Expectations of house price inflation have jumped, especially in Auckland, ASB's quarterly survey of housing market sentiment has found.
In the three months ended January, 64 per cent of respondents expected house prices to rise over the next 12 months, while only 5 per cent expected a fall.
The net 59 per cent expecting higher prices is up from a net 48 per cent in the previous quarter and just shy of previous peaks for this indicator of 61 per cent in 2003 and 63 per cent in 2013, said ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley.
In Auckland a net 68 per cent expect higher prices, up from a net 56 per cent in the previous survey.
"Looking at the ratio of regional house prices relative to incomes, or mortgage repayments for first-home buyers, Auckland stands out as looking quite stretched compared with elsewhere," Tuffley said.
"The supply of Auckland homes listed for sale is extremely low. At the start of this year Auckland had listings equivalent to nine weeks' worth of sales, against nationwide inventory of over 21 weeks."
And while building consent issuance has increased in Auckland it would need to lift further still just to match current population growth, never mind make inroads into the backlog shortage.
Meanwhile interest rate expectations have dropped markedly, with a net 34 per cent of the survey's respondents expecting them to rise over the next 12 months, down from a net 55 per cent in the previous survey.
And that was before the Reserve Bank announced on January 29 that the next move in its official cash rate could be either up or down, when its previous guidance had been that it would - eventually - be upwards.
Even though the Reserve Bank has raised the OCR by a full percentage point since March last year the combination of declining global interest rates and competition among the banks has meant borrowers could access fixed-term rates lower than when it began raising rates, Tuffley said.
He expects low interest rates will continue to support the housing market over the coming months.
"But we expect that the extreme downward pressure on New Zealand interest rates stemming from global financial markets will abate as global economic sentiment improves, and as the Federal Reserve responds to an increasingly robust US economy by lifting rates."
Looking beyond 2015, he expects house price inflation to moderate significantly as more housing supply, rising mortgage rates and affordability challenges will all have an increasing impact. Tuffley expects no increase in the OCR for the foreseeable future, leaving the Reserve Bank with no option but regulation to deal with housing market concerns.
He sees loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions staying in place until late this year at the earliest.
"Buyers should also be prepared for further measures, whether directly targeted at property investors, for example increasing the capital banks have to hold against large-scale investors, or more general such as debt servicing limits."
But Tuffley questions the feasibility and effectiveness of such measures and warns of unintended and undesirable consequences if the regulator draws a line around Auckland and imposes more stringent rules inside it.
*Three months ended January
*Net 59% expect house prices to rise, up from a net 48% in the previous quarter.
*Net 68% braced for higher prices in Auckland, up from a net 56%.
*Net 34% expect interest rates to rise over the next 12 months, down from a net 55%.