The new year is now well under way and it's time to have a look at whether the lending restrictions put in place late last year have had an impact on the property market.

We have only a few weeks of data for 2017, and with many people still on holiday, listings and market demand are still ramping up from the Christmas break.

It won't be until mid-February that activity is back to full swing and we can better compare with last year.

However, early indications are that demand is significantly down in Auckland and to a lesser extent Hamilton and Tauranga. This is in stark contrast to Wellington and Dunedin, where activity appears strong.


The significant drop in demand in Auckland is the first suggestion that the new lending restrictions are having a real impact on slowing down buyers.

According to the QV house price index for December, values in Auckland and Hamilton have dropped slightly, and the rate of increase in Wellington values has slowed considerably. This is another sign that lending restrictions have also had an impact on values.

The South Island is not yet showing the same slowdown.

Not only is slowing the rate of value increase seen as important in bringing the property market back to some sort of reality, so is reducing investor activity.

The latest round of lending restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank requires investors to have a 40 per cent deposit, so you would expect that after a few months we should see whether that has had the desired impact.

Latest buyer classification analysis shows that the share of sales to investors in Auckland has started to ease off slightly. They are still the most active group of buyers, but their purchasing has dropped relative to other groups.

There has also been a significant change in Hamilton, where Auckland-based investors now account for 11 per cent of the sales, quite a drop from 18 per cent back in 2015.

This may not be just the lending restrictions having an impact, but also the huge increase in Hamilton values making the investment equation less attractive than 18 months ago.

Investor activity is also easing in Wellington and Christchurch, although not dramatically.

The tightening of lending rules across the country for owner occupiers had the potential to prevent first-home buyers from getting into the market, but that doesn't seem the case.

The share of sales to first-home buyers in Auckland has continued to increase and is now back at the level that it was in 2013, before the first intervention by the Reserve Bank.

Wellington first-home-buyer numbers have also surged and the 30 per cent of sales makes the capital the strongest of the main centres for first-home buyer activity.

Christchurch first-home buyers have also ticked upwards, while Dunedin has seen a large increase in their activity, and at 23 per cent of sales that is the highest they have been since at least 2005.

In the coming few weeks we can expect market activity to pick up seasonally and we will get a better sense of how weak or strong that activity is.

Values are likely to drop more over the next few months, but with continuing low interest rates, high net migration and a housing shortage, values beginning to rise again from mid-year seems the most likely outcome.

• Jonno Ingerson. Head of Research, CoreLogic NZ.