Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

House prices surge in spite of loan restrictions

Low level of listings is keeping the market tight, especially in Auckland, says expert.

Photo / Richard Robinson
Photo / Richard Robinson

New tighter lending restrictions don't appear to have done anything to stop prices rising according to one economist, and the country's biggest house sale website has recorded record-level buyer interest.

ASB economist Daniel Smith, who analysed data from realestate.co.nz, said listings in the city fell 4 per cent in the five months since the rules came in, compared to the previous five months.

That's despite a surge in listings in October, the first month of the Reserve Bank's limits where a 20 per cent deposit is required from most new residential mortgage lending customers.

"While the restrictions have marginally dented demand, they may also have scared off potential sellers," Mr Smith said.

"The low level of listings is keeping the market tight, especially in Auckland. That is likely to maintain upwards pressure on house prices, especially given strong inwards migration, especially in Auckland and the tentative rebound in sales activity seen since the turn of the year."

Realestate.co.nz showed 4315 new Auckland listings last February but 4098 last month. Nationally, 12,167 new properties came to the market last month, down 7 per cent on last February.

Asking prices continued to rise in Auckland with record highs of $656,702 in December, $663,372 in January but $677,370 last month. New Zealand reached a record price of $483,099.

Mr Smith said he did expect house price inflation to ease over the year as interest rates rise. The closing of the supply-demand imbalance in Auckland and Christchurch would take several years to address however and would require continued growth in construction.

The website - on which all the major real estate companies list their homes - recorded an all-time high of 1.7 million visits in the last month.

"While this high level of buyer interest is underpinning seller confidence, buyers will be disappointed with the higher average asking prices and relatively low levels of new listings," said Paul McKenzie, the site's national marketing manager.

The country's largest real estate agency, Harcourts, said Auckland and Northland prices were up 13 per cent on last year to reach a new average selling price of $644,613.

Chief executive Hayden Duncan said the rules were not having the intended effect because written sales continued to increase. First home buyers, initially deterred by the restrictions, had found their way around the need for a 20 per cent deposit through the assistance of second-tier lenders and family loans.

Harcourts sales consultants continued to report increased interest in properties on the outer edges of Auckland, as buyers look away from the heated central suburbs, but competition for these properties on the edges was also becoming fierce, he said.

Price jump

New city record asking price:

* $656,702 December
* $663,372 January
* $677,370 last month
* New NZ record asking price: $483,099

Listings fall

February 2013: 4315 new Auckland listings
February 2014: 4098 new Auckland listings

Source: realestate.co.nz, seasonally adjusted truncated means.

nzherald.co.nz

Read the latest report from realestate.co.nz: tinyurl.com/nzhpropertyreport.

- NZ Herald

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