Housing affordability in Hawke's Bay has suffered one of the biggest drops in the country over the past 12 months - with rising house prices meaning first-home buyers are struggling to get on the ladder.

This was the case for Hastings couple Bonnie Conole and her partner, who after a "stressful" few months have finally been able to move into their new home.

"My partner has two children who live with us ... we just wanted to be all together in our own home. It was a big goal for us to have our own home," Ms Conole said.

After saving for years, the couple were approved by the bank in February, which would run out in three months.

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"I thought it was going to be really fun and ... I hated it," she said.

They struggled to find houses within their price range. They had made several offers, but each one was rejected in favour of a higher offer.

"It's a bit disheartening because you keep getting knocked back."

Finally - a week before their approval was to run out, the couple found their Raureka home.

"I said to my partner, 'Look, if we don't find a house before our approval runs out I'm done for a bit'," Ms Conole said.

"It is stressful, because it's such a big decision and it's a lot of money and it's a big step in your life, and I was just over it."

It had been a huge relief to have their offer accepted, Ms Conole said: "We actually really love this house ... I was happy with the price paid in the end, mortgage life is not that bad."

The couple are not alone in their struggle - according to the latest Massey University Home Affordability Report, Hawke's Bay is among the regions in New Zealand where housing affordability has declined the most over the past year.

In the past 12 months, Hawke's Bay's affordability has dropped by 23.6 per cent - driven by an annual price increase of 19.7 per cent.

The report, authored by Massey's School of Economics and Finance Associate Professor Graham Squires, stated an increase in house price levels in nine regions across the country had seen a decline in national affordability this June quarter.

Nationwide there has been an increase of 9.1 per cent in the median house sales price over the quarter, contributing to an annual increase of 6.8 per cent.

"On a year-on-year basis, over the 12 months to May, we see no improvements in affordability in all regions," he said.

"House prices to wages remain very high and this factor continues to place considerable strain on first-home buyers."

The latest My Valuer figures released to Hawke's Bay Today last week showed the median sale price in Hastings was now $356,434, and $415,000 in Napier.

While house prices were driving down affordability, Black and White director mortgages Karrie Stephens said as long as people got the fundamentals right, "the Kiwi home owner dream is still very much alive".

With house prices increasing, and banks tightening up, some people were making the mistake that they could not afford a home without incurring debt.

"It definitely has gotten a bit harder but the thing I'm seeing the most is people actually making some silly decisions," she said.

"They're going and picking up lots of debt and that's actually the biggest obstacle at the moment."

Her advice for those struggling to buy a house was to ensure they had the fundamentals right - by saving, utilising KiwiSaver, and keeping their credit record clean - which would help show they could conduct their accounts in a manner which was positive toward a mortgage.

"Operate your accounts cleanly so no bad debts, no overdraft, live within your means and then if you do that, and you've got your KiwiSaver and build up your savings you can buy a house.

"You've got to make some sacrifices."

According to the Affordability Report the most affordable region in New Zealand remains Southland, despite a 13.7 per cent decline in affordability over the most recent quarter. Median house prices there surged by $31,000 or 14.8 per cent over the period.