The number of people who think it is a bad time to buy a house has fallen, according to the latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey.

Consumers' expectations that house prices would rise are also at a six-and-half-year low, in the three months to January 2018, according to the survey report.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said price expectations continued to ease in the North Island to a net 20 per cent of respondents expecting house prices to rise, down from 23 per cent in the previous survey in October 2017.

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Net is the difference between those who expected house prices to rise minus those who believed they would fall.

Annual price growth rates had slowed sharply in centres such as Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland, Tuffley said.

Nationally expectations that house prices would rise were a net 16 per cent for the three months to December, down from 17 per cent in the three months to October, he said.

The change in attitude was most likely due to softening house prices, and the sentiment about whether it was a good time to buy was at its highest level since January 2013.

Upcoming Government housing policy changes might further ease house price expectations, Truffley said.

But the market would continue to be constrained by population growth and low housing supply for some time, he said.

Anton Jones, First National Mount Maunganui, Tauranga and Omokoroa owner, said people were definitely feeling more positive about home purchases compared to a few months ago when the election happened and confidence dipped.

It was a major factor behind people's unease and some potential buyers waited to see whether the election results would impact on house prices, he said.


Jones said people had managed their way through that "period of uncertainty", and now understood the buyer environment they were dealing in and were more prepared to move.

Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt also welcomed the trend.

"In our view, the most recent survey is good news for the Western Bay of Plenty community as it brings expectations back to a more sustainable level.

"It also helps our attractiveness for people seeking to move to the area for work," he said

Simon Martin, Tauranga Harcourts' managing director, said the survey results were "exactly" what was he had expected and it was great news for the Tauranga market.

"We monitor our open homes every week and track whose coming through, and since late January and early February there has been a noticeable increase in the numbers coming through, particularly more first-home buyers," he said.

Martin said the market was now back to normal in terms of activity and an increase in demand.

Simon Anderson, chief executive of Realty Group, which operates Eves and Bayleys, said January had been a strong month for sales, which was against the previous trend.

"Certainly from all our figures, the QV figures and Real Estate Institute's data over the past couple of months show us there was more activity in the market," he said.

Anderson said buyers had a lot more choice in quality properties in the area and there was definitely a lot more first-home buyers active in the market.

Well-presented, quality properties always sell, he said.

Anderson said election time always had an impact on people's buying decisions.

But in the last couple of months there had been a noticeable shift with more investment properties coming on the market and lots more first-home buyer activity, he said.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said it was great news house prices were now more stabilised and people were feeling more confidence about the market they were buying in.

But if interest rates and house prices started to rise again that would not be good news and he hoped the current situation could be sustained, Brownless said.

Couple feeling more positive about buying first home

Claire and James McCracken have been searching for 18 months to buy their first home but are now feeling more buoyed about achieving their dream.

The 28-year-old, home-based educator from Welcome Bay said her and her boat builder husband's quest to get on to the property ladder had often been "disheartening".

"Lots of vendors chose to sell their homes at auction and when you turn up to one there are lots of other people also keen to buy in our price range. It's hard," Claire said.

The couple had savings of $20,000 and another $18,000 in Mr McCracken's Kiwisaver and gained mortgage approval from their bank late last year, she said.

But they had struggled to find something to meet their all needs in their up to $450,000 price range in the area they wanted to live. They were looking to buy in Ohauiti, Hairini or Maungatapu area, she said.

But yesterday Claire said she and her husband were feeling more positive they could fulfil their dream soon, given there were lots more houses under $500,000 coming on to the market.

"We hope to buy before winter as our son, Korban, has been in and out of hospital the last two winters with bronchitis because our rental property is not very dry," she said.