FOR ROTORUA renters who want and can afford to buy a home, it is "absolutely" better to buy rather than rent in the current climate and there has "never been a more urgent time to do so", according to some experts.
But major financial obstacles such as bad credit ratings, high short-term debt and lack of savings are stopping many young Rotorua couples from making the leap from renting to owning.
The Rotorua Daily Post has compared new TradeMe rent figures for March with QV's average house valuation figures for the same month to determine whether it is more economical for locals to be renting or buying. We found buying to be about $25 more expensive per week.
The average cost of rent per week last month sat at $300.
The average house valuation was $305,603. Based on an ANZ floating interest rate of 5.64 per cent and a 20 per cent deposit, the weekly repayments on a house of that price would be $325 for a 30-year loan.
For about $300 per week you could rent a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage in Utuhina ($350) or a three-bedroom, one-bathroom family home in Western Heights ($310).
For about $305,603 you could get a four-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Mangakakahi ($285,000) or a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Kawaha Point ($339,000).
While the gap between the average rent price and the mortgage repayments on a $305,603 house is minimal, when buying a home the mortgage repayment is not the only financial figure needed to be accounted for.
Insurance, rates and ongoing upkeep are key costs that need to be factored into the debate of whether it is cheaper to buy or rent a home.
The weekly rates repayment for a house in Rotorua with a value of $305,603 is $51.60.
Despite added costs of owning your own home, experts believe those in a position to buy should consider getting out of the rental market.
Professionals McDowell Rotorua owner Steve Lovegrove said if people considering buying could afford to do so, it was definitely the time to buy - not rent.
"Both options are becoming increasingly difficult to do in the current climate with properties being snapped up and waiting lists getting longer," he said.
"For people wanting and able to make that leap from renting to buying, there has never been a more urgent time to do so."
Mr Lovegrove said he was seeing an increase in buyers in general but had noticed a surge in first-home buyers. "We are seeing a change in the competition between investors and first-home buyers. Those houses in Rotorua that have traditionally been bought by investors are now being considered by first-home buyers as a way to get on to the property bandwagon."
Ray White Rotorua co-owner and principal Anita Martelli said most Kiwis still held the dream of owning their own home. She said while there would always be renters in Rotorua, people who wanted to get out of renting were showing interest in buying.
"We have had a lot of first-home buyers who are looking to get into the property market while the interest rates are down - I think people are weighing up their options."
Ross Stanway, chief executive of Eves and Bayleys Real Estate, said for people with the intention to stay in Rotorua for a long period of time, buying would be a good option.
"There are a number of factors that need to be considered when thinking about renting or buying. It is going to vary from person to person, but if the intention is to remain in Rotorua for a decent amount of time then buying would be a good decision - if the length of stay is more uncertain, renting would be sensible.
"I don't think the balance between renters and homeowners has shifted that much in Rotorua. What we are seeing is a resurgence of investors buying in the city."
BUT THE desire of many to own their own home does not always match up with their ability to do so.
The Mortgage Centre owner Graeme Leigh said while he had noticed an increase in the number of people coming to him wanting advice about buying a house, major obstacles were present in a number of cases.
"While the climate in Rotorua for buying a house is perfect, there are other big issues preventing young people from getting into the market. Bad credit ratings, no savings and high levels of short-term debt are preventing many young couples from making the move from renting to owning their own home," he said.
"Mathematically, it does make sense to forgo paying rent and pay off your own mortgage but in reality, many cases that come across my desk are not set up financially for buying to be a viable option at this stage.
"What I am often telling people, particularly young couples, is that they need to go home, set up a saving plan and start paying off their accumulated short-term debt such as student loans, personal loans and credit cards."
Rotorua Budget Advisory Service budget adviser Pearl Pavitt said while the buying climate in Rotorua looked good, she would urge potential buyers to consider all the factors of buying their own home.
"Yes, interest rates are low at the moment but we don't know what will happen in the future - 20 years ago interest rates were sitting at 24 per cent and that was absolutely crippling.
"Definitely consider owning your own home if you think that is the best option for your situation but make sure you get a lot of advice and know exactly what you are in for before making the leap."
Rotorua rents, house values
QV House Price Index (average value)
March 2016: $305,603
March 2015: $268,628
TradeMe average rent figures
March 2016: $300
March 2015: $272.5