House price growth may have peaked across much of the country as the housing market edges closer to becoming a "buyers' market'', according to ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley.
While house prices in many areas around the country are 40 per cent to 70 per cent higher than in 2007, annual gains are at generally at 10 per cent or less, while quarterly price growth has eased to mainly single-digit gains for many places.
The gap has closed between the number of respondents to the ASB's quarterly housing confidence survey who think it is either a good time to buy, or a bad time to buy - becoming a buyers' market against the recent long-run sellers' market.
Tuffley said: "This trend was reflected across all regions and reinforces our view that house price growth across much of New Zealand has peaked."
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For the three months to October, the number of people from the survey who believed it was a good time to buy increased from 14 per cent the previous quarter to 16 per cent - while those thinking it was a bad time to buy stayed steady on 19 per cent.
"The combination of slowing house price growth across much of the country, more homes to choose from and a favourable interest rate outlook is likely underpinning the increase in the number of respondents who think its a good time to buy a house,'' Tuffley said.
Of those surveyed, 51 per cent said it was neither good or bad, while the 14 per cent balance indicated "don't know".
Tuffley said, overall, people's views were still pessimistic, but it was "just a handful" more who believed it a bad time to buy.
"The proportion thinking it's a good time to buy reached the highest level since April 2016,'' he said.
There is also an impetus of expectations mortgage interest rates will go lower, albeit it is a minority of the survey respondents.
Last week the Reserve Bank indicated less likelihood of a cut to the interest driving official cash rate, which has been at a record low of 1.75 per cent for two years.
Tuffley said an increasing number of survey respondents had expectations of lower
mortgage interest rates, which was likely to have been shaped by falling fixed mortgage rates and that the central bank will leave the OCR on hold for longer.
The Reserve Bank indicated no OCR changes though to early to mid-2020, with economists also not expecting a change until then.
While the majority of respondents continue to expect higher interest rates, that had fallen from 37 per cent the previous quarter to 33 per cent.
Those expecting lower interest rates increased from 6 per cent to 7 per cent.
"The 7 per cent who expect mortgage rates to fall in the next 12 months was the highest number in two years,'' Tuffley said.
Since August, bank mortgage interest rates had fallen across most fixed terms.
"With question marks over the New Zealand growth outlook and the implications of slower growth on inflation, many commentators are suggesting the OCR is likely to be low for longer," he said.