The average Kiwi has to work nearly three times harder to pay off the average house than they did 50 years ago.

Figures compiled by Bernard Hickey of show that to pay for the average home of $350,000, someone on the average wage has to work for 17,680 hours.

Based on a 40-hour working week and not allowing for spending on anything else or taking interest into account, that works out to about eight-and-a-half years' hard slog.

In 1960, by comparison, the average home cost just $6639. Although the average wage was a measly $1.05 an hour, compared with $19.79 today, paying off a house would take 6332 hours, or just a little over three years.

The numbers prove that "those people who say 'in the old days, we had it much tougher than you young punks' are wrong," Hickey points out.

It is now becoming untenable for average New Zealanders to buy an average house without taking on "an awful lot of debt", he says.

"Housing remains unaffordable and over-valued, especially in the big cities."

Owning a house has become out of reach for most of us for a variety of reasons, says Hickey, but in essence it basically comes down to "a combination of restricted supply, tax changes and easy money pumping up house prices".

Migration, a shortage of land in Auckland and the leaky buildings saga have also affected affordability.

The increase in people investing in rental properties to avoid paying tax is another factor that has pushed prices up, as is banks gaining access to cheap overseas funding after interest rates were slashed after 9/11.

Overseas, house prices are closer to three times the average wage as opposed to the 8 times we have in New Zealand, says Hickey.

Prices will have to come down eventually, says Hickey, but a change in the tax system to remove incentives for property investing has to come first.

Professor Laurence Murphy of Auckland University's real estate research unit says houses have become less affordable because banks have changed the way they give loans.

"Over time we've seen the emergence of more double-income households ...," says Murphy. "You've got larger incomes coming in so banks can give out more money. When they're working out loans, banks and mortgage brokers used to multiply incomes by 2.5 and now they multiply them by three or four."


Double-income couple Kylie Geddes and Simon Allard will be paying off the $320,000 mortgage on their North Shore home for the next 25 years.

"It's really hard," says Geddes, 25.

At least half the primary school teacher's take-home pay each week goes on mortgage repayments.

"I've also got a student loan and with that and KiwiSaver, there's not much left for anything else. It is hard to pay the bills."

Geddes and Allard, 32, who works for an internet company, plan to have children but can't afford to think about that yet.

The couple's lifestyle has changed since they bought their home last November.

"We used to eat out a lot and go to pubs," says Geddes. "Now we hardly ever go out."

While looking for a home to buy, Geddes and Allard moved in with their parents to save money.

* Average house price:

1960: $6639
2010: $350,000

* Average hourly wage:

1960: $1.05
2010: $19.79

* Hours of work needed to pay off average house:

1960: 6332
2010: 17,680