5 Sep 2016

Auckland house prices rise, but sales drop in sign market cooling

1:15 pm on 5 September 2016

House prices are continuing to climb in Auckland, but there are signs the rate of growth is easing according to a major real estate firm.

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Barfoot & Thompson believes some heat is coming out of the Auckland market. Photo: 123rf

Barfoot & Thompson recorded its average sales price in August as $906,560, up 4.5 percent on July.

But the figure was only 2.6 percent above the average price over the previous three months.

"Our data shows that those claiming the average price is on the verge of topping $1 million are over-inflating where prices are heading, said managing director Peter Thompson.

"While prices continue to rise, for the past five months buyers have not been prepared to pay more than they believe is the market price."

The median price was at $850,000 for August, up 1.2 percent on July and 2.5 percent higher for the average of the previous three months.

"Current price increases are relatively modest compared with what has occurred in recent years."

Sales numbers in August were 3 percent lower than July while listings were up 19.6 percent.

"It all adds up to some heat coming out of the market," Mr Thompson said.

The ASB said people could be rushing to list their homes ahead of new lending restrictions for property investors and owner-occupiers, originally due to come into effect this month but now scheduled for 1 October.

"While sales activity held up in August, it was far from a strong month and may be the result of banks already acting in the spirit of the new restrictions, therefore limiting investor activity in the market," the bank's analysis said.

The next few months would be an "interesting time" in the Auckland and wider housing market. But the ASB analysis said on the whole listings remained low, and this along with strong population growth, interest rates at or near historical lows and Auckland building activity some way from matching population growth, would keep a floor under Auckland house prices.

In Barfoot & Thompson's view, the real test of where prices are heading will come this month with the arrival of spring.

"For the past three years, September's average and median prices have exceeded those for August, with prices then continuing to increase to year end," said Mr Thompson.

New lending rules begin next month

Under the new lending rules, most owner-occupiers will need a 20 percent deposit, but banks will still be able to give loans to a small proportion of customers with lower deposits.

The changes effectively extend the current lending restrictions already in place in Auckland for owner occupiers to the rest of the country.

But they make it tougher for property investors across New Zealand.

No more than 5 percent of bank lending to residential property investors across New Zealand would be permitted with a deposit of less than 40 percent.

The Reserve Bank said while the new rules did not officially come into effect until next month, banks had already chosen to start following the new limits.

Confirmation of the new rules was in its response to submissions to its public consultation about changes to Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) rules issued on 19 July.

The Reserve Bank said existing exemptions to LVR restrictions would continue to apply under the new rules and have been extended to include borrowing for a newly-built home, or to do work needed for a residence to comply with new building codes and rental property standards.