Trying to pick the current trend in the housing market cycle is a tough call. Will prices remain steady, rise or fall — and can a trend in one area of the country be applied to another? There's so many variables.

The economists over at Westpac rightly say the housing market cooled early last year only for a surprising winter flush to set it off again. I well remember plenty of estate agents telling me they were surprised to be so busy last winter.

This week, Westpac says the market is cooling once more. And it's something I have seen first-hand from the editor's chair over the past few weeks. The number of emails coming in from estate agents is a reliable barometer to the state of the market.

As Westpac economists write this week: "Market turnover is down, house prices are now falling in northern New Zealand, and the rate of house price inflation has slowed elsewhere, most notably in Wellington.

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"This is bang on what we were expecting. We have long been forecasting a modest decline in house prices due to a raft of expected law changes."

Westpac expects the Reserve Bank to loosen its mortgage lending restrictions in November, to provide a summer boost to the market.