Housing report: improvement in affordability nationally

Housing report: improvement in affordability nationally

Massey's most recent Home Affordability Report, which surveyed the quarter to February 2016, showed an improvement in affordability nationally - with the index close to the level of the same quarter two years prior.

Auckland's median house value of $750,000 was a fall of $15,000, or 2%, when compared to the previous quarter but there had been an overall climb of $75,000 in the median house price, or 11% growth, in the year to February 2016.

Over more extended periods, Dr Susan Flint-Hartle, property researcher and senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Economics and Finance, says the index's figures are interesting: "Our index produces a figure for a location; the higher the figure, the indication is the less affordable its properties are."

"In February 2009 [just after the global financial crisis], our index figure for Auckland was almost 36 but in February this year the figure was slightly less – just under 34. It was hard to buy into property in 2009 just after the GFC, but what is so surprising is that today, even when rising prices seem way out of hand, the index figure suggests it's ever-so-slightly more affordable than it was then."

Those buying a first home during the 1980s, for example, also faced affordability challenges, she says; prices were high, lending conditions were tight, and interest rates were through the roof.

But while many home buyers have faced challenging conditions around housing affordability over the year, the drivers of those conditions have changed.

"Auckland is now an international city, whereas in the 1980s it wasn't; New Zealand was an entirely different place.

“Now the competition for properties is massive – you go to an auction and 20 other people want to buy the house you want and it's Murphy's Law...there's always someone with more cash than you."

In recognition of the challenges, Westpac is running a prize draw offering first home buyers the opportunity to pay no interest for the first year of their home loan - potentially saving up to $32,000 on a $700,000 home loan. It's available to first home buyers who apply for and have a first home loan approved between May 27 and July 31, 2016.

Westpac New Zealand's chief product officer Shane Howell says gathering enough funds for a deposit is the biggest obstacle first home buyers are facing - but there are options.

One is to look at building a home, rather than buying an existing property, he says. Loan-to-value ratio restrictions can be lower for home builders and the level of assistance available through the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant programme can be higher.

Accessing KiwiSaver funds is another option increasingly being taken up, as is inter-generational wealth sharing - we are seeing more and more people look to the 'the bank of mum and dad' to get a lift onto the property ladder.

"The other option is just managing your own expectations," he says. "Don't go for the ultimate place but be quite realistic about what you can afford." 

To find out more about your chance to win your home loan interest paid for a year, visit Westpac.co.nz/paynointerest.

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