Home loan interest rates are falling while the average Auckland property value breaks $800,000
Homeowners look set to enjoy further interest rate cuts, with a broker tipping historic lows within 12 months.
Banks are fighting a pitched battle for mortgage customers, offering cut-price interest rates to lure new business. But many have shelved cash incentives or offers of free flatscreen televisions and iPads to focus on the most competitive interest-rate deals.
"We're almost back to the lowest point and I believe personally that it can go lower," Loan Market mortgage adviser Bruce Patten told the Weekend Herald.
"This might be the new normal."
Average rates had fallen from 7 or 8 per cent over the past 15 years to "somewhere in the 5s" on the back of low inflation and cheap international lending - saving homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.
This week, the Co-operative Bank announced an 18-month 4.99 per cent rate, down from 5.49 per cent. And both Kiwibank and ASB have cut their three-year rates to 5.39 per cent - the lowest three-year deals on offer among the major banks.
Meanwhile, a 5.29 per cent rate offered by HSBC fixed for one to five years is due to expire, and SBS Bank has just ended its super-low 4.99 per cent five-year rate after being "inundated" by customers.
Mr Patten said interest rates had dropped almost 1 per cent in the past year. That meant an Auckland homeowner with a typical mortgage of $500,000 could be saving about $100 a week in repayments.
By refinancing but maintaining their original repayments, they could save around $115,000 and reduce the term of their mortgage by nearly six years.
The Reserve Bank held the official cash rate this week but confirmed it is more likely to cut rates than raise them next time they shift if economic conditions deteriorate.
While further cuts would put more cash in homeowners' pockets, they could fuel housing demand and send Auckland prices even higher.
Mr Patten said banks had mostly stopped offering big cash incentives, though ANZ is still offering $2000 for new lending over $250,000 and other banks were still prepared to match rivals' offers.
He urged mortgage holders to negotiate hard with lenders or use a broker to secure better deals than those advertised by banks.
"Yes, there is a mortgage war, but the mortgage war is shifting away from cash incentives to concentrate on the best interest rate they can give."
Anyone considering breaking a fixed-term contract to take advantage of cheap deals should weigh the cost of break fees, which could tally up to $8000.
An Auckland homeowner estimates he saved thousands by breaking his fixed-term contract and switching to a cheaper deal.
The man fixed for three- and four-year terms about 12 months ago with Sovereign, when interest rates were tipped to rise.
But when rates fell, he sought the advice of a mortgage broker and decided to pay break fees totalling several hundred dollars to secure a better deal.
He recommended other mortgage holders investigate whether they could be better off.
"Have a look at it rather than sitting there for three, four or five years wondering what you might have saved."
BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander said it was notoriously difficult to forecast interest-rate movements. However, it was "quite possible" NZ would have record-low fixed rates before the end of the year.
Further cuts would stimulate the housing market, particularly property investors looking for more yield on their investment.
However, Squirrel Mortgages chief John Bolton believed rates were "bottoming out" and he did not expect to see further falls.
He said the lowest rates were being offered by "minnow" banks in a bid to successfully differentiate themselves in terms of price from the majors.
Co-operative Bank announces 18-month fixed rate of 4.99% available until the end of this month
• ANZ offering 1- and 2-year terms at 5.49% and 5.39% respectively
• Kiwibank and ASB cut their 3-year special rates to 5.39%
• HSBC's 5.29% fixed-term 'premier' offer for 1 to 5 years is due to expire
• SBS Bank has just ended its special 4.99% five-year rate after being "inundated" by customers
Super 10 suburbs shoot city's property values to new heights
The average Auckland property value has breached the $800,000 mark, fuelled by increases in the "super 10" Auckland City-South suburbs.
QV's residential price movement index for April showed values in Auckland surged 14.6 per cent year-on-year, 4.3 per cent over the past three months and 48.1 per cent since the market peak of late 2007.
Nationally, values increased 8.3 per cent over the past year, which QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said was indicative of the sharp rise in Auckland in the past six months.
Auckland City house values were led by the "super 10" suburbs that make up Auckland City-South: Blockhouse Bay, One Tree Hill, Sandringham, Mt Albert, Wesley, Three Kings, Mt Roskill, Otahuhu, Onehunga and Mt Wellington.
Overall, values there rose 5.5 per cent in the past three months and 19.2 per cent year-on-year.
The number of sales in Auckland in April reached levels not seen since 2007 and values had risen quickly across the city, Ms Rush said. "With net migration at a record 54,000 and still rising and 50 per cent of migrants moving to Auckland, home values in the Super City are likely to remain high and keep rising during 2015 as supply continues to outstrip demand."
In Auckland, year-on-year values rose:
Auckland City-East up 15.5% year-on-year
Auckland City-Central 11.2%
Waitakere City 16.4%
Manukau-North West 17.6%
North Shore-Onewa 16.3%
North Shore-Coastal 13%
North Harbour 12.1%