government is going the extra mile to help those first-time buyers."

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English's office said the government was focusing on the supply of land and new housing.

- Additional reporting: Anne Gibson


250 real estate agents interviewed

78% saw fewer first-home buyers, compared with 41% in September

45% saw fewer people at open homes

28% say auction clearance rates have declined

- Source: BNZ-REINZ Residential Market Survey for October

- NZ Herald

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