9 Nov 2016

Housing confidence falls to 20-year low

11:41 am on 9 November 2016

Housing confidence has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years as high prices, tighter lending rules and expectations of higher interest rates bite.

houses

houses Photo: 123RF

ASB Bank's Housing Confidence survey for the three months to October showed a net 26 percent of respondents said it was not a good time to buy a house, the highest since 1996.

That compared with a net 20 percent in the previous quarterly survey.

The pessimism was strongest in Auckland, but the latest increase was driven by greater negativity in other regions.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley put that down to the Reserve Bank's tougher lending limits on property investors.

"The fact that the 40 percent investor deposit requirement is having a proportionately larger impact on investors outside of Auckland could explain why sentiment dropped more in other regions this quarter."

The survey also found that fewer people were expecting house prices to keep rising, while more were expecting interest rates to rise.

A net 58 percent said house prices would keep rising, while a net 7 percent expected interest rates to rise in the coming year, unchanged from three months ago.

Confidence could improve if the new lending restrictions cooled the market and the growth in house prices slowed, Mr Tuffley said.

"However, first home buyers may remain cautious given recent house price appreciation, and they are also likely to be wary of perceived changes in borrowing costs. All up, high house prices and a higher deposit threshold for investors are likely to weigh on sentiment this year."

There was a slight rise in the number expecting higher interest rates - a net 7 percent, up from 6 percent - even though the Reserve Bank is likely to cut its cash rate again this week by 0.25 percent and at least leave the door open for more cuts if needed next year.

"Due to funding issues, we don't expect floating mortgage rates to move to the same extent. Term mortgage rates have started to creep up," Mr Tuffley said.

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