House hunters are doing it tough - with a majority of those looking to buy in Auckland rating it as a bad time to buy.

Experts say the frustrations are being caused by a continued lack of listings which will continue for some time, despite housing affordability becoming a major political issue.

The latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey, released today, showed its housing confidence index declined to 13 per cent from 23 per cent in the three months to January.

Confidence is lowest in Auckland and Christchurch, with net confidence now negative - indicating respondents feel it is a bad time to buy a house.


This was despite 66 per cent of Aucklanders surveyed saying they expected prices to continue to rise over the next 12 months.

"It's quite a battle to find the house that you actually want to buy, because of the low number of listings," said ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley.

"But even having found it, the competition you have with other buyers is pretty high. From a buyer's point of view, it's a challenging market at the moment."

Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the number of properties being listed for sale was still "way down", despite climbing prices.

"There is a growing realisation that selling your property really only helps you to buy another one.

"Unless people are moving for a particular reason, there's just no motivation to bring your property to market. We are not seeing churn for the sake of churn."

Mr Tuffley said figures from Barfoot & Thompson showed lower levels of listings than at any time during the last housing boom.

The increase in prices from 2002-2007 were driven by strong demand. Today's Auckland house prices were more supply-driven, he said.

Another factor was low interest rates. Only 32 per cent of survey respondents expected interest rates to rise over the next 12 months.

Mr Tuffley said prices would likely continue to rise in Auckland and Christchurch this year. But more construction activity late this year or early next year will have a dampening effect.

"That's going to start meaning a lot more choice for buyers ... we'd expect that to moderate price growth over time. And, longer term, eventually interest rates will go up."

Taking the big plunge

The Micah family spent yesterday going from open home to open home - spurred on by the knowledge that prices are steadily climbing.

Speaking to the Herald after looking over a three-bedroom bungalow in Mt Roskill's Haycock Ave, the family said they had previously considered buying in 2008.

But now, with prices increasing and interest rates low, it seemed like "the sooner the better".

"Interest rates are low, but prices have gone up. When we compared 2008 and now, it has very much increased," said Richard Micah, an electronic technician.

"Now we are paying around $400 rent, and we don't know when the owner is going to increase it. He may ask us to vacate the house."

His wife, Grace Micah, said it would be tough to find a suitable home in the area.

They would reluctantly look at homes in West or South Auckland if necessary.

"The house where we are living at the moment [in Lynfield], it is quite convenient. My children go to uni, and the motorway is very close to us.

"But if we buy a house we would certainly have to move out from that area."