Modest house price gains through the tail-end of last year were big enough to counter cheap finance and higher wages, and squeezed home affordability in the three months through November, according to Massey University research.
The quarterly home affordability report showed a 2.2 per cent decline nationwide in the period as a 4.6 per cent lift in the median house sale price was enough to outweigh a 0.5 per cent increase in incomes and lower mortgage rates.
While the deterioration was most stark in Southland, Northland and Taranaki, which all registered double-digit declines, Southland remains the most affordable region, followed by Taranaki.
Manawatu/Whanganui, which became marginally less affordable in the three-month period, was the third-most affordable region.
Auckland and Waikato/Bay of Plenty were the only two regions to show an improvement in affordability in the three-month period, up 0.8 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively. Still, Auckland remains the country's second-least affordable region after a decade of rapid gains, accentuated by a home supply shortage and a construction pipeline that failed to keep pace with the city's population growth.
"After a short reprieve, home affordability has continued to decline in half of New Zealand's regions," the report said.
"Recent improvements in incomes and interest rates are helping affordability, but these are still being outstripped by increases in median house prices in many locations."
Recent government data show ordinary-time average weekly paid earnings for a full-time equivalent employee rose 1 per cent to $1,200.82 in the December quarter, while Real Estate Institute figures show the pace of change in its house price index eased in December from September.
Reserve Bank figures show the standard floating mortgage rate for new customers has been largely unchanged at 5.85 per cent over the past year, although recent specials have seen Kiwibank offer 3.99 per cent on a two-year fixed rate.
The Massey report shows Central Otago Lakes remains the least affordable region, with a 9.2 per cent deterioration in the three months through November.
Data this week showed Queenstown was the most popular location for foreign buyers of residential property in 2018, with demand tapering off once the government effectively banned overseas buyers from existing housing stock in October. The Massey report shows Queenstown was a little less out of reach from a year earlier, with a 5.3 per cent annual improvement in affordability.
Auckland also got better on an annual basis, registering a 7.5 per cent improvement, although Canterbury/Westland was the leader of the pack with a 9.3 per cent improvement.
Recent data shows the Real Estate Institute's house price index was up 3.3 per cent in December from a year earlier, while government data showed weekly paid earnings were up 3 per cent from a year earlier.