A Rotorua couple with a combined income of $140,000 cannot get a loan to buy their first home.
A 38-year-old father of two, who wished to be named Nilo, said he and his wife were supposed to buy their first home this year.
"We are in a combined income of $140,000 per annum and will be sitting on a $67,000 deposit in a few months from now.
"Three years ago we were on track on getting our house."
But Nilo said house prices had become unrealistic.
"It's either you get a $750,000 to $800,000 new build in Ngongotahā, Pukehangi, Owhata or $500,000 of dilapidated rundown in Fordblocks ...
"[It's] really unbelievable at those prices and at those locations."
Nilo said they were hopeful when KiwiBuild homes became available for just $480,000.
"We were jumping with joy as we thought our prayers have been answered."
But it wasn't to be.
"Our jaws dropped when we applied and found out there were only eight available versus the hundreds who applied.
"It's like trying to win the Lotto."
Nilo said he was now considering moving across the ditch.
A Rotorua woman has saved more than $80,000 for a deposit on her first home.
But her confidence in getting onto the property ladder keeps getting knocked back.
The 26-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Stephanie, said she had been looking to buy her first home for a few years.
With KiwiSaver, some savings and help from her mum and dad, Stephanie had $80,000 in the bank and was looking at homes up to $500,000.
"I want to have something of my own and would rather be paying off my own mortgage than paying rent to someone else. It's a good investment."
But she said it was "ridiculously hard" to get onto the property ladder with prices increasing each month.
"When my parents bought their first home prices were around $80,000 to $100,000 and I'm looking at homes in the $500,000s."
At first, Stephanie said she wasn't taken seriously and was shuffled out of a bank meeting with a couple of pamphlets.
"I was really disappointed ... It set me back thinking I didn't have a chance."
Stephanie kept going to open homes to get a feel for the market – but then the Covid-19 lockdown hit.
"I am lucky enough to be staying at home and paying board, which is extremely helpful in saving money to put towards my deposit."
After lockdown, she contacted her bank again but was turned down because of job security and she wasn't earning enough to sustain mortgage repayments.
"They didn't offer alternative options like getting a flatmate to help financially, so it again knocked my confidence."
Now, she was working with a mortgage broker to get her finance pre-approved.
"I will get there eventually and I will have another story hopefully ending in 'happily ever after'."
Robyn Shefer has more than $100,000 sitting in her bank account for a house deposit - but she still can't buy a home in Tauranga.
The single mother has looked at 15 homes in four months with no luck.
"I have zero debt, I don't owe any money to anybody.
"I don't drink, I don't smoke. I don't have huge expenses and yet the bank will only give me so much, which doesn't buy me anything."
Shefer, who works at NZME, has been renting for about seven years and started looking to buy her own home in January 2021.
With rock-bottom interest rates, her KiwiSaver, funds distributed from a family trust, and some savings, she had more than $100,000 to spend.
In mid-2020, Shefer enlisted a financial adviser and mortgage broker to keep her on track and was later pre-approved for $330,000.
If she got a boarder, she could have up to $405,000, which meant she could look at homes worth about $520,000.
"But to find a three bedroom for $520,000 three months ago was not possible."
Shefer has looked at 15 properties since January.
That included a two-bedroom apartment she thought was going to fall apart, and a home with monolithic cladding the salesperson believed was the last house in Tauranga that sold for under $500,000.
She got upset when her first "dream home" in March sold for $590,000.
"I was still quite emotional at the time. I absolutely loved it."
Then she had a "brainwave" and thought of buying something with her best friend who already owns her own home.
"We went to the bank together to buy a new build that was $695,000 and the bank said no.
"Even with two incomes, we couldn't do it because she had a mortgage."
Shefer put an advertisement in the newspaper that said: Single mum, cash buyer looking for her first home - but "nothing came of that".
Now she was considering a lifestyle village for over-40s.
"It's a nice place, nothing I would have considered living in before."
After riding the emotional rollercoaster for months, Shefer said she was ready to throw it all in.
"I just don't understand why the bank won't give me more money? If they're not giving it to me, a medium-income, zero-debt, professional, then who are they giving the money to?"
A Taupō woman said it has been "an absolute nightmare" trying to buy her first home.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said despite the Government's changes to make it easier for first home buyers, the reality was "nothing has changed for us".
She felt disadvantaged by the fact that many houses were being pushed to auction.
"However, in our situation, the majority of our deposit is coming from KiwiSaver, which means we can't have our funds released until we have a signed purchase and sale agreement.
"So that leaves us with next to no option, we aren't in a position where our parents can loan us $100,000 ..."
Getting finance pre-approved and a property valuation were more hoops to jump through, she said.
'Criminal isn't it?'
CoreLogic chief property economist Kelvin Davidson said first home buyers had played a part in Rotorua's "booming" market.
"First home buyers have held up pretty well in Rotorua. Perhaps even though prices have grown they may be lower than other parts of the country, making it easier for first home buyers to enter the market."
Simon Anderson, managing director of Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, said the Tauranga market was certainly at the "more mature end of opportunities" for first home buyers.
"That's why we have seen a number of first home buyers buy in Rotorua and travel to Tauranga for work."
Anderson said with Tauranga's median house price at more than $900,000 and paying a median of $699,000 for a first home did make it more difficult for first home buyers.
But first home buyers were still active in the auction rooms and at open homes and many had become savvier with getting together their deposit, he said.
"They are getting more inventive to be able to lift their borrowing ability."
Anderson said the challenge was for first home buyers to understand what they can afford and be prepared to make sacrifices.
"If you have five things on your wish list you might have to just go for three."
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand spokeswoman for Rotorua and First National principal Ann Crossley said she was not surprised people were struggling to get onto the property ladder.
"It's very tough out there for them. The banks are being very tough on them.
"If you've got $140,000 combined income you should be able to buy a house."
Tremains Rotorua sales manager Megan Davies said r Rotorua first homeowners needed to be prepared to miss out.
"They seem to end up paying higher when they've missed a few times. They are very often being supported by family."
Davies said she had also seen a group of people going in together to buy a home.
"This is a fantastic idea as long as they carefully discuss the set-up of ownership with legal advisers."
A Westpac spokesperson said it had helped first home buyers to buy 3512 homes in the six months to the end of March – a 35 per cent increase on the same time last year.
An ANZ spokesperson said the bank was concerned escalating property prices were putting homeownership out of reach for many Kiwis.
That's why in December, ANZ introduced a 40 per cent deposit requirement from residential property investors to "bring balance to the housing market".
A Kiwibank spokesperson said as a responsible lender it needed to be sure customers were able repay any loans they took on without suffering hardship.
"As well as looking at the deposit amount and how much someone earns, we also consider what other debt they might have, what they spend, and the ability of the borrower to repay the loan at a higher interest rate."
New Zealand Bankers' Association chief executive Roger Beaumont said the association sympathised with first home buyers facing the housing market.
Beaumont said banks lend where they can, subject to lending criteria, which includes the borrower's equity or deposit and their ability to repay the loan, so they weren't "going in over their head".
Mortgage versus rent
Fortnightly mortgage payment: $1157
Fortnightly rent payment: $1056
Median house price: $937,500 (REINZ)
Fortnightly mortgage payment: $873
Fortnightly rental payment: $818
Median house price: $630,000 (REINZ)
Source: CoreLogic First Home Buyer Report