Entry-level prices down but spectre of rates rises real, economist warns.

Now is the time for Auckland's first- home buyers to pounce, with interest rates at a record low and entry-level prices dropping, a report says.

But a leading economist has warned that buyers who can only just scrape into the housing market should not commit to a mortgage.

The average price of the cheapest 25 per cent of housing in the Auckland region has dropped from $616,500 in May to $600,700 in August.

This bodes well for the city's beleaguered first-home buyers, interest.co.nz's Home Loan Affordability Report says.

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The report is based on data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).

Nationwide, the figures suggest prices for more affordable properties have flattened or declined slightly in recent months.

But top Kiwi economist Shamubeel Eaqub said buying a home was a long-term commitment and people shouldn't dive into the property market without a lifeline.

"It's about a careful laid-out plan about what will happen if your life changes or interest rates rise."

He said circumstances could change, with things like job losses, having a family and other lifestyle changes.

"If you're making a long decision to buy a house, it's about affordability with interest rates; they're likely to be higher over the life of the mortgage compared to now."

The last three months were in no way typical, with the incoming capital gains tax at the beginning of October, he said.

"So I'm not sure how much of what we've seen in the last three months is a good indication of what's likely to happen in the next few years, or the next 30 years."

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Mr Eaqub said the current situation did allow people to come into the property market when they'd been on the sidelines.

Mortgage broker Karen Tatterson, of the Professional Advisers Association, said now was a good time to be getting a mortgage.

"Interest rates are low, but the banks do use a slightly higher rate for calculation of affordability. So as rates move up, we're ensuring the affordability is there, particularly for young couples."

She said there were a lot of first- home buyers in the market actively looking for property now, and a lot of investors are pulling back because of the incoming capital gains tax.

"There seems to be an upsurge of the opinion that first-home buyers have got an opportunity to get into the market now."

The affordability report says a combination of easing prices and falling interest rates would reduce mortgage payments on a lower quartile-priced home from $821.83 a week in May to $759.04 a week in August, a saving of $62.79 a week "for a typical first-home buying couple".

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That is defined as a couple aged from 25 to 29.

"The latest figures are consistent with recent reports suggesting many residential investors have been selling their properties as near-term prospects for further capital gains recede," the report says.

According to REINZ, sales volumes have increased in almost all areas of New Zealand from June to August this year, compared to the same time last year.

Family-nest-in-waiting took a lot of waiting to find for couple

Salil Wagle, who bought his first house in April this year. Photo / Nick Reed
Salil Wagle, who bought his first house in April this year. Photo / Nick Reed

It took one marketing manager six months and several concessions to finally get his first home. Salil Wagle, 29, and his wife managed to buy a house in New Lynn, for $620,000, in April this year.

Initially he'd had his eye set on Mt Eden, Mt Roskill or Mt Albert, but after several failed auctions and conversations with friends and colleagues, he decided the western suburb was a good second option.

"New Lynn is an upcoming suburb, with good schools, good transport," he said. "My house is close to all of these."

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With a loan secured from ANZ and a $95,000 deposit the couple had saved over two years, they managed to successfully bid on the Great North Rd property.

A two-year fixed loan at 5.39 per cent interest costs the couple $2498 a month in repayments for the three-bedroom house, with two bathrooms, a study, a decent living area and a small outdoor area.

At this stage Mr Wagle and his wife don't live in the house and have chosen to rent it out for $520 a week, while living in a smaller rental in Mt Albert. He said that once it comes time to start a family they'll relocate to the New Lynn home.

"It's a good first option to invest in."